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Printed from http://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/mattappleby
Review Requests: ON
42 Public Reviews Given
Review Style
I tend to focus on plot and character rather than more technical things. That being said, if I think the story needs re-formatting, or if your spelling/grammar are lacking, I'll tell you. I try to be as thorough as I can: a review under 500 words isn't worth writing, let alone reading. I rarely have time for a full essay, but I'll still try to cover as much as I can think of.
I'm good at...
Looking at ideas A, B and C and thinking of ways to turn them into ideas D, E and F. Even if a story's good, there's always new directions you can take it in.
Favorite Genres
Fantasy, sci-fi, crime, action-adventure.
Least Favorite Genres
Romance, erotica, horror. Also comedy, unless it's very good.
Favorite Item Types
Short stories and other kinds of one-off pieces.
Least Favorite Item Types
Poetry, depending on subject matter. Also novels, only because I don't really have the time.
I will not review...
There's nothing that I would refuse point-blank. I've already covered things I tend to avoid, but if there's a horror poem or romance novel that looks interesting enough, I might go for it anyway. It depends on what jumps out at me in the summary, but I guess that's true for everyone.
Public Reviews
1
1
Review of The Appointment  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: ASR | (4.5)
(This review is part of the "Harry Potter Bingo contest.)

...Huh.

That was an enjoyably unpredictable little tale. We start out with a therapist meeting a stock fantasy character, yammering on about wizards and ringbearers and 'threats to all creaturedom'...it's a pretty obvious set-up for a Tokein parody, right? Except, no. In the last moments we learn that it was all quite serious, and not in the usual 'was it magic or mundane?' sense that such stories use, but in the sense of being pitched without warning into pitch-black horror and despair. It's so startlingly, beautifully unexpected.

As to writing style, you continually verge on the purple, but you're riffing on Tolkien, so I'd be dissapointed if you didn't. My only criticism is that, when the visitor is first introduced, you describe his actions for a few lines before the therapist meets him, which contradicts the first-person narration. But that's a pretty minor thing, really.

It might be interesting to expand on this story at some point, to look at why Frodo and Aragorn were even on our Earth in the first place. Of course, it may not even be our Earth at all - unless our hapless therapist truly knows nothing of Lord of the Rings, which is unlikely - which is another cool possibility to consider. But even if you just want to leave this as it is, what you've got is still a more-than worthwhile read.


-Matt Appleby-


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
2
2
Review of Monster  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
(This review is part of the "Invalid Item contest.)

You treat someone like a monster, eventually they'll become a monster...it's a bitter truth, and one not enough people acknowledge. But here, you explore it to its full, horrifying conclusion.

There's some weighty themes here - the downward spiral of revenge, how our lives are marred by childhood trauma - and despite this story's brevity, you explore with great depth and vividness. There's a remarkable efficiency of words at play here.

One thing I found especially interesting is that the protagonist is female. Emotionally scarring women is a time-honoured way for stories to create drama, but there's few writers that are willing to physically scar them as well. Feminine beauty is seen as...sacred, I guess. Violating that unspoken rule - and leaving the reveal of her gender for so long - is a jarring and incredibly effective piece of story-telling.

My only criticism - yes, sadly, there must be some - is mostly technical. Your writing style could do with a little polish: there's a lot of run-on sentences and other such things. In a way, it fits the character and how she might tell the story in person, but I still believe you could benefit from being more generous with commas.

But that's only my opinion. Everyone writes differently. What you've got here is still a wonderfully unnerving little tale.


-Matt Appleby-


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
3
3
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
(This review is part of the "Invalid Item contest.)

To me, this feels like a condensed version of a really cool book. Or even a whole series, if you wanted. Personally, I think that can only be a good thing. It's always exciting to imagine further potential.

