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abrock
July 11th, 2004, 10:24 AM
EDIT: Formatting not very good, copy/pasted from a word doc. Sorry.


-2-
Pain

She stood alone in the twilight, outlined against the cityscape on the observation deck of Acrology 9, basking in the glow of a rare sunset. Seeing the sun was a rare enough occurrence in City 24 that Natasha never seemed to grow tired of it. Even diffused through the diamond-aluminum alloy panels, which comprised the shell of the biospheres that shielded them from the invisible horrors of the deadzone, it was a beautiful sight to her eyes. Textdox mentioned that before the Collapse the sun had actually been visible every day. Every day! Perhaps that was why people had taken it for granted… or maybe they hadn’t. Very few people complained about it anymore, and in fact many seemed to begrudge their sustainer of Terran life for keeping them trapped inside the biospheres. Of course, Natasha knew the truth: It was more the Unified Union government keeping them prisoner than any natural restrictions. With the technology available to humans after the Second Industrial Revolution they could have mass produced proper protections to allow people access to the deadzone at their whim, but they hadn’t, for the simple yet all important reason of control.

Why anyone would actually want to visit the deadzone was another story. There were tales of mutants, monsters, and bands of renegade humans, but Natasha knew most of them to be simply scare tactics to keep the populace from finding things out for themselves. The environment was deadly though, that was certainly no lie. The nuclear exchanges with China which led to the Collapse had done a bang-up job of eliminating most of the life on Earth outside of the biospheres. She had personally avoided the horror of the Collapse, having been born 7 years after, but the few textdox and old fashioned photoprints which had survived convinced her to be thankful she had not lived to see it in person.

‘Spirit,’ it was Runa’s voice in her netlink. ‘Where are you? I’m on my way back.’

Natasha smiled to herself and brought her thumb and pinky together to complete the bioelectric loop which activated the netlink send function, and, still absorbing every ray of UV shielded sunlight as if it were vintage wine, she replied softly.

‘I’m watching the sunset… join me if you like.’

She thought about the netlink for a brief minute and wondered why the concept had not caught on with the popular crowd sooner. A tiny bioelectric transceiver implanted inside the ear canal offered high quality and extremely secure 2-way communications, with the added bonus that it was comfortable and never needed to be removed unless it became faulty, which was a rare enough event in itself that Natasha had never witnessed it happen. The only downside was that only someone with your exact netlink encrypt could communicate with you, and the encrypt had to be programmed in before the netlink was surgically implanted. This discouraged its use as a versatile communications platform, but for small teams of 2 or 3 running Infiltration, Interchange or, heaven forbid, Evacuation missions, the netlink was a godsend.

‘I’ll do that,’ Runa’s voice echoed back after a moment. ‘Just give me a minute to put away the drinks and check the mail. The last Halcyon contact gave a tentative date for the next party, remember. I hope he decides soon; I hate long waits.’ A ghostly grin touched the corners of Natasha’s mouth as she pictured her friend’s face grumbling out that last part. Runa truly hated inactivity; the girl always had to be doing something. Natasha assumed it had something to do with a genetic condition which gave her more free energy than most people, but she also knew that Runa followed the mantra that inactivity led to complacency, complacency led to mistakes, and mistakes led to death. Normally, Natasha might have seen fit to argue the point, but she had seen enough death in the past 5 months to know that the diminutive blond had a point. In many ways, Runa was the rough realist, while Natasha was the… what was that word she had heard them use in school to describe those people who lived a carefree life and smoked a lot of… hippies, that was it. She giggled to herself. Such a silly word… hippies!

Darknel
July 11th, 2004, 11:15 AM
It's difficult to comment on an excerpt from a novel, because of course you never know what came before, or what is to follow. These remarks may not be entirely germain then since they can only be a literary critique of the passage as presented.

With the foregoing disclaimer in mind, you are obviously a compotent writer Abrock and this fragment does seem indicative of a promising work; although post-apocolyptic futures are very well trodden territory.

My main concern with the piece is narrative balance. It is very expositive and perhaps overly so for such an early chapter - I tend to prefer to lead with preponderant description (throwing the reader in at the deep end) and letting the back-story and technical details fill themselves in over the course of the tale. In this extract we are given contemporary politics, history and technology in a short space. Your insertion points are valid for the history and politics, my objection is to the frequency. On the technological front I found the explanation of the netlink somwhat jarring - the people in your world are scarcely likely to be sitting around thinking about the details of technology which is perfectly familiar to them, thus this literary device appears too much as a contrivance.

