Erik Hofstatter “The Pariahs” Review

Posted: December 8, 2014 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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Publisher: Creativia

Length: 80 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

This summer I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Erik Hofstatter’s debut short story collection, Moribund Tales. Hofstatter’s old-school writing style was a blast of fresh air and while some of the stories lacked the same emotional punch as others in the collection, it was clear that he was a talented author that had some interesting story ideas floating around in his imagination.

The Pariahs tells the story of two disfigured siblings who were torn from their homes in the middle of the night and transported to a stronghold deep in the hostile environment of Siberia. Part 1 starts off with Demyan, the older brother who plays his role well while trying to keep his sister Akilina safe in their dire predicament. He remembers being ripped from his home by two men dressed in radiation suits and armed with rifles before being knocked unconscious and awakening in a bleak concrete cell. The cell is devoid of any comforts; cracked walls surround him and the only source of light is a barred window that is well out of his reach.  His only sense of hope is the fact that he shares the cell with his sister and they were not separated after their abduction. Akilina is in rough shape however, suffering from an extreme fever and being unable to move due to sheer exhaustion.

While Demyan paces his cell thinking of an escape plan, he ruminates on the events that landed him and Akilina in this hellish prison. They were both born with deformities after a nuclear disaster that happened over 17 years ago. Demyan suffers from a hip injury while Akilina has facial deformities. Their father seemingly died while they were younger, leaving them to be raised by a mother who hated them and frequently mentioned how she wished they were both never born and tormented them with tales of an asylum where the government would store naughty children. It seems that place truly does exist.

His reflection is shattered when the guards come in and take his sister despite his attempts to stop them. The loss of his sister strips away what little hope Demyan has left and he simply bides his time until the men come for him as well. All of that changes however, when he hears a faint whisper coming from the drain telling him that his sister is still alive.

Demyan begins to converse with the mysterious voice and discovers her name is Taisiya, a girl who claims to have been born at the facility. Demyan derives hopes from his conversations with Taisiya, who seems to have a vast knowledge about the workings of the facility and his only source of information on what is happening to his sister. He develops an intimate connection with her and begins to view her as his only hope for escape. Despite Taisiya’s willingness to help Demyan, it seems that she is hiding something and Demyan takes a huge risk in trusting her. Can Taisiya be trusted? What exactly is her history with the mysterious facility? These are all important questions that linger throughout the story as Demyan sets out to save both himself and his sister from the sinister experiments taking place in the facility.

Hofstatter takes a bit of a different approach structurally in his new novella. He abandons the straightforward approach his stories followed in Moribund Tales in favor of a narrative built from the viewpoints of the three main characters. We follow each character through the evolution of their storyline before switching to the narratives of the other characters, but Hofstatter manages to weave these narratives together flawlessly. It would have been easy to lose focus throughout the novella, but Hofstatter never drops a plot thread and manages to connect the different viewpoints together to form an engaging story.

What I loved most about The Pariahs were the plot twists that Hofstatter sprinkles throughout the novella. When I first began reading, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going and this is one time where I was happy to be proven wrong. Hofstatter does a great job at creating characters that the reader can’t help but root for in their quest to escape the hellish confines of the facility. Despite being facing numerous hardships throughout their lives, Demyan and Akilina both display a remarkable resiliency and determination. Hofstatter’s characterization shines brightest in the section dedicated to telling Taisiya’s story. I don’t want to divulge too many details for those who have yet to read The Pariahs, but Taisiya is a very intriguing and complex character.

The only issue I had with The Pariahs is a relatively minor one. Despite an interesting premise and effective plot twists, the novella’s conclusion is pretty abrupt and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. I really hope that Hofstatter has plans to continue the story established in The Pariahs, because there are definitely interesting paths the story could take. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Pariahs, a well-written and heartbreaking horror tale from one of my favorite up and coming writers who continues to grow with every new story.

Rating: 4/5


Erik Hofstatter’s Official Website

Creativia Publishing’s Website

Purchase The Pariahs on Amazon



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