"Kid with psychic powers gets hunted by government" is far from the most original of plots, but there's enough here that's unique to still make it an interesting read. In particular, your angle on the bad guys: in these kinds of stories, the government jackboots are motivated by science, by turning our heroes and their powers into weapons; 'witch hunters', though, are usually less materialistic, being more concerned with 'purity' and other fundamentalist jargon. Your fusion of the two motives is interesting, with the G-men having arriving at their cruelty through multiple paths.

Making Melinda a seer, rather than anything more flashy, is also a good choice. Her powers open up a few themes - struggling against the inevitable, the tangled webs of choice and consequence - that bring with them the kind of gravitas a story like this can always benefit from. Plus, much like in time travel narratives, precognition can make the plot amusingly thorny.

I also especially liked how you tied the story back to Harry Potter: not through the characters or their universe, but through the books themselves. The best fiction has the power to take us always from the unpleasantness in our lives, and that power is especially important for someone like Melinda, whose life is little more than unending hardship. It's a simple theme, but powerful in its way.

Unfortunately, because nothing in this life is perfect, I do have one criticism: your connection to the 'vanishing glass' prompt feels kinda forced. I think that, in large part, this is because it is sorely lacking in context: what other powers does Melinda have, and which ones would cause that effect? For that matter, was she expecting to get these new powers, and do they make her more than just a seer? I know that you can over-explain these things, that it's important to make the audience work out a few connections themselves, but the ending could benefit from a little elaboration.

Anywway, that's the only criticism of note. Like I said, this a good story, and one that could easily be expanded into something even better still.


-Matt Appleby-


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review of The Runner  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
"Football isn't a matter of life and death..." as the man once said, "...it's much more important than that."

I've never been a football person, or even a sports person at all, but I still get the sentiment. There's something about that environment that inspires people: the competitors push themselves to near-destruction, the spectators cheer them on with a passion that exists nowhere else in their lives. All that's really at stake is getting a disc of metal around your neck, but in those precious moments when the race is run, such a petty token means more than all the jewels of the world.

That fevered atmosphere is one you conjure very ably. The agony and the ecstasy, both in the race itself and in the months of training, and in the nation of millions who attach their dreams to his...the verse is short and unadorned, for the most part, without the extremes of expression that is traditional at this point, but the fact that you get all this across without lapsing into hysteria is admirable.

If I must point out a flaw - and I would be remiss as a reviewer if I did not - it is that I do not understand why you have underlined certain words. They all begin with 'b', which I'm guessing is deliberate, but otherwise the intent is not obvious. Even if there is a meaning behind it, the effect is, in practise, mostly just distracting. It doesn't kill the poem, but it does need looking at, if only to make the purpose clearer.

Otherwise, this is good work. You should be happy with it.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of New York Sights  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Pedantic note: the Paleolithic, the era of 'cavemen', is accepted as ending around 10,000BC. Given the caveman in your story seems largely mute, he's most likely a Neanderthal, who went extinct around 40,000BC. Both are, obviously, a great deal older than the 3,000 years stated here.

I know that the error isn't yours, as the flash prompt was quite specific in its dating, but I still thought I should bring it up.

Anyway...what about the story itself? Well, I like it. We've all had moments in our lives where we've encountered something odd, and whilst it's usually not on the level of an escaped caveman carrying a pirate flag, you can say we've still all been there in a sense. I think you captured the oddness of such encounters really well, that they occur without warning, no one else can relate, and we'll never get an explanation for any of it.

Your writing style is a little plain, but in this case I don't think it's a bad thing. For one, this is a flash piece, in which brevity is all; for another, you're writing about two regular folks who approach the world in a straight-forward way, and the prose needs to reflect that outlook. The way you integrate the criteria for the daily prompts feels a little forced, but then again, I doubt there's a natural way to combine 'Ellis Island', 'caveman' and 'pirate flag'. Maybe you could have the flag be one of a number of objects in the caveman's collection: unless he's somehow been on ice since the Paleolithic, I'm guessing a great many things would've caught his eye in the millennia he's been alive. It's just a thought.

