Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I’ve actually sat down to do a solid read. To be quite honest I find myself having a short attention span. Sometimes you just need to unplug from whatever life keeps occupying.
My literary “drink of choice” this time around is a short novel by quite accomplished author, P.J. Blakey-Novis named “Four”.
Let’s unpack the journey P.J. had taken me on.
“Four” begins with setting the stage with a group of friends who aren’t particularly close, deciding to set off on a camping getaway to escape their individual lives. P.J. incorporates the sometimes overplayed yet flawed and relatable complexion of how humans portray themselves drastically on social media as opposed to the very real life troubles and frustrations.
A tone is also set of a certain vulnerability that nature and camping provides – yes it’s a beautiful escape but an unknown lurks and looms.
Daniel is a real estate agent in his early thirties, married with the new arrival of his second child. In his inner shadow is a severe gambling problem which puts his cushy safe life in danger. Also comes off as the “exhausted and whipped” spouse, and whiny due to a loveless relationship.
Steven is a basic and simplistic man who doesn’t put much effort forth into expressing what his life is like. In his mind however, holds some messed up and dark fantasises that he could get away with due to having an ability to blend into the background. He’s up for any adventure.
Lastly we have the very “touchy feely” couple Martha and Noah – whose idea it was to go on said adventure. They seem like the fun and motivational camp counselors who at the end of the day? Cause Jason to drown in the lake, if you catch my drift.
Each character has flaws that are hinted at to be an obvious reason that at any time they could be the first to be killed, but keeps you guessing as to who. Plus, before and during this entire journey they get absolutely obliterated and wasted- and we all know that really won’t fair well.
Although the set up and introduction of the drunk musketeers are well written, the cliches at this specific point are overdone and admittedly have me bored. However! I decide to push forward because I’m willing and open to the idea of being pleasantly surprised.
So I do what’s necessary to keep it spicy and interesting – I internally narrate P.J.’s text in Simon Pegg’s voice (which might I suggest makes a difference).
The four spend the night around the campfire telling stories and have a little unspoken competition amongst themselves. (This is also set in 2018, mind you.) Just reading every so often about how much liquor they’re ingesting like a whale just makes me feel completely wasted.
Before each tale, I make a prediction of my own. I fully suspected for there to be some “unknown force” within the woods that would make these tales come to life and pluck Daniel, Steven, Martha & Noah off one by one. That or the alcohol causing internal issues to arise and cause some very unfortunate ending.
The campfire tales:
Here is a brief summary of each tale told (in no particular order)
A crazy farmer and his young psychotic daughters getting rid of the four that they believe are an intruding threat.
A transportation back to World War II and a deadly gas leak.
An alien egg that is capable of some weird stuff.
& A tale of a woman getting revenge and helping other victims of sexist wrongdoings and assault.
I’m not going to lie, I truly felt that each story came off as completely obnoxious and had some criteria that just left me with readers hangover. Then, I remember and realize that those aspects COMPLETELY embody what a drunken tale would be.
Even though P.J. took his sweet sweet unconventional time to reel me in, he absolutely did not disappoint with the mind blowing payoff and twist that I was hoping to find at the end of “Four”. This novel is a perfect “six chapter” slow burn that I will continue to follow his work moving forward from.
To support and follow P.J. you can find his socials below:
Self published author, indie horror MUA/film set advisor, & social media manager from Pittsburgh, PA.