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31 Days of Halloween

‘Offline’ Series by Kealan Patrick Burke

Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t get scarier.

Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media–books, comics, movies, and television–to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

If you’re a sucker for good horror and modern media being used as a narrative device, then we’ve got a real treat for you today!

In his Offline series, prolific horror author Kealan Patrick Burke graces us with two stories presented almost entirely as series of Facebook messages. That alone might be scary enough for you–especially if that familiar Message Received popping sound means one or more family members is reaching out to express concern about the content you’ve been posting lately.

But if this method of storytelling doesn’t sound appealing at all to you, just trust me on this and give it a chance–Burke makes it work. And besides, both stories are so short that you won’t have invested a ton of time if you didn’t like them (but you totally will).

What Works

Despite the limitations you’d expect a story in this format to have, Burke is able to move the narrative forward in such a way that it never meanders or diverts in a way that most conversations do. With both stories clocking in at around 40 pages, Burke makes wonderfully efficient use of every line right up until each tale’s brutal/tragic conclusion. At the same time, however, the dialogue feels incredibly natural and authentic (until things get all spooky and bloody, anyway).

Of the two stories, In the Flesh, is definitely the stronger one. While the big twist in Offline is predictable, In the Flesh completely subverts the standard “catfishing” narrative before punching you right in the face with a wallop of and ending.

What Doesn’t Work

Like I just stated before, the “twist” ending in Offline is somewhat predictable. It’s still a good and very well written story, but you can definitely see where things are headed after the first few pages.

And while ending to In the Flesh is stronger than it’s predecessor, it still has some minor narrative holes you’ll have to overlook.

The Verdict

I had to stay at work late yesterday, so I bought some M&Ms from the vending machine for $1.25. Not a terrible price to pay, but still a pretty steep bill for something that didn’t do much to abate my hunger.

For just $0.99, either one of these stories is worth every penny and then some. $1.98 gets you a double dose of superbly written, highly entertaining modern horror you can still easily read in one sitting.

Just make sure you are logged off of Facebook, first.

‘Offline’ Series by Kealan Patrick Burke
Is it good?
For less than $2 you get a double dose of superbly written modern horror that can be read in one sitting.
Despite their unconventional format, both stories still manage to continuously move their narratives forward toward horrifying conclusions.
'In the Flesh' takes the standard "catfishing" trope and turns it on its head, leading to a wallop of an ending.
The "twist" ending in 'Offline' is somewhat predictable (but still good).
As great as the ending for 'In the Flesh' is, it does jump over a few minor narrative potholes to get there.

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