Rita Francis is an artist who’s having a tough time in life in Tiffany Morris’ Green Fuse Burning. Her father has recently passed away, her girlfriend may be cheating on her, and she’s struggling with her art. Perhaps some time alone in the woods will help her deal with her trauma, focus on her art, and figure out her relationship. But is she really alone?
Rita starts to think that someone else is in the woods too. And she doesn’t think they’re friendly. Leaving would be the smart thing to do but Rita doesn’t want to fail at her retreat too so she stays. Then things get even weirder and Rita fears for her life. Maybe she should have left when she still had the chance? Continue on to gauge my early impressions of the upcoming eco-horror novella and see if Green Fuse Burning is the perfect way to spend All Hallows Eve!
[Warning: Contained in this book and mentioned in this review are instances of suicidal thoughts and ideations. For more information or if you need help visit the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website or call 988]
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Stelliform Press for the purpose of this review.Warning: My review contains some light spoilers!]
A green retreat with a creepy undertone
Rita’s girlfriend has just come back from a long trip and things are a little strained. Rita blames herself. She’s been feeling very disconnected since her father passed away and she can’t seem to create anything in her studio. Surely that’s the reason that Molly seems so distant.
Rita just can’t seem to bring herself to care about anything that Molly has to say. Until Molly shows her an acceptance letter for a residency that Rita never even applied for. Turns out, Molly entered it for Rita and expected her to be thrilled about it. Rita isn’t, for a whole host of reasons, but she doesn’t want to fight so she pretends to be thankful.
So Rita heads off into the woods by herself for a few months. She has no cell service at her cottage and no easy way to contact anyone. Then one night Rita hears people walking to the pond by her cottage, and they’re dragging something. Maybe a body! Rita is terrified. But then she starts to talk herself out of what she heard and saw. Rita has had some problems with hallucinations before, so she’s sure that’s all this is. Rita tries calming herself down but it only helps a little.
The longer Rita stays, the more she thinks she sees, but the less sure she is that she’s seeing anything. She can’t tell what’s real anymore and she’s very afraid. The only thing that she’s sure about is how very green everything is. The whole forest and the pond are all different shades of green. Rita is getting close to some very important revelations about herself, her relationship, and her life. But will she figure things out before she becomes part of the green?
Green Fuse Burning is a little confusing
If that description of Morris’ novella was a little confusing I apologize, but that’s how reading Green Fuse Burning was, a little confusing. Most of the book reads like a fever dream with the timeline being presented out of order, with strange monsters in the woods, and Rita having a hard time creating coherent thought. It must have been the aesthetic that the author was going for though because suddenly at the very end of the book, the afterword is beautifully written. If the whole book were written like the afterword, I would have very much liked the book.
As it is, I understand what the author was going for. She was trying to convey the state of mind the protagonist is in, and it isn’t pretty. Rita is depressed and suicidal. In fact, at one point she makes a very firm decision to kill herself. The mental health aspect could have been an interesting dynamic for a horror novella such as this, with Rita questioning her reality.
This same concept is at the core of the recent season of American Horror Story and the book it’s based on, Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. Both of which present it in an appropriate and interesting way, an approach that works well in both forms. However, the disjointed writing present in Green Fuse Burning by Morris was just confusing for me to read, and made it harder for me to connect to and care about Rita. If the entire book had been written in the style of the afterword, it still could have conveyed what Rita was thinking but in a way that would have been enjoyable and relatable.
Tiffany Morris’ novella was too much for me
I was too confused about what was happening, and if any of it was even real, to really get into Green Fuse Burning. I’m sure it was very cathartic for Morris to write this after her own traumatic experiences and suicidal thoughts (there’s an author’s note talking about this at the end) but it wasn’t cathartic for me to read.
Perhaps someone who is in a similar place to Rita could find help among the pages of Green Fuse Burning, but I would worry that the wonky reality would actually make them feel worse, especially if they reach Rita’s decision to end her life and don’t read further. Perhaps someone who has been where Rita is but recovered would find Green Fuse Burning interesting. It is always nice to feel like you’re not alone. But for general readers, I’m not giving this a great recommendation, sorry Rita.
My Rating: 6/10
Green Fuse Burning by Tiffany Morris is available from Stelliform Press on October 31. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on reading this novella for Halloween!