Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe

Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe

Copyright L. Lee Lowe, publication date 2008

ISBN 2940000690130, available as a Nook e-reader book, or for free from the author’s website http://lleelowe.com

Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for and Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe is the proof to that rule. Mortal Ghost was a free download from Barnes and Noble e-reader Nook for PC. It was a singularly disturbing tale about a young man who has the ability to heal others, and who also has the ability to start fires simply by thinking about them, or by getting too angry.

The young man, whose name is Jesse falls in love with a young woman named Sarah and ends up staying with Sarah and her family. He becomes quite close to, and quite protective of all of them. As time goes on Sarah is brutally raped by her ex-boyfriend and a friend of his. Sarah is ashamed of what has happened and so remains silent about her experience. It’s only to Jesse that she’ll open up, talk about the rape and allow him in her room at night when the worst of the nightmares overtake her.

Sarah’s father Finn has noticed Jesse’s fire-starting abilities. Finn in turn brings Jesse’s abilities to the attention of certain covert elements of the government he is involved with. The problem is that more than one unexpected thing occurs when Jesse becomes involved with the secret government program. First, he is able to pull a manifestation into the virtual-reality world he is thrust into. secondly, a bond of sorts is formed between the human, Jesse, and the computer matrix who Jesse comes to call Red.

Red begins to warp Jesse’s sense of reality, as well as right and wrong, almost from the beginning. Jesse, fearing for his safety and his sanity lashes out the only way he knows how. He sets out to take down Red.

Red isn’t going down without a fight though and Jesse may never make it back from the realms he must enter to defeat the computer gone crazy; or is it that Jesse has gone crazy and the voices in his head are just manifestations of that?

What follows is an excerpt from Mortal Ghost:

“Jesse wanted nothing more than to be left alone to sort through his own feelings and impressions, maybe to test himself a little. Red had been strangely quite in the last few minutes. Was it his imagination after all? He gave it a tentative prod. Back off, I’m busy, came the swift rejoinder. OK. Anyway, what did that prove?

“Jesse, quit stalling before I lose my temper.”

A surge of irritation flared in Jesse’s gut. The crown of Finn’s head, deeply bronzed, gleamed in the sunlight streaming through the closed window. Jesse glared at him. Leave me alone, he thought, why the fuck don’t you just leave me be, Christ’s enough ENOUGH. He shoved at Finn — no, at something, at his frustration, his fate maybe — and felt it resist

then buckle

then give.

The window exploded outward with an enormous WHOMP of sound: a set of amped-up monster cymbals booming in their eardrums: a blast of highspeed air. The glass fell with a deafening crash to the patio outside. Nubi jumped up, barked, and ran from the room. The cracking and ratcheting of breaking glass seemed to go on for a long time.

Finn and Jesse sat frozen in place

“Did you do that?” whispered Finn after his heart finally returned to his chest.

Jesse nodded a bit sheepishly.

“Shit.” Finn expelled the word in a hoarse rush, disbelief and something close to admiration in his voice.

“Look, I’m sorry. I’ll replace it. I really shouldn’t have done that.”

“Yes. I mean, no, of course you shouldn’t have, but it’s only glass. Easy enough to repair. but how the hell did you break a window without moving a muscle? And why do I have the feeling that I don’t want to know?”

“Ayen’s computer.”

“Ayen’s computer?” Finn asked. “What in god’s name are you talking about?

Jesse decided he had no choice but to give Finn an abridged version of the truth. Very abridged.

“The prototype seems to have had some lingering effects on me.”

Finn waited for an explanation. It didn’t come.

“And that’s it? That’s all you’re going to say?”

Jesse shrugged.

“Lingering effects,”Finn muttered, glancing towards the window. “Talk about understatement.” He dug at his beard. “Are you absolutely sure there are no other new tricks you’re not mentioning? That I need to watch out for?”

Jesse held his tongue.

“Have you heard from Ayen while I was away?” Finn finally asked.

“No.”

Jesse drained his coffee, now cold, and went to have a closer look at the damage. Most of the glass lay in small shards scattered widely across the patio. The garden table where they often ate looked as if it were dusted with a thick sprinkling of coarse sugar. He could even see some glass glinting from the herb bed. The window had shattered with the force of a detonation. Idly he picked at a sharp splinter still lodged in the frame. He winced and sucked his forefinger which he’d nicked. He stood for a while looking out into the garden, his shoulders slumping. Finally, he took a deep breath and drew himself up, then spoke, turning round to face Finn.

“I’m not going back there.”

“I’ve always said it was up to you. but will you tell me why?”

“They’ll try to use me.”

I’d like to say the plot was original, but it’s not. It was explored many years ago with Stephen King’s The Firestarter, in which a young girl, nicknamed Charlie, has the ability to start fires and is captured in a top secret government installation where she is blackmailed into performing various pyrotechnic feats in the belief it will free her father who is also being held at the installation. Of course, Charlie can’t heal anything, so the similarities end there, but the point is the story has been done before and done better.

Jesse’s little reality breaks are very confusing too. It is difficult to determine how much of his breaks are due to his exposure to Ayen’s computer prototype and how much may be due to blossoming mental illness. Mental illness is not given as a possible excuse in the novel, but still, the boy hallucinates, has a God complex, hears voices, suffers from paranoia and believes he can go back in time to influence past events. All in all, these are markers of serious mental illness, but everyone in the story seems to overlook these traits, instead looking for a supernatural excuse.

As I said, you sometimes get what you pay for. This book was free, and it shows. The story quality is mediocre at best, the story line has been done before and the tendency of the story to flash back and forth between “real-time” reality and “warped-time” reality or “illusionist-reality” where you doubt Jesse’s sanity is very disorienting.

This novel is Pigeon Poop, plain and simple. there is no equivocating. It not only belongs on the dung heap heap it deserves to stay there until it sprouts plants and serves some useful purpose.


Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “Mortal Ghost by L. Lee Lowe”

  • Tracy Riva says:

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to look at my review of your work. I’ve actually got Corvus on my to-be-read list, though I haven’t gotten to it yet. I appreciate you giving us the information on where to find it and your short stories.

  • Lee says:

    My second YA novel, Corvus, is also available from my website or from Feedbooks, an e-book site I recommend highly. If you like short stories, you can find ‘Watershed’ in the Fall 2010 edition of Blackbird Magazine (link below) or read several directly at my website. A new short story, ‘Snow Leopard’, will be appearing in the 2012 special issue of Witness Magazine, both online and in print, and I’ll post a link from my website when it becomes available.

    Thanks for your attentive reading of my work, which I always welcome and appreciate.

    http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v9n2/fiction/lowe_l_l/watershed_page.shtml

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