It's a simple story, but an effective and endearing one. Nice work.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review of Scoffdon's Dragon  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
On the one hand, I really like this story. On the other hand...eeeuuurrrrrrrgghh.

I mean, of all the ways I want to depart this earth, 'infestation of exploding brain larvae' has got to be near the bottom of the list. I guess that's true for everyone. Probably why you chose it.

But like I said, this is a really, really good story. It constantly warps and mutates under our gaze, skipping from one genre to the next almost faster than we can keep up. Going from academia satire to character study to body horror to military/apocalyptic fiction...the shifts in direction are always suprising, and yet you still make these unlikely bedmates fit together in a way that feels utterly organic.

It also makes for some fascinating character dynamics. Andrew turns from hapless researcher to tragic victim as the desert and its horrors take their toll; Mike is first presented as a stock jackass, before being revealed as just a reasonable man with problems expressing himself; Eric's suffering down the years of the post-dragon world forges a meek assistant into a grizzled military veteran. Each of these characters is presented only briefly, and yet are complex individuals, multi-faceted whilst still feeling cohesive.

If there's a flaw here, and sadly there always is, it's that your spelling needs some work. 'Coronal' Eric should be a 'Colonel' - unless your meant the Spanish 'Coronel', and I can't see why - and there's a few other similar mistakes. But this is really minor problem, especially in light of the creative mastery displayed elsewhere.

You should be really, really proud of this. I would be, in your place.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of A Flicker of Hope  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
The wise men say that it is better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven't done. I know this better than most. And so, I suspect, do you.

It's a unique feeling, the pain not of a love lost, but of a love never declared. You can torture yourself forever with thoughts of what might have been, but in the end, what might have been is what never will be, and you have to come to terms somehow with the way your life has gone. Of course, you can torture yourself just as much with the hope of one day getting a second chance, and hope is perhaps even more toxic than despair could ever be.

Maybe you've been there yourself, maybe you've just got a really good imagination, I don't know. Either way, you've put all these ideas across very eloquently. Even the simplest of phrases - "with me here, and you there"; "and we can start over" - still carry a heavy weight of the feelings that remain unexpressed.

But nothing is ever perfect, though, and I do have one complaint. The second and third stanzas cover much the same ground: phrased very differently, and with a different emphasis, but still the same topic at heart. I don't really know what you could do about this, because I wouldn't necessarily want to just remove either. It's something to think about, I guess.

Despite that, I still think this is a really good poem. It's simple, but there's great meaning to it.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
8
8
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
I admit, I don't know much about Native Americans cultures, whether Iroquois, Sioux, Navajo or whoever else. To that end, I feel it might perhaps be disrespectful for me to talk about how you represent Mohawk beliefs here, how well researched they may or may not be. I simply can't contribute anything insightful beyond what you've already got.

That being said, I still really liked this story. Okay, it's more a stream-of-consciousness than a true story, with a plot that's not depicted so much as glanced-at obliquely. But you're talking about matters of the spirit, or the Spirit as the case may be, and in this case everything is as it should be. This is a space for inner contemplation, not worldly heroics.

You're obviously an incredibly eloquent writer. The story is scattered with evocative turns of phrase, so many that it's almost an embarassment of riches. It's a thin line between 'eloquent' and 'pretentious', and I will admit that you come close to crossing over a few times, but you do manage to avoid it in the end. It's a difficult balance, reaching those heights of expression without becoming rarified and unapproachable, and it's very impressive that you get it right.

I won't say that you make it look effortless, because I know full well these things never are. But you have written something to be proud of.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: E | (3.5)
The wise men say that it is better to regret something you have done, than to regret something that you haven't done. Worse than either, I suspect, is to regret something that you were never allowed to do. It's a cruel sentiment, and one that I think you've captured pretty well here.

