Dear Mr. Sawyer: Down From Ten in review

Dear Mr. Sawyer,
You don’t know who I am but I know who you are and I know what you done. You wrote a podcast novel called Down From Ten and then blew my brains all away. I’m not gonna gush about the voice acting and sound production. I’m not gonna discuss the twist, much. This isn’t a review, this is a ten year old boy sitting on the steps alone writing you a letter cuz your book cut deep. Read it.

People don’t write poetry and science fiction much at the same time. When I go to Balticon this year, if I end up on that panel about poetry and florid language, I’ll reference this book because it shows people there’s still a place for lyrical wordplay instead of terse Hemingway style prose.

Your book hinges on a twist. I’m not gonna give it away. Considerin twist movies and books can fall all apart worse than Primal Fear or The Village knowin the truth, I just listened again, second time, and it still got me. Sure, twist and mystery is there and if I described the twist to someone they might say “Really? That’s the big secret? Skip that.” But that’s the secret to secrets and twists- with writing, characters, something, a story still needs a center. You have that. More importantly, you remind us other writers about the importance- and irrelevance- of plot.

Sure, I wonder about what this story would be if it was a post nuclear war bunker mind trip. Maybe I’ll try to write that one day, but that sort of ending would kill the sense of wonder that suffuses the entire thing. From Edelle’s monologue about beauty and commercialism to Amos’s rant about the futility of creation in the face of mortality, the entire story reaches for the stars and encourages the embracing of life.

You don’t play nice, Mr. Sawyer. You don’t just describe something scary or beautiful or wondrous or all three. You inflict it on the reader and with the help of Danny Shade’s music and your delivery, a reader who even partially surrenders can’t help to stay trapped once hooked. Your book don’t play fair.

You made me feel pity for that jerk Jeremiah. Man, was he annoying.

You made me understand the emotional basis for Christian missionary work AND for polyamory. You showed what people get from them, why they might be worthwhile.

You made a frozen cabin horror mystery in the mountains and made it seem the most wonderful place to be, something worthy of creating in real life.

You made me want to make friends with more physicisist and dancers, as opposed to just writers and musicians.

You dreamed up a safe place for the strange, the outsider, the non-comformist, where they can be accepted in all their glory, with all their quirks.

In the end, you made a terrifying, brutal tale of beauty and hope with a glorious, uplifting ending.

But you didn’t let everyone in, did you? Jeremiah was a brat, sure, but unlike the others he was hazed, rejected. Unlike everyone else, he never felt safe at the retreat. Yeah, he was ill tempered and earned much of the emnity he got. But you wouldn’t let me demonize him in peace, would you? You had to show me how broken he was, how alone, how like everyone else he was an outsider, and how the tragedy of his facade of derision towards the other characters is so much more painful for how much he needed them.

What you did in this book ain’t fair.

All I know is your name. But one of these days I’m going to find you and I’m going to give you this letter so you’ll remember what you done to me. You killed me, Mr. Sawyer. Don’t you dare forget it.

You can find Down From Ten and other works by J. Daniel Sawyer at


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