The Discontinued (2020) is a speculative horror story written by Jessica Stevens set in a grueling world where giant tubes coming out of the sky throw corpses down to a factory-like facility which deals with disposing of them. This story was a very pleasant surprise for me and, the moment I started reading it, I could not take my eyes off it until the very end. In many ways, this tale reminds me of the horror video-game SOMA (which I absolutely loved) due to the isolated nature of the setting, the horrors that the workers have to go through and the cybernetics that they possess.
The story is told from the perspective of one of the workers, Herman, who is initially used as a passive observer until he is suddenly thrust into the climax of the story, which I won’t spoil. While he is kind of boring personality-wise, Jessica uses him well enough so that readers can understand the setting and the story can progress. The first half of the story does not have much plot but just the setting and the aesthetic that the author paints is so amazing and incredibly unique that I was completely hooked. Her descriptions are, for the most part, top-notch and simple ensuring that the story flows at a nice pace. The gory scenes, especially, were really well done and thus, very terrifying to picture which just made you realize how truly horrific the conditions were in which the workers worked.
The plot of the story is minimal, and is mostly shrouded in mystery, which just shows how good it was considering how traditionally, plots of stories are what carry them. I felt just as confused as Herman when he stumbled on to a stranger and felt his frustration when they tell him about what happened up above in the sky, because just like him, it is a revelation to me and I would like to know more! Unfortunately, I did not get more details which frustrated me, and yet, made me appreciate the story because I would not be wanting those details if I hadn’t enjoyed it so much.
While I did comment that the descriptions used by the author were well-done, at times, when they didnt work, it felt they were severely lacking. Since the setting is unusual, certain descriptions felt like they were incomplete or required more details, which would end up in me re-reading them a few times just so I could figure out what was going in. While this did not detract from my overall experience of the story, it was sort of a minor annoyance and I feel a few more descriptions would’ve made the story even better.
Overall, if you’re a fan of strange, cyberpunk dystopian or just speculative fiction then this story will not disappoint. I even read this story to a friend of mine and she had her breath held the whole time I narrated it to her which just shows you how good it was.
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