On a more personal level, I've never experienced either of the things this story talks about: the crushing grief of losing a close loved one, or the all-consuming intensity of teenaged romance. I'm grateful I've never dealt with the former, the latter...I don't know. Anyway, my point is, this isn't material that I can connect with in the way that others might, but that's my fault and not yours.

I still know enough of the world to understand what you're trying to say, if only in abstract, and I think you get it across very well. The warm All-American summer in which young love is found, and the cold world of gravestones that comes after, are both richly invoked, the story not wasting any of its few words.

The only real flaw I can see, and it's fairly minor, is that you do sometimes go over-the-top. There's the odd line like "Troy's eyes looked like sapphires", or "the heavy ball pounding against her heart": rich metaphors, but so rich that they become distracting. This is a story about strong emotions, and you do need to hit those heights, but even in that context there are still some things better off not directly stated.

Like I said, it's only a minor problem. Most of the time, you find that needed balance between volume and subtlety. It's good work, overall, handled with warmth and caring.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review of Dark Spaces  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
You said this would be 'Dark', but...wowwwwwww.

I don't know whether you've been through something like this personally, on either side, and it's too sensitive a field to be making assumptions. So I'm just going to review this based on what I see, if that's alright by you.

On my end, I haven't been part of an abusive family either, thank God. All I know about the subject is what I've read of other peoples' experiences. But even at that remove, I still feel this is an incredibly nuanced and sensitive examination of an overwhelmingly complex subject. Domestic abuse is one of those things that is - rightly - impossible to be neutral about. Everyone has strong opinions, everyone gets emotional, and amongst all the hue and cry, the more complex truths often get lost.

One of those truths is that many abusers are not monsters: some are, for whatever value that word has, but others are as mystified by their own actions as their victims are. The unnamed mother in this poem loves her son desperately, and yet continues to hurt him - though not with force, interestingly, but despite what the poets say, words can hurt even more than sticks and stones - and has no idea as to why. She hates and actions and truly wishes to change, truly believes she will change, but it is obvious to us - and, it is implied, to her son - that the downward trajectory will continue no matter how hard she tries. It's a classic case of Gambler's Fallacy, except this time something much more important than money is being thrown away.

This is a grey area that most people are unwilling to acknowledge, much less examine, and yet you have done so with great courage, integrity and compassion. You should be proud.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
11
11
Review of The Land Of Ons  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: E | (3.5)
That's some quality bad-punning right there. I mean, I'm not sure whether to give you a thumbs-up or a slap, but that's the whole point of a bad pun, right?

Especially given the effort you put in. You have to admire someone willing to take that long in setting up a one-liner. Shows some rare dedication to humour, I think.

That said, I've never much liked the idea of jokes about educated people. Mocking intelligence can lead a culture down a really dark road. But I'm willing to indulge it just this once, as you have actually managed to hit something true. I mean, I know quite a few people who are both really smart and really stupid. I'm one of them: hell, I'm probably one of the worst offenders. Every time I learn one thing, I somehow fool myself into believing I've learnt two, and the shortfall always comes back to me at the worst possible time. Eh, I'll never learn.

Okay, that's enough navel-gazing. I think I'm beginning to take this too seriously. Although...whilsy I'm taking this seriously, there's one little flaw I'd like to point out: the line about 'universal language' isn't needed. The whole point of these skits is that they have nothing to do with logic, and there's no place for those kinds of plot hole-exploring questions. Susan should just accept that she can talk to the On, like she just accepts that she's woken up in another world, and the story will carry on like it never even mattered. 'Cause it doesn't.

Aaand I think I'll stop now. I'm starting to lose track of what the hell I'm even taking about. So I'll just say...nice pun, hahaha, very funny, keep up the good work.

