Coronis Publishing

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By Christopher Hawkins

IR Rating:
Like much of the best speculative fiction, Christopher Hawkins's DOWNPOUR transmutes social and cultural anxieties into a compellingly-visceral conflict with forces that defy understanding.
IR Approved
A well-meaning but ineffective father fights to protect his family from otherworldly rainfall that either destroys or transforms everything it touches.

Scott wants to be a better father. His wife is the family’s primary earner, and does the majority of the domestic labor of keeping house and raising their two children. Scott himself has failed to live up to his potential, perpetually neglecting basic household tasks on the farm he inherited from his father. When some eerie rain begins to fall, dissolving metal and raising strange sores on exposed flesh, he finds himself in a terrifying fight for his children’s lives—and the chance to be the father he’s always wanted to be.

Christopher Hawkins’s DOWNPOUR is simple in concept and strong in execution. Whatever the rain touches is either melted or mutated, and Scott is in a race against time to protect his children as the old farmhouse dissolves around them. The prose is straightforward, powerful, and effective, clearly portraying both emotional and physical action with excellent descriptive language—as when the inescapable rain falls with “the sound of seeds pouring out of a burlap sack.” The plotting is well-paced, and the novel is satisfyingly commanding as it lays on the tension. Once the setup is accomplished, Scott’s claustrophobia and dread drip from every word. There are a few very small typos—missing letters or punctuation marks—in the second half of the text, but these errata don’t detract from the text’s obvious clarity of vision nor its power of execution.

While DOWNPOUR is effective as an exercise in tension—its “trapped in the house” setup is almost theatrical in its simplicity—its emotional power comes from the central thematics of fatherhood and masculinity in crisis. Scott is suspended between diametrically-opposed models of child-rearing: the intrusive memory of his alcoholic, abusive, but powerful father on one hand; and his bread-winning, hard-working, emotionally-rich wife on the other. The otherworldly storm gives Scott a tantalizing chance to reclaim a type of masculinity which, in the modern world, is mostly relegated to male fantasy: the strong, singular father who ensures his family’s physical safety by force. DOWNPOUR’s greatest success is showing what lies beneath this fantasy: weak men who rely on fear and the threat of violence to enforce compliance, who profess that they will protect their family at all costs but will often preserve themselves instead—ultimately directing violence back onto the family itself. In a world where traditional models of the nuclear family are becoming unstable—neatly encapsulated in the rain’s inexorable destruction of the old house, which Scott never renovated—such men fall back on the gender ideals of the past when they refuse to imagine new ones, and to disastrous effect. Christopher Hawkins’s DOWNPOUR delivers tension and dread with excellent prose, but it’s the complex dynamics of modern family structures that will ultimately haunt the reader.

Like much of the best speculative fiction, Christopher Hawkins’s DOWNPOUR transmutes social and cultural anxieties into a compellingly-visceral conflict with forces that defy understanding.

~Dan Accardi for IndieReader

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