“Light Room” by Sarah Jackson
Review by Leanne Margaret author of “The Love of the Universe” and “Multidimensional Meditation”
Don’t be fooled by the title, this gripping story is anything but light. Sarah Jackson’s, Light Room, tells the disturbing story of a man, Dylan, who wakes to find himself shut in his body, conscious but unable to move even his eyes. Dylan’s situation is the stuff of nightmares, but it’s actually hard to feel sorry for this unlikeable character, especially when we find out how he came to be in an organ-harvesting laboratory.
Although the idea of being harvested while still alive is horrifying, the blow is softened with the use of a future post-apocalyptic setting, where human beings can easily be reduced to meat for fertiliser; or organs for good people who don’t get caught murdering and raping. You might be disturbed by how comfortable you feel with the fate of Dylan.
The story going on outside the man’s body shows itself with the use of short shards of casual dialogue taking place between medical professionals. Their off-hand manner sits starkly light outside the enraged and intense inner dialogue of the immobile man. The man’s fate is gradually revealed to him, as well as the reader, piece by piece.
But the horror of the situation is offset as the reader becomes aware of the man’s crimes. The compact dialogue tears a terrifying little window into the way predators think! Readers find themselves grappling with the ethics of revenge and crime management. Many of us are, at times, guilty of ‘an eye for an eye’ mentality. But what does that feel like, when the drugs aren’t working and no one knows you’re still awake?
This was an easy, pacey read. The single point of view created intensity, but it was never one dimensional, as Jackson expertly crafted tightly wound lines of thought and observation, revealing the story in persistent bites. The startling ending caught me by surprise in a satisfying way.
Although this story seems horrific, it’s not too graphic, so even if you’re a sensitive flower you can tackle this read without any permanent scars. It has definitely stayed with me, but not in a traumatising way.
So before you have your next revenge fantasy, grab a cuppa and devour this story instead. Easy to get, easy to read, but will haunt you forever with it’s exploration of human exploitation. If you liked Soylent Green, by Harry Harrison, you will like Light Room
Many thanks to Jim Nesbitt, author of hard-boiled detective novel “The Last Second Chance” and soon to be released “Right Wrong Number” for his review of “Light Room”
With Light Room, Sarah Jackson spins a short story about a near-future and presumably post-apocalyptic and authoritarian world that harkens back to black-and-white vignettes of The Twilight Zone with one important difference — there’s no Rod Serling giving you an “Imagine, if you will…” introductory scene setter.
Jackson demands the reader to pay attention from jump street and plunges us right into a dialogue-driven story that echoes one of George V. Higgins’ later novels. The telling details are scattered through the thoughts of a prisoner who has committed a heinous crime and a doctor and nurse who are preparing to purify his blood and harvest his organs. Blink and you miss a key point.
The prisoner is mute and can’t speak to the doctor or nurse. All he has is his thoughts. As the doctor and nurse chat about their weekend, upping the prisoner’s sedative and waiting on the next available blood filter machine, more story nuggets are revealed.
We’re in a world where the worst of society are given a number and sent to this glorified and sanitized butcher shop where eyes, kidneys and liver are surgically sliced out and the cadaver is sent to be ground into fertilizer. All revealed in breezy, banal pleasantries mixed with matter-of-fact orders the doctor gives the nurse.
In contrast, the prisoner’s thoughts are a profanity-laced rant against his helplessness. He’s a drug addict, hooked on something called Crazy 8s. He’s also a rapist and murderer who blames his female for provoking him — which seems to mean having the misfortune of walking past and attracting his addled and lethal attention.
Jackson shows a deft hand with pace and the shifts between the prisoner’s thoughts and the conversations of people who act as if he isn’t there, with casually callous comments about what will happen to him next. She also understands the power of ending a short story with an unexpected O. Henry twist.
AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON (E-BOOK): Light Room