The Evolutionist

Reviewed by: 

“. . . a perfect storm of life experience and talent, . . .”

The Evolutionist is author Rena Mason’s debut novel, a book that is equal parts science fiction, dystopian horror, and fictional memoirs of a suburban housewife.

Ms. Mason, a former operating room nurse now living in Las Vegas with her husband and children, draws on both her former career and current lifestyle to paint a vivid picture of Stacy Troy, a doctor’s wife and mother of a teenage son, who dreams at night about dismembering her family and neighbors and burning their bodies in the aftermath of an unknown event of apocalyptic proportions.

While it might be a bit difficult for some readers to connect with Stacy, whose days are filled with things like yoga and lunch dates, Ms. Mason establishes from the opening paragraph that Stacy’s life isn’t all that it seems on the surface:

“My book club is killing me. The demands my friends make of me feel like stabbing daggers, leaving open wounds from which my life continuously seeps. The frame of mind I have to be in when I’m around them stretches the thinning boundaries of my will. Between the oppressive heat of Las Vegas, and the endless nightmares I’ve suffered through, these last few weeks of summer have been especially hard to endure. Every day I have to draw deeper inside myself to find that happy place and smile.”

As the novel progresses, Ms. Mason continuously demonstrates equal ability in handling both graphic imagery and the surreal atmosphere that permeate the storyline.

The author’s prose mirrors the approach she seems to take with her writing career: rather than shotgun-blast stories in every direction since appearing on the scene a couple of years ago, she has published sparingly but exceedingly well, placing a handful of short stories in key markets and a novella with Journalstone Press, scheduled for publication in June.

Likewise, she writes efficiently and with pinpoint accuracy, much as one would imagine an OR nurse performs her duties, choosing the right tool at the right time to ensure that the patient gets exactly what is needed, as evidenced by this dream sequence, followed by an excerpt featuring a yoga session:

“Blood-tinged syrup hangs from the bottom of the cart like strands from a spider’s web. It pools in the gutter, and forms a bodily fluid gelatin. There is no rain hard enough to wash away the stains. There is no weather at all, not anymore. No nights, no electricity, or battery power. Something happened. Everything stopped working. The sky became a perpetual red dusk. Maybe it is a mirror image of all the spilled blood.”

And:

“The room temperature is set at over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, melding the stale odors of sweat and earthy bamboo. Every breath singes my airway; breathing is a slow burden, and my heartbeats are lazy, bounding. My muscles expand beyond normal limits. They have become elastic bands unable to snap in the heat. They continue to stretch out, enabling me to twist back into myself like a wilting flower poised to collapse. I close my eyes, and imagine the back of my head resting between my shoulder blades. There is peace in it.”

The Evolutionist
is a perfect storm of life experience and talent, ending on a somber note with most of the loose ends tied up and just the hint or two of a question raised.

Long Description: 

“. . . a perfect storm of life experience and talent, . . .”

The Evolutionist is author Rena Mason’s debut novel, a book that is equal parts science fiction, dystopian horror, and fictional memoirs of a suburban housewife.

Ms. Mason, a former operating room nurse now living in Las Vegas with her husband and children, draws on both her former career and current lifestyle to paint a vivid picture of Stacy Troy, a doctor’s wife and mother of a teenage son, who dreams at night about dismembering her family and neighbors and burning their bodies in the aftermath of an unknown event of apocalyptic proportions.

While it might be a bit difficult for some readers to connect with Stacy, whose days are filled with things like yoga and lunch dates, Ms. Mason establishes from the opening paragraph that Stacy’s life isn’t all that it seems on the surface:

“My book club is killing me. The demands my friends make of me feel like stabbing daggers, leaving open wounds from which my life continuously seeps. The frame of mind I have to be in when I’m around them stretches the thinning boundaries of my will. Between the oppressive heat of Las Vegas, and the endless nightmares I’ve suffered through, these last few weeks of summer have been especially hard to endure. Every day I have to draw deeper inside myself to find that happy place and smile.”

As the novel progresses, Ms. Mason continuously demonstrates equal ability in handling both graphic imagery and the surreal atmosphere that permeate the storyline.

The author’s prose mirrors the approach she seems to take with her writing career: rather than shotgun-blast stories in every direction since appearing on the scene a couple of years ago, she has published sparingly but exceedingly well, placing a handful of short stories in key markets and a novella with Journalstone Press, scheduled for publication in June.

Likewise, she writes efficiently and with pinpoint accuracy, much as one would imagine an OR nurse performs her duties, choosing the right tool at the right time to ensure that the patient gets exactly what is needed, as evidenced by this dream sequence, followed by an excerpt featuring a yoga session:

“Blood-tinged syrup hangs from the bottom of the cart like strands from a spider’s web. It pools in the gutter, and forms a bodily fluid gelatin. There is no rain hard enough to wash away the stains. There is no weather at all, not anymore. No nights, no electricity, or battery power. Something happened. Everything stopped working. The sky became a perpetual red dusk. Maybe it is a mirror image of all the spilled blood.”

And:

“The room temperature is set at over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, melding the stale odors of sweat and earthy bamboo. Every breath singes my airway; breathing is a slow burden, and my heartbeats are lazy, bounding. My muscles expand beyond normal limits. They have become elastic bands unable to snap in the heat. They continue to stretch out, enabling me to twist back into myself like a wilting flower poised to collapse. I close my eyes, and imagine the back of my head resting between my shoulder blades. There is peace in it.”

The Evolutionist
is a perfect storm of life experience and talent, ending on a somber note with most of the loose ends tied up and just the hint or two of a question raised.

