- The Good: WWII, bombs, and an unlikely suspect digging up survivors
- The Bad: None, I love it!
- The Literary: A bold reference to a classic literary horror story
Jack Harker works long hours with an raid rescue squad during the height of the Blitz in London in World War II. But when new volunteer Jack Settle joins the close-knit squad, his odd behavior begins to concern Jack. He doesn’t eat cake or drink alcohol; he disappears every morning before sunrise for an unknown day job; and he has an uncanny ability to find people buried alive in the rubble. Everyone else seems to love Jack for being such a good bodysniffer, but Jack begins to suspect he is hiding something.
This reissued 1991 Hugo and Nebula nominated novella is similar to Willis’ follow up World War II novels, but it’s a perfect little story unto itself. It has all the wonderful world-building and historically accurate details that make the setting come alive, which is something fans of Willis have come to expect. She deftly maneuvers the emotional strain on the stiff upper lip of the Brits searching for bodies every night after the bombings, hoping to find live ones instead of corpses.
But this stands apart in its dark, moody, paranoid tone, and I love it! As narrator Jack loses out on more and more sleep, his suspicions and biased perspective increase. How come Jack found those people when no one else heard them yelling? Why doesn’t the office have an address or ration card on file for him? Something is amiss, and it’s not like how Renfrew thinks the air raids are targeting him because of a letter he once wrote to the Times. It’s fantastic!
Recommended for fans of genre-bending historical drama and fantasy horror!