This is a continuation of a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish. Check back throughout the week for more reviews.
Scott Gardner Boyce’s short story “Immortal Curse” follows an unnamed protagonist who discovers the secret of immortality along with the other six “Knights of Knowledge.” The king for whom they discover immortality dies and the seven decide to keep their knowledge of immortality a secret. Over the years, they separate and the narrator suffers the whips and scorns of time alone until he sets out to unite the seven Knights of Knowledge once again, this time in order to cure the curse their immortality has become.
The style in which Boyce writes “Immortal Curse” is very Lovecraftian. There is no dialogue, only narration. While some might be put off by a lack of dialogue, it does not seem to detract from this tale. In another Lovecraftian theme, the narrator dabbles in sciences before coming to what should be forbidden knowledge to create his cure for death. Predictably, the cure backfires into a curse as he watches loved ones around him wither and die from the passage of years while he remains immune. As he travels the globe to find his fellow knights, the story emphasize the age of the characters as they seek out new experiences to keep their unending lives from growing stale.
“Immortal Curse” suffers from a lack of depth to its story. The passage of time is too quick: in the midst of a paragraph, years or decades may pass, but the reader does not feel this transition. The narrator is portrayed as weary of his immortal life—”the immortality grew from a blessing to a curse as the emptiness within grew with every loved one who passed to the next life”—but these statements are just summaries of an experience. The writing does not communicate this “emptiness,” reducing any emotional impact the passing of years might have on the reader.
As a reader, I wanted a deeper description of the narrator’s plight: what must it feel like to experience the slow passage of years, knowing that was to be your eternity, and feel powerless against it? Did the passage of time feel like a slow trickle, a torturous unfolding of days, one after another after another? As one becomes older, time seems to move more quickly, but when one becomes wearied of time, does it slow down once again? Boyce described his story’s genre as adventure, but the story felt as though it would have been better served through horror. As a reader, the psychological horror of unending life was what I felt hints of and what I wanted Boyce to explore. Additionally, at a certain point, there are hints that the narrator may be unreliable and, perhaps, insane, but that idea was not expanded upon enough to satisfy the reader.
Another issue with the story is the large cast of characters. Aside from the narrator, there are six other characters. Yet of these six, James and John were the only ones described in any detail and the others seem to be mere placeholders. In a key moment of the story—perhaps my favorite moment as it ties together the beginning and the end—the narrator describes four skills he had learned from the other characters, naming James, John, Nicholas and Adam, and Thomas. This moment demonstrated that, at the least, Boyce could have cut down the cast of characters to four and still the story would have worked. So why seven Knights of Knowledge in all? I can only guess that Boyce was playing off the classical significance of the number 7, but even if this was Boyce’s intent, the story suffers from an overloaded cast of characters.
Flaws aside, if you are a fan of a more Lovecraftian style and don’t need dialogue, you may enjoy “Immortal Curse.” However, I think the short story format does not do this tale justice, and it would be better served if it were expanded upon.
Final verdict: ✮✮✮✰✰