I hope this hasn't seemed too negative. As I said at the outset this is well written and - so far as I can tell - well plotted. Good luck with it in the future.

abrock
July 11th, 2004, 11:41 AM
Thank you for the outstanding critique, Draknel. You have offered some very good points which I had not considered as carefully as I should have. To answer them in turn:

The ‘post apocalypse’ plot: The world created for this novel is not the typical ‘post apocalyptic’ style, at least, I do not believe so after reading similar books. The elements of the dead world (the outside) are as foreign to the people in my world as the surface of mars is to the people of the present day. There is little life outside, few have ever bothered to care about anything outside their cities, and it does not factor heavily into the story. In creating the world as I did, I am drawing a parallel between this and early 21st century America, though this might not be clear with the small section I posted.

Preponderant description: I planned it the way you mentioned from the beginning. The first chapter could work as a short story in itself, as it has a hook (an abrupt ambush, an escape gone wrong, and suspicious characters with unknown but hinted motivations) and a resolution that leaves enough doors open to make you wonder. The first few pages of the chapter which I posted is completely memories of the main character, told as a narrative. You mentioned expositive balance, and I’m inclined to listen carefully in regards to this, as the entire book, by necessity, has a lot of exposition. I decided early on to not lay the outline of the world with any artificial methods like a “prologue” or, god forbid, a “cast of characters” – Thus, I slowly outline key elements of the world and background as I go. The inherent problem facing me is the sheer volume of history, technology, and social awareness I have to bleed into the novel early on so the reader has a general grasp of the world as it stands. Being lost for a couple of pages at the beginning is ok, but being lost for chapters (or even the entire novel) is not. I do not plan on being the next William Gibson.

As for the netlink and how it sounds ‘contrived’ I need to get a couple more opinions on that. It sounds good to me, but then, I know that the device is not a standard tool for my world. Perhaps I should work out a better way to let the reader know this.

More critiques are more than welcome!

ironchef texmex
July 11th, 2004, 11:54 AM
Darknel hit the nail on the head. Like he said, this assumes that what we were reading was actually page 2 of the book.

It's usually called an infodump and it's usually best to sneaky about it... like what you did with Runa. Saying "The diminutive blonde" in the midst of a sentence gave us a visual without a long block of text when they first met. Some of the infodumps should be the same way. You could describe the use of the netlink in the midst of a later chapter where the safety of their communications systems were in question. Something like that.

On a good note, the prose is strong and your knowledge of the sciences sounds solid.

By the way, The reason that it's tough to publish post-apocolyptics may have less to do with the overall number of them than simply the lukewarm reaction of editors and the overall market. My favorite subgenre by the way :D . But I know that some in the biz roll their eyes at the very notion that the earth is going to oneday look like a big, flaming trash ball. Darn optimists!

abrock
July 11th, 2004, 11:59 AM
Oh, no, it is not page 2, its about page 15 or 20! :p

I agree about the infodump concept, but I'd never heard that term before. Slipping in enough description to paint a portrait of the scene without letting the reader consciously notice it is one of the keystones of great writing in my book.

I don't think my book will qualify as a post-apocalypse novel anyway. It is about characters, decisions, morality, political context, conspiracy, and tragic irony. The fact the world has been ravaged is just a footnote.

ironchef texmex
July 11th, 2004, 01:24 PM
As for the netlink and how it sounds ‘contrived’ I need to get a couple more opinions on that. It sounds good to me, but then, I know that the device is not a standard tool for my world. Perhaps I should work out a better way to let the reader know.

I don't think that's what he meant. the *idea* of the netlink sounds fine. If you really wanted to get technical with it you could mention something to the effect of the device having contact points that protrude from the skin (since electrical contact between digit would be effected by the thickness of the epidermal layer otherwise) and that the contacts are on the sides of the fingers so as to stay out of the way, ie: you could take the science even further. But as it stands now it sounds well thought out and entirely plausible.

The "jarring" was the main character stopping to ponder the wonderment that is the netlink just out of the blue. Like I said earlier, if you just move the block of text to a more fitting surrounding (sometime when she has reason to worry about a communication being intercepted) it should be fine.

As I already mentioned, I think the level of science is a strength, it's just the placement of the details you might rethink.

abrock
July 11th, 2004, 01:35 PM
Yes, thats what I meant. I understood what he was saying, I guess I didn't respond clearly, though.

I'll see about working in the netlink a different way. I don't want to get too complex into the science of things, as this book is far more fiction than science. Plausibility is preferable over fact.