Thursday, November 7, 2013

Second Chance - by Chet Williamson - Takes "what if?" to the extreme

5 of 5 Stars    Review copy

Originally published by Cemetery Dance, nearly twenty years ago, Second Chance, holds up well.

Second Chance is once of those stories that's difficult to categorize.  Part love story, part fantasy, elements of horror, science fiction and much more.

1969 was a turbulent time on college campuses and it was no different at a small college in Western Pennsylvania.  This is where Chet Williamson starts his story with friends trying to make a statement by blowing up the ROTC building on campus.  No one was supposed to be hurt, but things go terribly wrong and both Keith Aarons and Tracey Zampelios are killed.

Nearly twenty-five years later, Woody Robinson, now a successful musician, is looking to rekindle the vibes from his college days and goes to extraordinary lengths to get as many of his old college friends together in the same apartment where they would gather all those years ago.

What transpires is nothing short of magical and what seems to be wonderful slowly becomes a horrible nightmare.

I don't want to give up a lot of the secrets of Second Chance, most of the fun comes from the series of twists and turns along the way.  Seriously, each time I though I might have an inkling of where the story was going, there was something new to keep me guessing.

Just a little something from their impromptu reunion..."Woody remembered it all, saw it all. The sofa on which he sat looked across the room at another sofa, even more worn, if such a thing was possible.  A window behind it was open, but did little to disperse the thick haze born of cigarettes, incense, and the occasional joint.  Frank, his roommate, sat on that sofa with Judy, and they both looked decades younger than when he had last seen them in Atlanta.  Frank held a can of Iron City Beer, Judy a cigarette.  They were both nodding, eyes half-closed. listening to the music.

"Keith, the other roommate, was standing in the wide doorway of the dining room, leaning against the pillar, talking in a low but passionate voice to Sharla, whose afro bloomed like a crimson dahlia, and whose coffee-colored skin seemed the same shade as Keith's in the monochomatic glow.  And there, sitting and standing about the two rooms, were all his old friends, Alan, Diane, Eddie, Dale, the living and the dead together, in memory."

At this point in the tale, anything seemed possible. After all, isn't there a time and place each of us would love to return to?

Second Chance  is a bit dated in places, but certainly not enough to distract from an amazing story.  At times the language and situations could be considered offensive, but in my opinion it is the character that is the culprit, not the writer.  There are other times, that events are genuinely disturbing, but it all serves the story well.

So, one of the best stories I've read in 2013 was written twenty years ago.  I have no idea what that means, if it means anything at all.  All I can say is, if you missed this one, like I did, it's never too late to enjoy a good story well-told.

Second Chance  is available in e-book format from Crossroads Press and

Strongly recommended.

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