Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
Page Count: 183
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Released: July 2014
Guest Reviewed by Lavinia Ludlow
“As a child what you see is creation. As an adult what you see is destruction.”
Crystal Eaters is a dramatic chronicle of a family’s long-term battle with terminal illness, drugs, and poverty. Set in the distant future, global warming has turned Earth into an arid wasteland, the government is corrupt, peace officers are plagued with addiction, and much of society has placed false hope of immortality in chemicals mined from the earth. In this society, people count their lifelines in crystals, even ants and mold have counts, and many believe that each person begins with a hundred crystals, and old age, sickness, and injury reduce that count over time.
After a young girl named Remy sees her dog pass away—his life expectancy around 40 crystals—she embarks on a mission to immortalize the people she loves, particularly her dying mother, before any “experience the number zero.” In parallel, her incarcerated brother, Adam, believes that a rare “black crystal” can cure his mother’s illness. When the crystal is ingested or jammed into open wounds, one experiences an immediate high and sense of invincibility, and thus, Adam assumes the crystal could reverse his mother’s critical health condition.
These black crystals; however, are far from a fountain of youth or a healer of all ailments. Users experience a sudden rush, but undergo extreme withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, violent outbursts, and psychosis. Similar to meth and crack, the crystals rot away teeth and flesh, and users become hopelessly addicted.
Though dystopian and futuristic in nature, Crystal Eaters focuses on contemporary social issues, shedding light on the ill-effects of poverty--the poor are banished to the outskirts, lack access to affordable medicine, while those within the city remain comfortable and privileged, “City people run for fun and call it jogging”--the prison system isn’t a utopian center of rehabilitation as the government wants everyone to believe, and immortality and the fountain of youth has become such an obsession that people forget how to enjoy life and appreciate the little time that they have left with family and friends.
This chronicle is also a bleak reminder of how insignificant humankind is in the grand scheme of the universe, “The sun wants to swallow the earth not for reasons of expansion, but attraction to the black crystals. The universe will not miss the earth. There are billions of planets. The black crystals reach for the sun in a moving spider web, coming up from the earth’s center, ready to break through all dirt, rock, grass, and bone.”
An original dystopian social commentary on unconditional love, Crystal Eaters is available over at Two Dollar Radio.
Lavinia Ludlow is a musician, writer, and occasional contortionist. Her debut novel alt.punk can be purchased through major online retailers as well as Casperian Books’ website. Her sophomore novel Single Stroke Seven was signed to Casperian Books and will release in the distant future. In her free time, she is a reviewer at Small Press Reviews, The Nervous Breakdown, American Book Review, and now The Next Best Book Blog.