Reviewed by: 

“. . . a perfect storm of life experience and talent, . . .”

The Evolutionist is author Rena Mason’s debut novel, a book that is equal parts science fiction, dystopian horror, and fictional memoirs of a suburban housewife.

Ms. Mason, a former operating room nurse now living in Las Vegas with her husband and children, draws on both her former career and current lifestyle to paint a vivid picture of Stacy Troy, a doctor’s wife and mother of a teenage son, who dreams at night about dismembering her family and neighbors and burning their bodies in the aftermath of an unknown event of apocalyptic proportions.

While it might be a bit difficult for some readers to connect with Stacy, whose days are filled with things like yoga and lunch dates, Ms. Mason establishes from the opening paragraph that Stacy’s life isn’t all that it seems on the surface:

“My book club is killing me. The demands my friends make of me feel like stabbing daggers, leaving open wounds from which my life continuously seeps. The frame of mind I have to be in when I’m around them stretches the thinning boundaries of my will. Between the oppressive heat of Las Vegas, and the endless nightmares I’ve suffered through, these last few weeks of summer have been especially hard to endure. Every day I have to draw deeper inside myself to find that happy place and smile.”

As the novel progresses, Ms. Mason continuously demonstrates equal ability in handling both graphic imagery and the surreal atmosphere that permeate the storyline.

The author’s prose mirrors the approach she seems to take with her writing career: rather than shotgun-blast stories in every direction since appearing on the scene a couple of years ago, she has published sparingly but exceedingly well, placing a handful of short stories in key markets and a novella with Journalstone Press, scheduled for publication in June.

Likewise, she writes efficiently and with pinpoint accuracy, much as one would imagine an OR nurse performs her duties, choosing the right tool at the right time to ensure that the patient gets exactly what is needed, as evidenced by this dream sequence, followed by an excerpt featuring a yoga session:

“Blood-tinged syrup hangs from the bottom of the cart like strands from a spider’s web. It pools in the gutter, and forms a bodily fluid gelatin. There is no rain hard enough to wash away the stains. There is no weather at all, not anymore. No nights, no electricity, or battery power. Something happened. Everything stopped working. The sky became a perpetual red dusk. Maybe it is a mirror image of all the spilled blood.”

And:

“The room temperature is set at over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, melding the stale odors of sweat and earthy bamboo. Every breath singes my airway; breathing is a slow burden, and my heartbeats are lazy, bounding. My muscles expand beyond normal limits. They have become elastic bands unable to snap in the heat. They continue to stretch out, enabling me to twist back into myself like a wilting flower poised to collapse. I close my eyes, and imagine the back of my head resting between my shoulder blades. There is peace in it.”

The Evolutionist
is a perfect storm of life experience and talent, ending on a somber note with most of the loose ends tied up and just the hint or two of a question raised.

Long Description: 

“. . . a perfect storm of life experience and talent, . . .”

The Evolutionist is author Rena Mason’s debut novel, a book that is equal parts science fiction, dystopian horror, and fictional memoirs of a suburban housewife.

Ms. Mason, a former operating room nurse now living in Las Vegas with her husband and children, draws on both her former career and current lifestyle to paint a vivid picture of Stacy Troy, a doctor’s wife and mother of a teenage son, who dreams at night about dismembering her family and neighbors and burning their bodies in the aftermath of an unknown event of apocalyptic proportions.

While it might be a bit difficult for some readers to connect with Stacy, whose days are filled with things like yoga and lunch dates, Ms. Mason establishes from the opening paragraph that Stacy’s life isn’t all that it seems on the surface:

“My book club is killing me. The demands my friends make of me feel like stabbing daggers, leaving open wounds from which my life continuously seeps. The frame of mind I have to be in when I’m around them stretches the thinning boundaries of my will. Between the oppressive heat of Las Vegas, and the endless nightmares I’ve suffered through, these last few weeks of summer have been especially hard to endure. Every day I have to draw deeper inside myself to find that happy place and smile.”

As the novel progresses, Ms. Mason continuously demonstrates equal ability in handling both graphic imagery and the surreal atmosphere that permeate the storyline.

The author’s prose mirrors the approach she seems to take with her writing career: rather than shotgun-blast stories in every direction since appearing on the scene a couple of years ago, she has published sparingly but exceedingly well, placing a handful of short stories in key markets and a novella with Journalstone Press, scheduled for publication in June.

Likewise, she writes efficiently and with pinpoint accuracy, much as one would imagine an OR nurse performs her duties, choosing the right tool at the right time to ensure that the patient gets exactly what is needed, as evidenced by this dream sequence, followed by an excerpt featuring a yoga session:

“Blood-tinged syrup hangs from the bottom of the cart like strands from a spider’s web. It pools in the gutter, and forms a bodily fluid gelatin. There is no rain hard enough to wash away the stains. There is no weather at all, not anymore. No nights, no electricity, or battery power. Something happened. Everything stopped working. The sky became a perpetual red dusk. Maybe it is a mirror image of all the spilled blood.”

And:

“The room temperature is set at over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, melding the stale odors of sweat and earthy bamboo. Every breath singes my airway; breathing is a slow burden, and my heartbeats are lazy, bounding. My muscles expand beyond normal limits. They have become elastic bands unable to snap in the heat. They continue to stretch out, enabling me to twist back into myself like a wilting flower poised to collapse. I close my eyes, and imagine the back of my head resting between my shoulder blades. There is peace in it.”

The Evolutionist
is a perfect storm of life experience and talent, ending on a somber note with most of the loose ends tied up and just the hint or two of a question raised.