|Hi Escape Artist
I am reviewing this chapter—'The Great Oz'— as part of the "PDG Rockin' Reviewers' Group" . This is your second Hazelnut Praline Review.
Please remember these opinions are purely my own and any advice given is with the sole intention of being helpful.
Plot: Wow. Another fantastic chapter, JJ. You show your readers there is some kind of war about to happen. A war like the world has never seen before, and with an enemy it has never fought before. Sam is the old soldier tasked with heading up the Special Ops crew. It's interesting how General Kohl wants to use Sam (who is middle-aged, out-of-shape, and has a prosthetic leg) and his old crew who are equally old and out of the habit of fighting. There must be something special about them. I wonder what they have done in the past. It occurred to me that in the previous chapter Merci described her encounter with a Special Ops crew. In that meeting, she and her uncle weren't allowed to sail any nearer to a specific island. I wonder if that was the island where the alien-technology space crafts, sea vessels, and other vehicles were being crafted. With the emphasis being on the alien technology. Is that connected to Merci's visions? Or am I barking up the wrong tree completely? So many questions!
Characterization: Your introduction to General Kohl is wonderful. In particular, this part: "his presence preceded by a shiver of energy that radiated through your nervous system like a sudden tap on the shoulder." It tells us how charismatic and important this man is. Sam appears to be both irritated by and in awe of the general. He cannot say no to his mission. The general's slight hesitation and small worry lines give way just how big and dangerous the mission is. There's never any question whether Sam will accept, even though he doesn't understand why the general chose him. Here is another great description that shows the tension between these two men. It's speaking of the general's tumbler: "Sam refilled it, then set the bottle down like a Tombstone barkeep waiting for a two-dollar gold piece." I adore that! Just, love it!
I really like the diary entry Sam wrote after the incident in Bosnia in which his bomb didn't go off at the right time, resulting in innocent children being killed. It shows how affected Sam is by his past. It helps the reader to understand why he drinks so much and is so grumpy. It also explains how he lost his leg, which is a great nugget of information. This line, which comes from the diary entry, is chilling: "In the business of death, conscience is a killer." It's a wonderful insight into the minds of Sam and his team.
Grammatical Errors: Just a few. I've put them in a dropnote.
Grammar Suggestions ▼
Flow of the Chapter/ Story: As always, you move logically and seamlessly through the chapter. Beginning with Sam awaiting General Kohl (following on nicely from the last chapter about Sam), then we meet the Great Oz: General Kohl. He drops his bombshell, creating more intrigue and mystery, and we see Sam trying to figure out what it's all about whilst preparing to go into battle. I love the confusion. I love the teases you throw us, like this description of the enemy: "The devil is coming, Sam, and he's bringing his most loyal and dangerous minions. Seeing the face of our new evil, and knowing where he comes from is going to put a stain on your khakis." That is fabulous! There's no way your readers will not want to read on after this. (Actually, that is probably true right from the first chapter. This line, though, is just brilliant!)
Setting: It's no secret that I love your descriptions. Every time I read something of yours, I feel pulled into the world of your writing. Everything is so vivid. It's a delight to read. This description, from the beginning, is an example of what I mean: "Sam gazed out at the glittering oasis of lights six miles away, a place shrouded in secrecy and made famous by conspiracy theorists." That "glittering oasis" is perfect. Seriously.
Content of the Chapter: The content is perfect. It's the right length and you move the plot forward at a good pace. The only thing I have a query with is the chapter title. I understand why you named it "The Great Oz" because it is our introduction to General Kohl, and I think he will be important in the novel. He is also behind the events which are about to take place. So, yes. I guess it makes sense. But, to me, this chapter is more about the team. It's about work Sam has done with the new technologies, and it's about ghosts from the past and how they haunt us today. I know you have already used "Dead Soldiers" as a title, so maybe "Ghosts" wouldn't work. I'm not sure. I just didn't feel like Kohl was the focus of this chapter.
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this chapter, JJ. You never fail to deliver. As always, I'm blown away by your talent. Your descriptive writing is among the best I've read. It's beautiful. I love it.
Most importantly, keep writing!