No, really. I mean it.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
12
12
Review of Holiday  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: E | (4.0)
When people talk about 'the true meaning of Christmas', it's normally just as a prelude to some gratuitous Bible-thumping. I'm not especially religious, but even if I was, I think it would still make me cringe. So congratulations are in order, then, for writing a variation on this theme that is actually intelligent and insightful.

'Holiday' is, in and of itself, a completely neutral word: it just describes a day of the year in which people celebrate something. But yes, in the context you mean, it's become hopelessly overused, almost meaningless in a way. Christmas is a very particular celebration, it draws from very particular cultures and it means very particular things, but in the rush to buy all the latest 'must-have' toys for our kids, it's very easy to forget all that.

All of which is pretty typical for these kinds of sentiments. But what you've done that's unique, and what I really like, is that you've pointed out how universal this problem is. Whilst Christmas is the most pronounced example, it's not the only one: every culture across the world has its own festivals, and all of them are being debased in their own ways. More to the point, the 'true meaning' of all these festivals, the thing that we're losing, isn't just about worshipping whichever god or gods inspired them. No, the point is about community, about something as simple as people coming together and just enjoying sharing the world with one another, even if only for one day. We're letting go of an idea that's really that basic.

So, again, a big thank you for pointing all that out. You stood up and said something that's honest and heartfelt, and that's always to be commended.


-Matt Appleby-
House Targaryen image for G.o.T.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
13
13
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Sorry for taking so long to reply. I'm the worst procrastinator in the world.

Also, you're the first person ever to request a review from me. So thank you for that.

Your wanted to know if this story is worth continuing. Short answer: yes, very much so. Long answer:

Two things immediately jump out at me. One, the story needs reformatting. There should be a line break after each paragraph...

...like this, see? I know most printed works use indents rather than line breaks, but when posting online, that approach just winds up with a big wall of text that's really hard to read. It's not that tricky a fix, though it might take a few minutes. Two, you need to bump up your rating, to at least '13+' if not '18+'. The climactic fight is enough to warrant it, I assure you. 'E' is the equivalent of, like, Disney movies, and how many of those include a guy being beaten into a coma?

But that's the only major issues I can note. Otherwise, it's all positive, you'll be pleased to know.

'Utopia with a dark secret' is a theme as old as time, but it's one that always produces good results. We all dream of heaven in some form, the pearly gates or seventy-two virgins or oneness with the cosmos or whatever, and allowing dark shadows to creep into that fantasy brings with it an inherent menace. The society of the Pyramid certainly lives up to that potential, and even adds some interesting twists to the formula. I really like how...self-aware, I guess that's the right world, it all is: the citizens know that every day of their lives is controlled from above, they know that they're being medicated into being happy, and at the same time they're completely okay with it. The disconnect between the two things is wonderfully creepy.

Also, the Oracle and her minions have been presented in a clever way. They seem to genuinely love the people they rule over, not just desiring "what's best" in the way that we might care for a slightly dumb pet, but taking a deep, personal interest in ensuring that every last individual is happy and contented. The fact that, like the more disinterested tyrants of dystopian fiction, they still show this love through mood pills and social conditioning...it just makes them that much more disturbing. When manifested in the wrong way, love can cause even more pain than hate.

(One question, though: why have the Genteels never dealt with Darrius? I've never considered throwing spitballs to be the sign of a happy mind. Maybe you've written him that way on purpose, I don't know, but some clarification on that point might be useful.)

Jackson and Andrew are an interesting pair of lead characters. One a misfit, failing to blend in both physically and emotionally, the other more "conventional" but still beginning to question the world he lives in. Again, these are familiar archetypes, but you've started building on them effectively, making the pair feel like rounded people even as we still know little about them. I don't know how you intend to develop them from here, though I have every faith you'll make it worthwhile.

