Book Review: Fourth Degree Freedom by Libby Heily
A collection of five widely varied short stories.
“Thank You For Calling”–A day in the life of a woman working for a call center during the Recession.
“The Event”–A dystopian future where once a year male teens and young adults go out and shoot the elderly.
“Fourth Degree Freedom”–A post nuclear war future where some children are born as different degrees of “monsters.”
“The Last Six Miles”–A woman gets over her divorce by becoming a runner.
“She Floats”–A woman wakes up in a tank with limited oxygen left and a man observing.
It’s difficult to talk about this collection as a whole, since the stories range so vastly, not only over different genres, but also in quality of writing. Thus, I must address them individually.
“Thank You For Calling”
I don’t usually do contemporary literary, but this one made me smile and sad almost simultaneously. The main character is struggling during the recession, but she also must listen to other people’s problems all day. A bit of a typical storyline? Yes. But still relatable and well-written. 3 stars
The best story in the collection. I recommend to Heily that she turn this one into a novel. A future with no violence and thus overpopulation is typical is dystopian fiction, but Heily takes it in a fun direction. The final scene leaves the reader doubting that the main character knows the truth about his own society. There were also no obvious flaws in the writing itself. 5 stars
“Fourth Degree Freedom”
This personally didn’t hit any of my own hot buttons, but it is well written. The idea of chemicals from war affecting different pregnancies in different ways is an interesting one. Having a sibling see the humanity in the monster child where others do not is rather typical, but still touching. 4 stars
“The Last Six Miles”
Being the fitness nut that I am, I really enjoyed seeing the main character go from a depressed over-eater to a marathon runner. The content of this story is uplifting, even if the ending is a bit predictable. 4 stars
I was so incredibly disappointed in this one. I had the feeling from the first few sentences that this was basically going to be a Saw rip-off, and it was. There’s nothing wrong with having a psycho kidnap a person and put them in a trap to get out of, but it must have something else in it that makes it different from the well-known series. 1 star
Overall, this collection starts out average, strengthens, then crashes at the end. I also believe Heily may have trouble finding an audience due to the variance from literary to dystopian and then to horror. I would advise her to take the two strong dystopian stories and either make them into novels or write more scifi short stories and repackage them together. Similarly, the literary fiction I believe would strongly appeal to many modern women during this current recession. If she adds more literary stories to these two and packages it as a type of collection for the modern woman, she could have great success with them. The last story must be re-done or trashed, however. It sours the rest.
Essentially, if any of the short stories above appeals to you, I would encourage you to get this book. It is only 99cents, and a good short story is definitely worth that.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from the author in exchange for my honest review