This is the beginning 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.
Gil C. Schmidt’s story “The Horde Returns” is the first part of The Horde Anthology, though no other books have yet been released in the series. It follows a family preparing for a storm, which is the precursor to the arrival of the Horde. The storm brings with it the first of the creatures escaped from Hell, and the creature attacks a woman and boy, setting the stage for the story’s central struggle.
Schmidt’s prose is very verbose, with evocative descriptions like “The Tuesday sunset had been draped in heavy clouds and the muddy Mississippi had earned its name once again as its waters darkened, covered by huge expanses of choppy waves scattering in jagged peaks for miles along its waterways.” However, this prose drags down the story at times when the story would benefit from tighter writing. For example, during the intense fight with the creature, the author describes the character Lionel as “the despised human,” “the loathsome human,” and “the little human” in three consecutive sentences. Excessively descriptive prose leaves the writing feeling ponderous and overwrought during a scene which should instead communicate the quick intensity of a brutal fight.
While Schmidt’s plot is complex, with room for depth and expansion, it does not fit the short story format well. There are too many characters present in the story with three—Marly, Regina, and Petey—mentioned for a moment, then passed over to never be mentioned again. (Strangely, Petey is given a full two paragraphs of description and then he disappears completely from the story.)
The main characters of the story—Marcelo, Lionel, Beetle, Jennie, and Thomas—are a mixed bag. Some are well-established, like Marcelo and Thomas. The latter is introduced as “Thomas, who had asked last year to no longer be called Tommy” in my favorite line from this story: it perfectly encapsulates the transition of a child to an adolescent. Yet Lionel and Jennie lack a good deal of characterization, with Lionel mostly defined by his fight with the demonclaw and Jennie defined through her role as the damsel-in-distress. Beetle is a quiet, powerful man who appears to possess some mystic abilities, but they are never explained.
Schmidt’s story leaves too many questions unanswered for the reader: what is the Horde exactly? Why is it returning? Why is Beetle so mysterious? Who are these characters to one another? etc. And if the reader wanted to learn the answers to these questions, there have been no other stories released in the series. Ultimately, “The Horde Returns” is a story that must be fleshed out more before it can fully satisfy a reader.
Final verdict: ✮✮✮✰✰