In terms of the technical details - grammar, vocabulary, syntax - there's nothing major to comment on. Prose leans towards the purple at times, but your main character is a teenaged boy filled with emotions he literally can't control, so that's precisely what it should be doing. I will note, however, that there's a few points, especially towards the end, where you abruptly change viewpoints between Jackson and Andrew. It's kinda confusing, and I reccomend just sticking to one viewpoint per scene: how you make that work, I leave up to you. Also, and I'll admit this is really minor point, you might want to find ways of describing a person's figure other than with the word 'frame'. Once is okay, but that kind of repetition can get annoying. Granted, it's tricky to find enough synonyms without reading like you chewed up a thesaurus, but see what you can do. Like I said, a minor point.

(Truthfully, if you want some proper feedback on the technicals, you may want to find someone else to ask. So long as a story is comprehensible on at least a basic level, I've never really cared. Concepts have always been more important to me than presentation. You could've written the whole thing in street slang, and it wouldn't make any great difference to me. It worked wonders for Anthony Burgess, after all. Anyway...my point is, all I told you was what little jumped out at me. There's probably a bunch of good and bad things that I've missed.)

As to the plot, it's not clear what direction that's going to lead, but what you've got still looks promising. Though I am wondering one thing: where in the wider novel is this section going to be placed? The opening, I'm guessing, but to me it feels more like a condensed version of the entire first act. We need more scenes in the UnderSchool, and Jackson and Andrew's relationships with the other students, before we get to an event as cataclysmic as Darrius' death (unless it turns out he survived, which looks unlikely). The more time you can spend building up tension for an event like that, the better.

Relatedly, a lot of the world-building you've done already can wait until later in the novel. In these kinds of stories, exposition needs to be drip-fed: dealing out tiniest morsels of detail about the Pyramid, about its workings and backstory and place in the wider world, with each piece only coming when immediately relevant to the scene at hand. The more work your audience has to do in understanding the setting and its nature, the more immersive it will feel.

(I know I said it was going to be all postive, but please don't take the above as a criticism. What you've got so far works in its own right, there's simply ways to take it further.)

And that, I think, is all that I've got to say for now. Still a lot to take on board, perhaps. Hopefully I've been of use.


-Matt Appleby-


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
14
14
Review of The Shifting Sand  
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
An interesting tale. Eloquently written without being over-wrought, which is a tricky balancing act. The sand ocean and glass trees are vividly described, and the concept presents a powerful and unique image.

Jack is the ideal hero for this sort of tale: tough enough to stand a chance, but not so tough that he remains unaffected. His lapses into cowboy speak clash a little with the story's tone, but the idea behind them is still effective. The link between westerns and SF is an old one, of course, but it's still rare to take it this literally...after all, how else would a man like Jack approach it?

Jack's attempts to survive are hard-won and engaging, as a good 'marooning' story should be, and are all the more effective because they're so obviously doomed. A castway can only survive if there's an island, and the sand ocean provides none. The story could perhaps be improved by labouring this point, spending more time on his growing exhaustion, although I'm not sure how you might go about doing that. Also, Jack's idea of using the glass trees as shelter is never returned to: maybe that's the point, but having him try and fail would add even more weight to the story's sense of doom.

Most castaway stories end on a more upbeat note, but I can understand why you chose to have Jack die. Given the sheer hostility of setting, it couldn't really have gone any other way. Having the rescue craft turn up after all felt a little mean, though. Maybe you could have the craft arrive days or years later, its crew considering Jack's 'bottle' as a kind of memorial. Might take out the sting a bit, if that's a direction you'd want to go.

Well, that's all I got. Like I said, an interesting, well-written story. Good work.


Matt Appleby


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
15
15
Review by Matt Appleby
In affiliation with Fantasy and Science Fiction So...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
There's a lot of really good stuff here. A lot of it, I admit, feels a bit like other stories I've encountered before, but I actually don't think that's a bad thing. "There's nothing new under the sun", as the Old Testament says. It's particularly true in fantasy, and half the genre is about coming up with new spins on old concepts. I think you've managed to do a fair amount of that here.

