Reader Review: Ground Floor, Second Room To The Left & Wisps Of Memory – Chris Sarantopoulos
Despite being a fan of short stories, I don’t often find myself reading them all that much. When I received an email from short story author Chris Sarantopoulos asking me if I was interested in reviewing two of his short stories, I was immediately interested. My intrigue only heightened further when I saw that his stories fell under the horror genre, so I went ahead and jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to read his work and hoped to get a few chills out of the experience.
Ground Floor, Second Room To The Left: ★★★★
Joe and Lucy are your average married couple who only planned to scavenge an old, abandoned and incredibly derelict house. Shrugging off the rumours of the house being haunted, the two make their way inside, only to soon find the door locking behind them. Whilst attempting to find a way out, they discover unnerving messages appearing on the walls – only, the thing is, they’re both seeing different messages which ask them to make the same ultimate sacrifice.
This story starts off seeming like it’s based on a stereotypical trope of the horror. We have two seemingly happy married adults who shrug off the warnings of a house being haunted, only to realise their mistake when it’s too late. If you’re a fan of the horror genre, I’m sure you’re also very familiar with the premise because it’s not new. It’s been explored throughout various media for decades already, so that poses the question; how can a new writer make the same old premise refreshing for the audience? Chris does just that, however, as he takes the idea and makes it his own. You think the story is just going to follow the cliche and the trope that seems to construct in the first few pages, but it soon becomes evident that the author has put a lot more thought and development into the narrative that unravels.
From the start, there’s an evidently good visualisation that is constructed through the ways that the scenes have been laid out and described to the audience. The reader is able to build an image of the setting and the place that the characters are exploring directly. The scenes are generally well-constructed and the story does indeed feel like it progresses nicely, which makes the read all the more enjoyable. There are indeed elements of the imagery that are typical of the genre, though this doesn’t at all make it a bad thing. It further enhances the feeling that you’re already ‘familiar’ with the premise and know how the story is going to play out which, in turn, makes the twist in the story and the further development of the plot all the more interesting and captivating in itself.
The characters that are featured in the story obviously have their own backgrounds and it’s interesting to see into the mindset of Lucy as the story unravels into something darker. However, what I liked about the way that the story is written is that it doesn’t dwell on providing a mass amount of details in reference to the characters but tells the reader just enough to engage and interest them further. This means that the story itself doesn’t drag out, which is especially important when it comes to short stories because you don’t want the readers to lose interest before the plot actually gets moving and develops. The tones of the characters also are conveyed very easily through the short story, and you’re able to get a feel for the personalities they have which creates a somewhat distinct tone of tension between the two of them. As the plot furthers and the story becomes more intense, this tension evidently escalates and the audience is able to pick up this too.
One of the best elements of the story is very much the way that it’s been written to develop into a more original premise than the reader initially thinks it’s going to be. Because it becomes more original as the reader gets further along, it becomes increasingly immersive because the audience wants to figure out what’s exactly going on and what’s going to happen next. As I said earlier, the intensity of the story builds as it becomes more unique and the plot drifts away from the cliched scenario of the genre. It gets more riveting as the emotions of the characters become stronger and the situation becomes direr. I personally found myself reading quicker and quicker towards the end of the story because I was able to feel the experience the intensity for myself. This makes the story an easy, compelling read and puts the reader into the mindset of a narrative that they want to dive into deeper. I was utterly drawn into the story by the time that it came to a close, and I really enjoyed the reading experience that the narrative offered.
The closing of the story itself was something that I enjoyed as well because I felt that it did a good job of wrapping up and maintaining the tone of the narrative, whilst also leaving something for the reader to think about. Quite evidently it’s hinted that the plot develops in a certain way and the characters turn against each other, but this isn’t quite consolidated. Therefore, even though the audience thinks that they know how the story ends, there’s no definite answer and it’s somewhat left open to interpretation. The reader is left thinking; ‘but what if?’ and that’s something that’s going to keep their minds spinning even after they’ve read the last few lines.
