There’s something deeply unsettling and all-too-familiar about Mark Allan Gunnells’s new novella, When it Rains. Maybe it’s just living through a pandemic for the last couple of years. Maybe it’s the very real, looming climate crisis. Either way, the author deftly cuts to the bone with a story that feels like it could have been pulled from the local news.
On a seemingly normal, sunny day, a mysterious rain begins to fall. That, on its own, isn’t so strange. What’s strange is that it doesn’t feel like rain at all. It’s a slimy, globular, oily substance. It also happens to be covering the entire world. Rather than focusing on the world’s reaction, however, the author drops us into a small, posh university campus where students and locals take shelter from the storm inside a bookstore/cafe.
As paranoia grows over what the storm might be, the small crowd turns on each other, exiling those who were caught in the rain.
It’s interesting that Gunnells sets the story sometime in the future beyond our own pandemic experiences. He rightfully gave his characters memories of the past and how things were handled. It’s also quite remarkable how throwing out a term like “self-isolating” causes a visceral, knee-jerk reaction in the reader.
The author also draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of horror films, television series, and books to underline his character’s thoughts. References to The Mist, The Stand, and even the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” remind us that this idea is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. Whether it’s a pack of rowdy neighbors on the street or religious zealots in a supermarket, human nature is often the most terrifying monster of all.
But perhaps the most potent, exacting truth in Make it Rain is that humans have a remarkable propensity to be entirely right and wrong simultaneously. Our vestigial fight or flight responses can and often do lead us down paths to destruction. Is it because we are too far removed to sense the sources of real danger around us? Or because we’ve become so numb to those dangers that they feel more like a fact of life?
I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. Neither does the author, but he certainly seems to be asking someone…anyone…to let us know.
When it Rains features an interesting cast of characters, but sadly none of them are quite as filled out as they perhaps, could have been. I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t due to a need for brevity in the storytelling or if it was a plot device in and of itself. We’re given just enough background on the players in this horror drama to seemingly put faces to the names, perhaps to give us the same glimpse into each that the group of mostly strangers have with each other.
The exception here is Vincent, the husband of Tony who works in the campus bookstore. He’s more fleshed out than any character in the book, and ultimately becomes our flawed moral compass.
As a whole, however, When it Rains is an exciting, quick read, perfect for a rainy afternoon…or maybe you should wait until it’s sunny out. Either way, you’re in for a real treat.
You can pick up a copy of When it Rains by CLICKING HERE. The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited!