I’d read The five turns of the wheel, and Stephanie’s Cry me a river in the anthology “What one wouldn’t do” from Scott J.Moses, so as soon as I saw Paused on Twitter, I rushed over to Amazon, read the blurb, and bought it straight away.
I fell in love with the concept here, that of people, for no explainable reason, pausing. Stopping in their lives, unable to react, frozen in the moment. A pandemic of unexplained phenomenon and Stephanie wrote this book exactly how I was hoping – from a scientific standpoint. The horror here is that phenomenon, the myriad ways that that basic anomaly can destroy your life. Unable to react, unable to have any control of your life – that is the horror here, and Stephanie illustrates it wonderfully, with POV’s from the affected person and those around them.
That all sides of the afflicted person are viewed is the selling point here. We have the frozen perspective of the victims themselves. We have the perspective of loved ones, having to adapt and care for those stricken with the problem. We have people taking advantage of the unfortunate circumstance, the depravity of control over another person’s body once they are unable to respond or protest (and the abuse thereof). We have scientists, forsaking their own families in order to try and study and understand the problem, desperately searching for the reason of it all, in order to find a cure. We see those same scientists struck down by the affliction themselves, the growing fear of the ticking clock and the dwindling community that can do anything about it.
It’s divine, it really is a kick-ass situation Stephanie has illustrated here, with all the horror that comes with it. A simple alteration of a normal world, one element, and all hell breaks loose. A crane driver in the middle of a movement, freezes, the crane left out of control. A zookeeper feeding tigers suddenly becomes the main meal. Bus drivers traveling through a town, ambulance drivers rushing to pick up victims… Stephanie manages to invoke your own imagination here, all of the possible moments in your life where suddenly being frozen might mean your death… Fantastic. Imagine crossing a train track… Imagine being on a windy roof… Swimming… the possibilities are limitless, and that those frozen are cognizant of what happens after they are frozen, is yet another layer of horror grafted onto the problem.
So – I loved the situation even before I read the book, and Stephanie’s handling of that world is as thorough and gripping as the premise itself. Her voice is as easy to read as it was in Five turns. Each turn of the page brings more tension and problems. It’s a rollercoaster ride that doesn’t stop to give you a breath, is as relentless as a Tsunami, and equally as devastating. The ending is as good as it gets (no spoilers here), with an unspoken question only partially answered.
Ellis proves there IS a place for pandemic-related literature right now. We may all be sick of Covid to the point of not wanting to read about it...but this book isn't about that. It references things, of course, which serves to ground the story and lend believability.
I enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. It's fast paced, with a unique concept that I haven't seen anywhere else.