Reunion by Rick Hautala
Reviewed by Daniel Woods
Rick Hautala’s Reunion is a story about living with mistakes. If you could change one moment from your life, and right one single mistake, how far would you go to do it? That is the question faced by thirteen-year-old Jackie Stone in Rick Hautala’s latest novella, “Reunion.” When a secret midnight adventure takes an unnerving turn, Jackie and best friend Chris are cornered in the woods by a mysterious stranger. That man, John, has been waiting for them, and how Jackie and Chris react to his tale will alter the course of their lives forever.
It sounds quite good, as a premise. Even the blurb talks of “mystery, magic and danger,” but somehow this story fell short of my expectations.
I enjoyed it, but it did not keep me on the edge of my seat. Without giving too much away, the SF element is a wee bit of time travel. The plot is really quite predictable, with one frustrating scene in the middle that dooms Jackie and Chris to their fates without justification. The characters are real enough, but only John ever truly reaches me in a single moment of raw emotion. It would have been a much more engaging novella if Hautala had carried that level of characterization through to the end.
The prose itself is hit and miss, too. For every vivid description, there is a conspicuous word like “gallivanting” to trip you up, and the awkward mix of swearing and polite speech makes the children’s dialogue sound contrived. The story feels unpolished, like a first effort, and it is disappointing to see this from a well established, international best-selling author like Rick Hautala.
In short, this is an average story. It finishes with a very clear sentiment that forms the crux of the piece: “This is the only life you have. Hang onto it and appreciate every second with the ones you love because once it slips away, there’s no way to get it back.” For that alone, it is probably worth reading. But Reunion is far from perfect, containing as it does the immortal line, “this is, like, total science fiction.” I suspect the finished product is not as powerful a story as Hautala had intended, and I don’t believe it will leave a lasting impression on many people. If you’re looking for a good introduction to his work, go find an old copy of Night Stone instead.