|Hi Jeff, I want you first to know that this review may vary differently from the others you have received. It is that reason that you should not at all take this as either overly positive, or brutally negative, but a neutral critique from a non-objective reader. You have personally requested this review, and it is my responsibility as we state, to give you an in-depth, line by line review.
What I comment on should not be taken as bitter or resentful criticism, but points in which I feel the writing could use polishing.
Use what you find useful, and ignore anything else, for it is your story, and you choose how to write it.
Title: "Victory. Chapter 1"
Author: Jeff Eladin
Plot: The plot pacing was rather choppy and slow. This was due to the intrusion of large infodumps and unnecessary exposition. Though the backbone is there, and shows a lot of intriguing promise, I think this needs a lot of attention. See line by lines.
Style/ Voice: First Person objective. There is a lot of weak verb phrases and subject/object conflict in the writing, though from what I understand, Sci Fi is often written reflective to a scientists detached perspective and therefore passive, this really contributes to a lot of vague actions, intrusions, and statements.
The writing is full of perfect tenses and gerunds that really deaden the scene and dilute the content.
Overall, I think this requires a lot of attention from the author, as the vagueness is creating a weak read.
Referencing: I only had 1 major issue with a character dialogue at the end of the chapter, particularly with the captain and one of his officers, I've marked it in the line by lines, I think it should be addressed. To me, it completely removed me from the story.
Scene/Setting: The setting from the character’s PoV was quite dull, and I think it could have been better established with more depth. The spaceport is only described in a few sentences in the first paragraph, and does not go in great detail of anything that would be usual to a large port of entry and egress. A bit of depth of senses (sight/sound/smell/touch/taste) would really help here. Also, including ambience in it, or backgrounds such as people, places and things would really make it come to life. The scene is good when it is not split by info dumps. Overall, the history is very impressive, though that is the main contributor to a lot of the info dumping that takes place between both dialogue and action.
Characters: This area is pretty well done. I think they could be a little more rich with detail, but as far as believability, they do accomplish this. The PoV of our main character is pretty lively, and his thought process is well done and portrayed. Overall, we get a strong command of who this person is, his thoughts, and emotions. The dialogue between characters was good overall, there were a few cases that I think needed some polishing but nothing major.
Grammar: There’s a lot of issues with the grammar of this writing. Mainly there’s sentences beginning with conjunctive words, that should not be separated by periods, the misuse of punctuation, and lots of lengthy, wordy sentences. Though, the author does show us some of his command of the English language by combining fairly advanced sentence structures, they are often punctuated incorrectly.
Just my Personal Opinion:
I feel that this story has a very rich history, and you’ve given it a very lot of thought before putting it to paper, the problem is the flow of the plot, action and dialogue that is disrupted by long description and wordiness. You are reaching to impress by writing very long sentences. My advice on this:
Good writers do not show off their writing skills, they show off their plot and characters.
As a reader I don’t say: “oh that was a lovely sentence” I say, “Wow that was an awesome character!”
Anybody can write good sentences, but not everybody can write a good story. Your story shows a lot to be admired, don’t focus so much on fancy sentence structure; put that attention to the story.
Though, I do admire complex writing, it is not always the best method of approach.
There’s a lot of fluff in your writing mixed with repetitive thoughts and words. In the line by lines, you’ll see I marked a lot of it for you.
Overall, I enjoyed the world your writing, you clearly have a very rich story in your head waiting to get out. I wish to read more of this, and with the correct polishing and revisions, this chapter could very well be the start of something quite astonishing.
Line By Line:
The waiting lounge at Gate 11 of Constra Space Station was identical to the one at Gate 4, which Charlie and I had recently arrived at.
In fact, it was also identical to the lounge at the shuttle bay back on Earth – which we had left about forty-five minutes ago – which, in turn, was identical to every earthly airport lounge I had seen in my twenty-four years of life. Sterile white floor. Ugly gray walls. A single coffee pot, a water cooler, and polystyrene cups at the corner of the room farthest away from the seating area.