To put it simply; the author takes a cliched trope and makes it his own by creating an immersive narrative with great imagery, evident character tone, and a chilling plot that only gets more intense as the reader becomes more immersed in the story that’s being told. Even though it’s a short story, it does a great job of putting the audience on the end of their seat and is going to leave them with questions that’ll take them further into looking for the author’s other works. I was pleasantly surprised and I can definitely say that I’m a fan, so this short story is definitely not one to miss.
If you’re a fan of the horror genre and want to see a refreshing take on a stereotypical trope that you thought was on its last leg, then this is definitely a short story that you should check out.
If you’re not all that well-read when it comes to short stories and want to try one out that’s definitely worth your time, then this is definitely one that I highly recommend.
Wisps Of Memory: ★★★★
Another one of Chris Sarantopoulos’ works that I got the pleasure of being requested to read and review is his short story ‘Wisps Of Memory’ which also takes on the horror genre and somewhat makes it it’s own. I actually read this story in the early hours of the morning whilst being stuck in an emergency inpatient unit at the hospital, so I think it’s safe to say that I was pretty drained. However, this story did wonders to perk me up and it really does reconsolidate the talent that the writer has exhibited throughout his other pieces as well.
I don’t think short story reviews can be all that extensive due to the fact that, as the title suggests, they are indeed short stories and there’s not all that much that can be expanded on quite to the extent that you can explore a novel. Despite saying that, reviewing Chris’ work is no less of a pleasure. Wisps Of Memory is another one of his stories that, from the get-go, showcases an excellent amount of world building and character immersion. The story sure doesn’t take its time in getting up and running, and that’s a great element of its construction in itself because it draws the reader in instantly. We’re thrown into the interesting narrative of yet another in-depth character and the writer has a specific prose that makes you want to keep reading.
Even if you’re not familiar with the author’s other works, I think it’s obvious to say that there’s apparent talent that just shines through the way that he writes. Once again, the premise isn’t exactly original in the sense that the horror genre, in general, has a lot of repeated tropes and cliches. However, the author has a talent for making somewhat old-fashioned tropes refreshing in the way that he entices the reader entirely by the construction of the story and the way that he paces it. Likewise, with short stories, it’s important that it doesn’t feel like the plot drags and loses the audience’s attention. This author does a great job of knowing how to progress the story in a way that provides enough detail to make the reader really feel as if they’re experiencing the narrative for themselves but doesn’t provide too much information that the reader feels themselves growing bored before the plot really kicks off. This, in turn, makes the author’s short story another easy read which I did expect having read other pieces of his work.
Along with this, the characterisation, once again, doesn’t feel forced and it does feel like the character has been developed in an in-depth manner. This makes his story and the overall narrative a lot more interesting for the audience. You’re not able to get to know the character for very long, but, in the short time that you do get to know him, you experience his story alongside him and understand his point of view. It’s not difficult to get to know the character and, in a way, that’s one of the things that makes the story itself so appealing and enjoyable to read.
Again, you do know where the story is somewhat headed – you’re able to gather the general premise and get to grips with what’s being conveyed through the elements of the story as the narrative progresses. However, due to the reasons that I have mentioned prior, you’re able to stay immersed and stay involved in the story, even if you’re not necessarily directly interacting with the elements of the story directly.
To put it simply; this short story does a wonderful job of creating an immersive atmosphere for the readers to completely get involved in. Not only are the audience members able to get a good idea of the character showcased and the narrative that he is portrayed throughout, but their attention is continuously captured by the well-constructed pace and outline of the story itself. All in all, the author’s talent once again shines through and he makes it obvious that he knows what he’s doing with both the horror genre and the creation of short stories.
I want to thank Chris Sarantopoulos once again giving me the opportunity to read these two short stories. It really was a lovely experience and I’m immensely grateful to have been able to review your talent.
Thanks for reading these short reviews and I’ll write you later.
If you want to read a piece of writing that showcases how effective the prose of a short story writer can be, then this is a story you definitely shouldn’t pass up experiencing for yourself.