Many thanks to Jim Nesbitt, author of hard-boiled detective novel “The Last Second Chance” and soon to be released “Right Wrong Number” for his review of “Light Room”
With Light Room, Sarah Jackson spins a short story about a near-future and presumably post-apocalyptic and authoritarian world that harkens back to black-and-white vignettes of The Twilight Zone with one important difference — there’s no Rod Serling giving you an “Imagine, if you will…” introductory scene setter.
Jackson demands the reader to pay attention from jump street and plunges us right into a dialogue-driven story that echoes one of George V. Higgins’ later novels. The telling details are scattered through the thoughts of a prisoner who has committed a heinous crime and a doctor and nurse who are preparing to purify his blood and harvest his organs. Blink and you miss a key point.
The prisoner is mute and can’t speak to the doctor or nurse. All he has is his thoughts. As the doctor and nurse chat about their weekend, upping the prisoner’s sedative and waiting on the next available blood filter machine, more story nuggets are revealed.
We’re in a world where the worst of society are given a number and sent to this glorified and sanitized butcher shop where eyes, kidneys and liver are surgically sliced out and the cadaver is sent to be ground into fertilizer. All revealed in breezy, banal pleasantries mixed with matter-of-fact orders the doctor gives the nurse.
In contrast, the prisoner’s thoughts are a profanity-laced rant against his helplessness. He’s a drug addict, hooked on something called Crazy 8s. He’s also a rapist and murderer who blames his female for provoking him — which seems to mean having the misfortune of walking past and attracting his addled and lethal attention.
Jackson shows a deft hand with pace and the shifts between the prisoner’s thoughts and the conversations of people who act as if he isn’t there, with casually callous comments about what will happen to him next. She also understands the power of ending a short story with an unexpected O. Henry twist.
You can get your copy of “Light Room” via Amazon