More Than Life Itself

Author: Joseph Nassise
Telos Publishing
RRP: 7.99, US $8.95, Cdn $11.95
ISBN 1 84583 042 3
Available 02 May 2006

Sam Dalton is a man with a problem. Having recently lost his wife to a mysterious hit and run driver he must face the loss of his daughter, Jessica, to an unknown disease which is slowly shutting down each of her organs. With no hope in sight from science Sam is, unexpectedly, given a chance to save his daughter's life and there is only one catch. Sam must kill seven people in different ways over seven days and feed the harvested organs to his daughter. With his daughter having less than a month to live can Sam overcome his fear and do what needs to be done...?

More Than Life Itself is a new novella by Joseph Nassise. The book reads like an old episode of Night Gallery. We know that the tale will contain a twist and part of the fun is working out if you can guess what that twist is - I had two on the go. The first was that in some way he becomes responsible for his wife's death in the car crash, thereby being forced to choose between her continued existence and his daughter's. Cross off number one, turns out, I was wrong. Number two, however, was spot on. I won't tell you what it was but if you think about old episodes of The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery you should have pretty much worked it out by the time he reads the mysterious book that the stranger gives him.

It's not a badly written story and should while away a spare hour. Obviously, because of the shortness of the story characterisation is bound to suffer. Sam turns from dotting father to rampant killer in a very short period and it's difficult to quite believe that he would have taken such a drastic road. The other characters are little more that ciphers placed there to drive the narrative forward.

One of the things which spoilt this story for me was the apparent ignorance of Sam. One of the organs that he has to harvest from a victim is a kidney. Admit it someone says kidney to you and the shape kind of pops into your mind, not so with Sam:

"Sam's knowledge of anatomy was limited; while he could probably find the heart or the lungs, telling the difference between a liver and a kidney would be difficult without more research."

Even, if he had never visited a butcher and had the greatest luck with his health a kidney is kidney shaped, like a kidney dish, a kidney shaped pool or even a kidney bean. It makes you wonder what was going through Sam's head when the doctors where explaining that his daughters kidneys had packed in. From this premise the reader could add any shape of organ in any place, while the tumbleweed rolls behind Sam's eyes as he searches for the pertinent question he knows he should be asking at that point.

Another problem with the book is the price; if bangs per buck are an important factor then I'm not sure that More Than Life represents good value. As I sit and type I have three books from independent publishers in front of me Triquorum One from Pendragon Press, which is a collection of three novella's running at one hundred and twenty-five pages and costs 5.99, The ever excellent The Ephemera, a collection of short stories by Neil Williamson running to two hundred and seventeen pages for 5.99 and More than Life which runs at sixty-six pages for the staggering amount of 7.99. I know that this isn't a factor controlled by the author but by the publisher Telos Publishing, but I can't see it encouraging anyone to pull it off the shelves when you can get so much more for less.

So not a bad read, but a little short with a few plot holes that just might spoil your fun.

Charles Packer

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£7.99 (Amazon.co.uk)

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