I'm working on some of my own ideas for an industrialised fantasy setting, so that particularly chimed with me. Tolkien was very much a 'nature good, technology bad' kind of thinker, but there's a lot of worthwhile things to be said in the opposite direction. Science gave us the atom bomb, but it also gave us antisceptics and indoor plumbing, and I don't think enough fantasy writers acknowledge that. I don't know what directions you're taking it in, but if you want some ideas, I would highly reccomend watching the cartoon series 'The Legend Of Korra', as it deals a lot with elemental-style magic being used to create modern-tech equivalents (for example, people who can cast lightning working in a power plant).

I also really like the Monster/Hunter mechanic. It's essentially The Witcher but modernised, and I think there's a lot you can do with that. Monster hunters are usually stoic loners of one stripe or another, so how would they cope with things like gossip columns or social media? The level 1-100 thing is perhaps too close to an RPG to work in a novel, but you might be able to tone it down a little: internal government fitness reports on an A-D grade, or something like that. The monsters being (effectively) unkillable is also an interesting idea, and there's lots you can say about people fighting a war that appears 'unwinnable'. A civilisation hiding behind its high walls - what are these cities like, by the way? Sophisticated arcologies or cyperpunk slums? - surrounded by monsters they can't beat no matter how advanced they become...I can easily imagine a kind of long-standing collective madness emerging in that environment.

As an aside, I'm not sure on your logic of monsters being immune to bullets: even if there's no internal organs, a vulcan cannon can still render enough flesh to shred a creature utterly. If that doesn't work for you, might napalm do the trick?

Whilst I'm on that train of thought, there's one other critcism. The Arcai have a lot of potential - a persecuted minority that people have actually good reason to fear is a rare combination - but your explanation is kinda muddled. They have little-to-no magical ability, and yet the often go mad from 'powers beyond their control'. Those powers seem magical in origin, particularly in David's case, so I think you can see the contradiction. Or maybe I'm just missing something. It's your story, so I'll leave it for you to judge.

As another side, are the Arcai related to the Monsters? Hunters target both, so it makes sense for them to have some kind of connection.

In terms of the actual plot, it seems like you've got something good started. The 'last of his kind' trope is an old one, but it's effective. David's race will go extinct even if he succeeds, so what does he have to lose by going all-out in his vengeance. Speaking of which, it's an interesting way to look at the Hunters. They exist to kill the obviously inhuman and destructive Monsters, so a reader's first instinct would be to regard them as heroes, and messing with those kinds of expectations is always effective.

Well, that's everything I can think of for now. Actually, no...there's one piece of advice: your projected word count is 30-40,000, but a novel traditionally starts at 60,000 and often goes over 100,000. You might find that length pretty daunting at this stage, but I think you've got enough ideas here to fill it out. Especially if there's still more left in the bag, like you said. I mean, you don't have to go that far if you don't want to, it's not exactly an iron-clad rule, but it's something to think about.

Now that really is everything. As I said before, there's lots of potential here. I've every expectation that you can make it work.


-Matt Appleby-


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
16
16
Review of One Evening  
Review by Matt Appleby
Rated: E | (4.0)
Firstly, is the dog okay? I can't imagine being set on fire was good for his health.

Secondly, a fun little poem. UFOs are a goldmine for silly stories like this. If your clothes get stolen off your back in a beam of light, well, that's just what they do, isn't it? Better than an anal probe, I guess. And the image of them scanning a dustbin is inspired. I can just picture the pilot earnestly trying to decipher the meaning of an empty milk bottle.

Thirdly, I'm not an expert on poetry, so I can't say much on its construction, but I still liked the structure. Finding so many different rhymes that work can be very difficult, especially getting them to flow into each other this easily. And getting a word like 'audaciousness' to scan is really impressibe.

Fourthly...I can't give you any Gift Points, because I don't have any. But you should still be happy with your good work, silly or not.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
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