My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Infernal opens as so many horror sci-fi adventures do: a strange man comes to town, and it’s clear that whatever brought him here isn’t good. What follows is a standard-faire horror adventure story, with bits of the plot revealed through dialogue as the two main character slowly reveal themselves to the audience.
Fortunately, that interplay is one of Dowell’s strengths. As with his flash fiction Nightlight, Dowell is mostly able to navigate the well-worn plot path through his characters interactions. There are some moments of stilted dialogue, but those are quickly pushed aside by the narrative.
Instead, I found myself myself wanting to see more of the town, its history, and the main characters as the town (and the West) sprung to life.
The real payoff, though, comes at the end, which bends the genre in just the right way. After a lifetime of reading science fiction and horror stories, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I “didn’t see it coming.”
If Dowell uses this story to springboard the town and its residents into new stories, he’d have fertile ground to create a complex and fascinating world.