Short Story Review: Beacon 23- Little Noises by Hugh Howey

When I previously read Hugh Howey’s Glitch, I was gripped by his writing style. Even if Glitch wasn’t perfect, there was something special about his ability to mix convincing science fiction with good story telling. I’m glad I came back to the author, because this story is a perfect example of how to do short stories right.

There are two major cogs that drive this successful story: theme and atmosphere. Little Noises is a science fiction story set on the edge of space, where one man- an ex soldier-is charged with manning an isolated beacon which helps guide spaceships travel safely through space. This is not a tale about a maverick star ship captain saving the world from aliens, but a man whose been kept out of sight out of mind in the thankless role of millions of light-years away from civilization.

Howey captures the monotony and maddening loneliness of life alone on the vessel-the constant clanking of the gears and his long process of getting it fixed. One of the key motifs is how the protagonist is forced to stare at the same photo for days on end. He becomes so obsessed with this one stock photo that he ends up going to great lengths to find out from NASA-and any other source he can find-what it means. This boredom and obsession exemplifies just how much time and boredom he has to deal with.

And these motifs aren’t just about creating atmosphere. Everything that’s spoken about through the story has a deeper meaning at the end and is masterfully woven into the climax, when things begin to go peak tong and our protagonist is forced into a desperate struggle to save hundreds of lives.

The protagonist’s voice is excellent as well. He’s an ex soldier who suffered some harrowing experiences in combat and is still dealing with the guilt and pain from his past. Howey doesn’t info dump any of this, and he doesn’t spend page after page angsting (although this would be understandable). Instead, the story gradually feeds us bits and pieces about his experience through the story, until the end he’s not just fighting for the present but to rectify the mistakes of the past. There’s plenty more that’s left to be revealed in later entries of this series, and that’s okay.

This was an excellent short story. It’s the first in a series of short stories, and I am ooking forward to finding more out about the main character’s war torn history and where he will go from here.

 

RATING: 4 Irritating noises that will never leave you/ 5

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