Early Retirement

Early Retirement by Luke Ethan Knight

A lifelong production operator who’s been dragged from boiling-hot reactor cells to outdoor polar pipeline arrays, Cap Jenkins figures he’s seen just about every ugly thing that life on an extraterrestrial corporate mining colony has to offer. But when a fresh, unnervingly innocent young operator clocks in for his first night shift with no warning and no introduction, Cap and his small crew of surly workmen are quickly reminded that things can always get worse. As Cap’s woes progress from minor equipment failures to inexplicable and horrific happenings in the shadows, one thing becomes increasingly clear: there’s something very strange about this rookie.

A gory, profane, and darkly humorous trip through two very bad nights at work, Early Retirement is a space-horror fright fest sure to delight fans of Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Edward Lee.

The IndieMuse Review

Early Retirement is a brutal sci-fi horror short story and debut from up-and-coming horror and fantasy writer, Luke Ethan Knight. Taking elements of sci-fi horror classics such as Alien or The Thing and putting his own mix of extreme horror and social satire into the story, Early Retirement is tense, fun and memorable, and a promising opening salvo for a horror author to watch.

A team of production operators take turn swapping shifts in a remote off-world mining colony, ensuring the continuous supply of precious minerals. The work is dull and the location isolated and the team of disparate personalities find themselves clashing. This is exacerbated by the arrival of a new recruit, whose lack of experience and confidence only serves to irritate those around him who rely on each other to get through a shift alive.

When strange goings-on build-up to an unexpected and violent tragedy, and the team’s numbers begin to thin, the survivors must rally together and find the unseen threat that lurks in the shadows before it finds them.

The story is a brief read (28 pages including title page and an ‘About the Author’ section) and I was surprised at how big the story felt. There is a relatively large cast of characters, all of whom have distinct personalities and stand out from each other, and there is a lot of work done to set an unfamiliar scene of a crew aboard a futuristic mining facility. The fact that Knight manages to present a compelling setup, complete with vivid characters, all within an alien setting and within a handful of pages is impressive stuff and it felt like a much longer work.

A significant portion of the book is dedicated to setup and it isn’t until the final third of the story that the action kicks in. The build-up is time well-spent, however, and early introductory scenes of these strong personalities together in confined spaces recalls movies such as Alien, and they are engaging scenes that allow us room to get to know the characters so that, when things get faster paced at the finale, there are stakes and things are elevated above the standard ‘creature versus stock characters’ fare.

When the pace does pick up, things get very bloody. Horror fans won’t feel short-changed by the relatively carnage free build-up when the limbless torsos and gooey tentacles come into play. There is a satisfying payoff and while the story may not spoon-feed its readers all the answers they may want, we get enough of an idea to keep you thinking about the story and the fate of the characters after you’ve put the book down.

Early Retirement is a strong sci-fi horror debut from a promising new author, its big-scale sci-fi setting mixing well with the claustrophobic and gory horror, with an underlying social commentary that keeps things engaging on multiple levels. Knight is due to release this short as part of a larger collection (Night Shift: Volume One) in the future and he can consider me there on release day if this Early Retirement is any indication of the quality we can expect.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

Curation Results: Early Retirement

gHoster
B-Baal
Emo-Lee
KnotBTK
Deathdealer
Curator Notes: "With his short story Early Retirement, Luke Ethan Knight shows us he's a capable and talented new author emerging in genre fiction." —gHoster

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