This may come off as harsh, but you are starting this writing in a very dangerous way. What I mean by this is, thus far, I’ve counted three repeated words: ‘identical’ And you’ve established the point that all ports of entry and egress are similar, but you did so in an unnecessary fluff of sentences, ringing in at just under 100 words. I understand the point you are trying to give to us, but you can do so with much less words:
The waiting lounges of Gate 11 and 4 of Constra Space Station were identical. Ugly gray walls enclosed a sterile white floor. A coffee pot, and water cooler with polystyrene cups sat at the corner of the room opposite the seating area. It was the same wardrobe worn by all space and airports alike. The one Charlie and I arrived at, was no different.
This gives the same idea in only 64 words, and eliminates unnecessary “fluff” words and repetitive adjectives.
“Fluff” is the use of words that either weakly enhance things, or are altogether not necessary to the point of the sentence. Often times, “had” “has” and any “to be” type of verbs can be eliminated and the sentences rewrote to shorter, more concise writing. A good example of “fluff” in your writing though this is only one, is this:
A single coffee pot, a water cooler, and polystyrene cups at the corner of the room farthest away from the seating area.
I’ve underlined words that give no benefit to the subjects you mention i.e. the coffee pot, water cooler, cups, and seating area. As I wrote above, this can be eliminated and still the sentence would strike the same point. Another problem I can quickly identify is the many fragments littered in the paragraph. I counted three instances where there were there are a list of subjects with no main verb.
Sterile white floor. Ugly gray walls.
Though they can be understood due to the main clause of what the lounges look like, they have no main verb to connect them to that. This in turn leaves you with fragmented writing.
Then again, I am I’m averse to airports,no comma with good reason. replace the period with a comma And apparently the aversion extends to spaceports too...
“Alex?” My companion, and best friend of five years, interrupted my thoughts.
“Yeah?” I turned to face Charlie.
There were a few grammatical errors above that I marked in the writing. The dialogue is done well, and the exposition worked here.
Charlie shrugged. “I wonder if anyone else we know got assigned to the Victory.”
Rather than italicizing “the victory.” I would place it in single quotes: ‘the victory’
Neither Charlie nor I had been in touch with many of our classmates since our graduation from the United Terran and Settlements Defense Force’s Military Institute six weeks earlier.
To me this is wordy, and jumbled. Consider a revision as follows:
Six weeks earlier, we graduated from the United Terran and Settlements Defense Force’s Military Institue. Charlie and I hadn’t talked to our classmates since then.
This revision isolates the subjects so that the point does not get lost in the writing, and eliminates unnecessary words.
We had been informed of our postings about halfway into our mandatory rest and recreation period to ease our transition from students to active officers. I had applied to serve on the UDFS Victory, the flagship of the United Terran and Settlements Defense Force and, being class valedictorian, my request had been was granted. To my pleasure, my best friend Charlie had been was assigned to the Victory too. Despite his only slightly above average grades in most aspects of academics and combat training, Charlie excelled at informatics and communications security. Or,not needed putting euphemisms aside, Charliehe was a master hacker. It seemed the Victory’s senior officers found that reason enough to bring him on board.
Overall the paragraph is good, it’s a little infodumpy but I can deal with that, backstory doesn’t hurt every once in a while. There were a few wordy cases above that I marked.
I noticed a small figure approaching us. As it got closer, I recognized it as none other than our fellow graduate and former classmate, the petite Lisa Castillo.
Wordy, and could be revised as follows:
A small figure approached us, and as she got closer, I recognized her as our fellow graduate and former classmate, Lisa Castillo.
Since you’ve already stated that she was small, “The petite” is not needed. “None other” is also a bit of trite wordiness that doesn’t aid this sentence in any way.
Her regulation sixty-pounds-and-no-more suitcase floated obediently five inches above the ground, and a safe five inches behind her. Score one for anti-gravity technology. Lisa smiled broadly as she drew nearer us. Teeth like pearls. Liquid sunshine. Liquid sunshine? What does this refer to? Also, it is a fragment.
