Near the end of his new novella Mystery Road, Kevin Lucia makes an explicit reference to The Twilight Zone. It’s a playful moment that exemplifies the author’s uniquely conversational prose style, but it also underlines the book’s evident genealogy. Lucia seems clearly and consciously engaged with a specific lineage of “speculative humanism,” which includes but is not limited to writers like Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and yes, Rod Serling.
Mystery Road manages a balancing act of paying homage to these antecedents while also maintaining a personal voice and narrative. Simultaneously, it manages to dip its toes into sentimentality (a useful and effective tool when used properly) without ever soaking it up. Rather, the sentimentality serves a clear, necessary purpose: this novella actually weaves emotional catharsis into the build-up and release of its Twilight Zone-esque twist. This is a carefully built piece of fiction whose elements are brought together toward clear and affecting ends.
Much like the plot structure, the prose is remarkably lucid. Like King, Lucia recognizes the power of memory-induced imagery and sensation; also like King, he identifies the ways in which brand names and products have become irrevocably folded into American identity since the mid-twentieth century—in Mystery Road, a vintage 7UP bottle develops nearly mythic resonance.
The book also demonstrates a strongly developed sense of characterization and dialogue, which reinforce its tricky emotional through-line. Mystery Road is a talented author’s personal variation on genre traditions. It’s so clearly and elegantly written that I couldn’t help but read the whole thing in one sitting.