3 of 5 stars.
Is the spark of living humanity a soul or merely electrical energy of the brain that quickly fades upon death? “The Graver” focuses on this question as Daniel considers the choices he’s made since the death of his wife, Angela, two years ago in a traffic accident. He chose, against his daughter’s wishes, to have his wife’s memories harvested by a graver so that the man responsible for her death would be convicted. He also chose, again against his daughter’s desires, to abandon the protection of the city where his wife died for the feral countryside where they could live a pioneer life despite roving packs of gravers that burn out farms, killing the inhabitants.
He cannot believe that gravers consume the human soul for energy, strength and healing properties. It must just be electrical residual energy that the deceased no longer needs.
Emma is now seventeen and still cannot forgive her father for handing her mother’s body over to a graver and then moving her away from the modern city life she knew. But she has met someone, an outlier named Zach. Together they plan her escape from her father’s grasp. When a huge storm knocks out most of the perimeter energy-field fence, she calls Zach to sweep in and get her from the farm. He comes, but not alone. Zach brings his cousin Chad and Chad’s girlfriend Nina to aid in Emma’s extraction. Chad and Nina are gravers with their own motives . . .
The concept and writing of this short story is haunting, but much is left unexplained. While this vignette concludes, more story would likely help to build the graver mythos and to round out Daniel and Emma’s past.
The story is illustrated by artist contest winner Taylor Payton. As a quarterly short story contest winner, “The Graver” merited inclusion in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 by L. Ron Hubbard. I received the anthology through Net Galley.
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