Lisa. The one that got away. replace the period with a comma Or, more accurately, the one I’d I never tried to catch. I’d I had a quiescent crush on Lisa since I’d first met her at the beginning of my fourth year at the Institute, in an upper-intermediate level math class. Over the next three years we’d taken a few more classes together, and met frequently at socials organized by mutual acquaintances. But for some yet unfathomable reason, I had never asked her out.
I underlined the sentence above for a revision suggestion as follows:
We met in an advanced mathematics class in the beginning of my fourth year at the institute. I had a quiescent crush on her ever since.
I am neither shy nor insecure. I dated girls aplenty throughout my Institute years. Just never Lisa.
Try: I dated lots of girls throughout my institute years, but never Lisa.
Now here she was, standing in front of Charlie and me, smiling up at us. At just five foot four, Lisa was a whole lot of personality in one small package. Glowing caramel skin. Shoulder-length dark brown hair. Wide brown eyes, with natural long, dark lashes. Lisa Castillo was... well, it may sound corny... but Lisa Castillo was my dream girl.
In this section I wanted to bring up a few things. First the underlined is written with 6 words, and could be re-written as 5 as follows:
I’m not shy or insecure.
Second, and more importantly, you’ve listed a bunch of features to this girl, one after another, all of which are sentence fragments but that is the smaller of the point. The main thing here is, give us a detailed image of this person! Show us who she is, don’t tell us. Bring her to life with strong action words. An example:
Her caramel skin glowed, and hair as deep as chocolate cascaded to her shoulders.
“Alex! Charlie! All aboard the Victory?”
“You betcha. Engineering right?” I asked, despite knowing full well Lisa’s area of specialization, and wondering how she had been accepted to serve on the UDF’s flagship with her mediocre academic record. Though mediocre is a relative term. The Institute only accepts applicants whose IQ scores fall in the top five percent of the population. Lisa was smarter than at least ninety-seven percent of the populations of Earth and the settlements. And from the few conversations we had had over the past three years, I knew she had no lack of passion for engineering and theoretical and applied physics.
I enjoyed this paragraph, you’ve commanded a good style here, and the one thing I do want to mention, is thus far, your dialogue has been superb.
“Yup”, Lisa smiled, “Engineering. You? The Bridge?”
“Hopefully,” I admitted. “That’s where the fun’s at.”new paragraph here I had graduated in the Institute’s Command-Tactical-Security stream, which meant I would either be assigned to the Bridge or to one of the ship’s security teams. I had not yet been told which.
“Right... so, how long do you guys think it will be before we see some action?”
She was, of course, referring to the Tsyrikav. We had spent our six years at the Institute studying not just human and alien biology, advanced mathematics, theoretical and applied physics, chemistry, information technology and psychology; but also the histories and cultures of the handful of sentient life forms humanity had encountered in the forty-two years since the invention of the Compression-Expansion Engine had made faster than light speed space travel possible. wow that’s a very long sentence!
I think that massive list should be condensed to something simple:
We spent our six years at the institute not only studying various fields related to our duties as officers, but also the histories and cultures of sentient life forms. Humanity encountered many in the forty-two years since the invention of the Compression-Expansion Engine made faster than light speed space travel possible.
That, I think, will reduce a lot of the draggy feel that long sentences often cause.
I want to say, I love Science Fiction, and Jean Luc Picard is among my many favorite fictional heroes, but one thing has always bugged me about FTL travel. If an object like a spacecraft was moving at over 186,000 miles per second, imagine the damage it would receive from even the smallest particle like space dust. Just saying :P I won’t discredit SciFi though, since by this time, we’d have probably thought of that.
Additionally, about one third of our education had centered on starship weapons technology, battle simulations, handheld weapons training, and even unarmed combat. As much as UDF officers may identify ourselves as engineers orcomma informatics specialistscomma or even medics, all our training in the sciences and psychologycomma and astroanthropology, necessary as it is, not needed serves one primary purpose – to make us as effective as possible in the war against the Tsyrikav. Ultimately, we were all soldiers.
