Everything was deserted, quiet. All that moved was the wind and the lost things it carried.
John Rector has a narrow, but precise field of expertise. He's not really writing hardboiled fiction, but his books can feel like that at times. The reason is that he doesn't write traditional taciturn battle-scarred characters who rather let their gun do the talking. Rector writes about young, brilliant and sensitive men who lose everything to bad decisions and circumstances they can't control. Reading Dexter McCray's bittersweet surrender to his mental health problems in THE GROVE was both heart-wrenching and creepy. In his three novels, Rector keeps nailing half-tones and weaving his way in between cliché images to create something unique, that yet leaves you with a familiar aftertaste. LOST THINGS is his first novella and venture into the Kindle Singles program. The Nebraskan writer embraced the new format like he's always had written novellas.He managed to keep his trademark style and themes and yet quicken the pace of his story beyond what he's used to.
Evan Teller, not unlike Jake Reese (the protagonist of ALREADY GONE) has it all figured out. Good education, good job a wonderful girlfriend and he even finds the time to have friends. Peter, with whom he goes back a long way, doesn't have things figured out like Evan. Both on a material and an emotional level. One night, they get mugged in a dark alley and the occurrence takes a different meaning for both guys. For Evan, the pragmatic office dweller, it was just a bad night, collateral from living in the city. But for Peter, the artistic minded one, being attacked for small minded reasons like that, it's something that will change the course of his life. Of both of their lives. Following the mugging gone wrong, Peter becomes another person and drags even in his downward spiral.
A cool, unique thing about John Rector's books, is that he's a detail-oriented writer. His aesthetic is very minimalistic and it's part of the plan. By going deliberately slow on description and characterizing, Rector makes objects and details float back to the surface. Peter's artistic nature for example, is brought up very soon and put in perspective against Evan's more materialistic output on life. The meaning that both men construct from experience are very different and reflect what's at stake here (which transpires in the title). One has something (a lot) to lose and the other doesn't. LOST THINGS asks a profound question. How much importance to you attach to the things you carry? Evan and Peter represent two clashing philosophies as whether you should go through life accumulating stuff and creating a world for yourself or should you be shedding layers, in search for truth and freedom?
When I finally fell asleep, I dreamt of rainstorms over black water, and of things, ancient and dark, sliding cold under the surface.
John Rector's stories all have a simple, yet vivid subtext.His style has both the simplicity and the fluidity that makes it fun to read. His slow and low approach to characterization can be limiting sometimes, as his protagonists end up sounding like one another. I'd like to see him utilize more characterization next time around. We already know he's capable of thinking outside the box, so I would trust him to create larger, more unique protagonists. Chuck Palahniuk is a writer who elevated character building to a science and I could see Rector getting as much success if he could give his protagonists a more subtle identity. But that would be the only weak point I can find to LOST THINGS, which turned out to be an enjoyable-but-way-too-short reading experience. It seems to me like Rector really embraced the philosophical subtext in this novella and let it drive the narrative from beginning to end. It's a smart thriller with an ending that leaves the reader thinking this could only be the beginning for these characters.
I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.