I love long and intricate stories as much as the next guy, but sometimes you just want a quick yet effective read. The Journal of Avery Moore is exactly that.

Michael R. Hicks, known for the thriller Season of the Harvest and the amazing sci-fi series In Her Name, has channeled the souls of Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, combined them with his own, and written a ghastly novella. The result is The Journal of Avery Moore, a sick and twisted concoction that burrows under your skin like a guinea worm. The story, while simple, is a descent into the realm of a twisted couple that have done their best to make one man’s nightmares come true.

A promising lawyer finds himself stricken with appendicitis, and is rushed to a hospital. He’s put under anesthetic in preparation for surgery, but awakens to his own personal hell, strapped to a table in an unknown room for an unknown amount of time. Over the course of his misfortune, he is tormented by a pair of psychotic doctors that poke and prod him in every way imaginable. Oh, and did I mention that his mouth is sewn shut?

The Journal of Avery Moore is written in first person, allowing the reader to join the ill-fated lawyer on his horrible journey. While there isn’t anything terribly graphic (i.e. there isn’t any deep and dark description of horrific violence or gore), what is here is given an air of realism. The atrocities endured by Mr. Moore are not over-the-top, glamorized, or exaggerated; they are presented in a matter-of-fact manner, and as previously mentioned, are told entirely from Mr. Moore’s perspective. The reader never knows more than he does and experiences everything he feels and thinks, which keeps the tension high and the pages turning.

Considering how short this novella is, Mr. Hicks manages to cram in an astounding amount of character development. In a little over 50 pages, you will feel like you know every one of these characters personally, which is simultaneously the best and worst part of this story. Since these people are so sterile and instinctive in their presentation, they don’t seem like people that have been thought up, but rather like they could have been ripped right from the headlines of a newspaper. This authenticity serves to further the state of unease induced by this novella, trapping the reader just like it traps its main character.

I’m normally not a fan of short fiction, but if there’s more novellas like this one floating around in Michael R. Hicks’ brain, I truly hope he decides to write them; I’d be first in line on Amazon, clicking the “buy” button as hard as I can.