I made some stylistic suggestions to eliminate the or or or, and and and, repetition in the sentence. This is starting to get real infodumpy and dragging.
“Lisa, am I to understand that you are actually looking forward to going into battle against a Tsyrikov warship, and the very real possibility of getting killed in such an encounter?” Charlie asked.
Unless Charlie has been ordered to understand her looking forward to it, get rid of “I am to understand” and replace it simply with: “I understand”
“Of course not,” Lisa playfully rolled her eyes at Charlie, “but let’s be realistic... with things being the way they are, we’re gonna find ourselves on the front lines sooner rather than later eventually.”
I nodded. Lisa was right. We all knew the history.
Some fifty years ago, the citizens and governments of the various states and nations of planet Earth had finally decided that they had had enough of the endless warfare and turmoil that had been the hallmark of human history up until that point. In November 2041, leaders of 217 nations, as well as representatives from previously disputed territories, had congregated in Terra Capita in Eurasia – then Brussels, Belgium – and unanimously voted for the creation of the Global Union.consider a semi-colon instead of a period A world government that would comprise members of all the former nations, states and territories, and admit representatives of all colors and creeds.
pretty interesting history.
The Global Union had turned out to bewas a phenomenal success for humankind. The world economy had boomed and technology had advanced at an exponential rate. The tech boom had culminated with the invention of the Compression-Expansion Engine in 2046, and mankind’s first successful manned exploration outside of our solar system five years later.
Good paragraph but I got lost in the last sentence, the action that acted upon the second subject vanished to me, and I had to re-read it a few times to get the point.
However, the citizens of Earth, while prosperous, were too large in number. By 2053, world population had hit the ten billion mark. Thanks to technology, food production was not a problem. ,but Lack of space was. In 2054, the Global Union Spacefaring Program was initiated by the GU government to set up human settlements on other planets. Humankind had set off, en masse, for the stars.
The above underlined sentence is marked for a stylistic suggestion that I think would give the overall paragraph more strength:
GU government to set up human settlements on other planets initiated the Global Union Spacefaring Program.
This sentence here stresses the subject “GU government” as the ones that acted upon the subject “Global Union Spacefaring Program” by a stronger verbiage than the “to be” verb: “was”
Rather than the subject “Global Union Spacefaring Program” being acted upon by the more important subject “GU government.” Since the context of this section was to emphasize how successful the GU Government was, I believe that that subject within the sentence should be stressed over the program they initiated.
But However, the settlement process had not been well managed. Settlements sprung up on first dozens, then hundreds of planets and moons – it was surprising how many rocks in space were suitable for human habitation. In the process, we had discovered five other intelligent species, all of them roughly humanoid, three of them spacefaring, and just one with technology comparably advanced as ours. Unfortunately, they were the mean ones – the Tsyrikav.
Overall, I liked the paragraph, I marked the above underlined for a more definitive adjective than “mean.” I would try something like this:
Unfortunately, they were hostile. They called themselves the Tsyrikav.
I think it would add a little more richness to this section, and a nice transcendental feel to it.
The Tsyrikov Empire was all about planet acquisition – for their own rapidly increasing population. It did not help that the Tsyrikov homeworld was surprisingly earth-like. We were in competition for the same pieces of extraterrestrial real estate. The Tsyrikav had begun began attacking the human settlements with impunity, sometimes wiping out entire populations. Despite the size of the GU armada, the settlements were just too many and too far apart to be afforded ensure or provide continuous protection. The spacefaring training Institute in Houston, Texas became increasingly militarily-oriented. The United Terran and Settlements Defense Force was formed in 2074, and given executive control over the Institute. In 2076, the GU officially declared a state of war with the Tsyrikov Empire. comma instead of a period And seventeen years later here we were, with both sides equally matched and no end to the war in sight.
The above underlined is marked for a wordiness revision, that I think would work better in the context.
