So in sticking with the theme of summer horror/thriller for the time being, I was asked to review the novelette Unknown Sender, by author Ryan Lanz.  Will the chills of this short story keep you up at night?  Find out below.

Unknown Sender tells the story of introverted college student, Jessica, who has started receiving strange and sometimes frightening text messages from a blocked cell phone number.  As the texts become more personal, Jessica grows increasingly paranoid, and things start to spiral further and further out of control.  The story boils to a climax when she tries to get away from everything for a weekend, but she learns that there’s only so far she can run, and some things are simply inescapable.

In this story, Lanz crafts an impressively twisted narrative.  One where I was eagerly anticipating what new message Jessica’s mystery contact would send her.  As a character, Jessica is deep, and interesting.  You feel her fear and vulnerability as the text messages get increasingly personal, knowing things that only she should know.  The story feeds on her fear of being observed by unwanted eyes, which can be an absolutely terrifying thing for an introvert who essentially just wants to be left alone.  After Jessica, I felt the mystery sender was the second most interesting character in the story.  The texts arrive at just the right time to stir up certain feelings and emotions for the main character, which works really well to increase the tension and push the plot along.  Other supporting characters in the story are somewhat one dimensional, but that’s to be expected in a short story where only so much attention can be devoted to secondary characters, so it doesn’t take away too much from the overall story experience.

The story itself is one that all of us can relate to.  Who hasn’t gotten a phone call or text message from a number that they didn’t recognize?  Unknown Sender takes that idea and runs with it to its extremes, like daring to ask the question, what would happen if the person on the other end of that number knew things about you, things that no one else should know?  Lanz plays on that fear and paranoia well and draws it to a genuinely surprising conclusion.  I didn’t see the ending coming for two reasons.  The first of which is because it was unexpected, which is a great thing.  The second is because it came completely out of left field, with minimal foreshadowing, so it almost felt somewhat unnatural.  It wasn’t unrealistic enough to be bad, but I felt like there should have been more hinting at it throughout the story, just to give the effect more shock, and a little less confusion.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this story, my minor issues with the secondary characters and ending aside, it genuinely kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to read more, which is perhaps the best compliment I can give to an author.  For 99 cents on Amazon it’s an absolute steal.  You can, and should check out Unknown Sender for a quick summer thrill read at the link below:

The Verdict for Unknown Sender:
4/5 – I can dig it.

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Ultimate End #2 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Ghost Racers #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Weirdworld #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Secret Wars: Journal #2

East of West, Volume 4: Who Wants War TPB
March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition


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