Friday, March 21, 2014

Surfing the Human Wave: David L. Burkhead's Live to Tell

I'm sure this particular dream is common enough: You're on the run from a group of evil men -- or monsters. You're pushing yourself as hard as you can, but your efforts seem in vain, as you can hear the enemy drawing closer and closer. If you don't do something soon, they will be within reach, so in your desperation, you hide -- perhaps in an attic or a crawl space. You do your best to quiet your breathing so you don't give yourself away.

The above describes much of the plot of David Burkhead's Live to Tell, a novella in which a sergeant must battle his PTSD to avoid capture by a contingent of alien hunters. This premise is pretty exciting, and, for the most part, Burkhead is able to maintain the required pace. Only once was I thrown out of the mood, and that was when Burkhead described the Eres for several long paragraphs. That felt like a "holy info-dump, Batman!" passage to me. While it was necessary to know something about the Eres anatomy and physiology in order to understand how Yamada could overcome them, I question whether Burkhead's excruciating detail actually served the plot.

But outside this one complaint, I think Live to Tell has the potential to be very empowering for anyone who suffers from genuine PTSD. Yamada could've allowed his fear to completely cripple him, but instead, he manages to use it to his advantage. This, I believe, sends a very important message: that we don't have to be defined by what we've suffered. That we can, instead, use our trauma to accomplish something good.

Final Verdict: Recommended