The Tsyrikov were an imperialistic species with their own rising population.
This covers two distinct points in less words: They are an empire, and they conquer. Hence “imperialistic”
“Lisa’s right you know. And after all, this is what we trained for.”
I have to say that with all that backstory, I lost track of what they were talking about. This is what we call, the dreaded info-dump. This can really kill the pacing of a story, which I did mention earlier as it felt dragging, this one though, really sliced through it. Though I love the history you’ve given us, I think it really interrupted the flow of dialogue and should be spread out a bit.
“Yeah,” Charlie replied, “It’s just... I guess it’s only just now become real for me.”
Lisa nodded sympathetically.
“UDF Battleship Victory now docking at Gate 11,” came the voice over the intercom. Telling, not showing. We all turned to face the window. Lisa let out an audible gasp. I didn’t know gasps were silent. Eliminate “Audible” Charlie and I exercised marginally more control over our awe. The Victory was huge. The Constra space station would fit inside it multiple times over. Sausage shaped. Five thousand feet long. Eight hundred feet wide. Five hundred feet high. Thirty-six decks. A crew of seven hundred and fifty, give or take a few.
Big list of sentence fragments. Try something like this:
It was sausage shaped and nearly a mile long. An eight hundred foot wide hull housed thirty six decks climbing five hundred feet, and a crew of seven hundred and fifty, give or take a few.
Though it’s written with more words, it is much less choppy.
Various sorts of weapons and launch-pads littered the ship’s periphery. The Victory was truly a marvel to behold.
What I do want to mention though, is the imagery is pretty well done.
“UDF Battleship Victory successfully docked at Gate 11,” the intercom voice informed us. We’d been told in advance to wait in the lounge, where we would be met by a member of the crew a member of the crew would meet us. As promised, about a minute later, an aqua-blue figure emerged from the airlock door at the far corner of the lounge opposite the coffee table and water cooler. Lisa, Charlie and I stood.
The Victory officer was a pale man of average height and build. He had a round, cherubic face, a sprinkling of freckles, close cropped blonde hair, and appeared to be in his early to mid thirties mid-thirties. The three white stripes on the left collar of his aqua-blue officer’s uniform indicated that he held the rank of Commander. We were being met by a senior officer. A senior officer was meeting us.
As I underlined above, I’ve made suggestions as to the voice of the sentence. By eliminating weak, vague verb phrases like “were being” and restructuring the sentence, you have a more powerful point.
What I mean is:
We were being met by a senior officer.
Whereas the more important subject is underlined but placed in the end of the sentence thereby giving the act of meeting through the use of the verb phrase “were being” to the indefinite pronoun “we”
In simple terms, WE is being acted upon by the officer, rather than the OFFICER acting upon we.
i.e. The subject OFFICER becomes the object to the passive verb. In active voice, the subject OFFICER acts on the object WE. It not only clarifies the statement of meeting the senior officer, it also strengthens the point that the senior officer is meeting them, and not the other way around.
Charlie held out his hand as the officer reached us. “Ensign Charlie Hutton, sir”.
“Lieutenant Commander Mika Krotki,” the officer replied, smiling. His accent was mildly Eastern Eurasian.
“Ensign Lisa Castillo, sir.” Lisa offered him her hand. new paragraph “Ensign Alex Kaminer, sir,” I followed suit.
Mika Krotki unclipped his MPA from his belt. The MPA – or multi-purpose assistant – was a device that had evolved from the cellular telephones of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The MPA featured wireless text, speech and visual communications; audio, image and video capture, storage and retrieval; access to the public interwebs and much more. The UDF models’ additional features included, amoung others, electro-magnetic energy scanners and immediate access to all onboard and off-board UDF data for which its owner had the required access clearance. Each of us had been given one in our first week at the Institute. They are replaced annually to keep up with the rapid speed of technological innovation we enjoy.
This reads as an intrusion by the author, I don’t think your character would be thinking about this right now, and overall, it’s another info-dump. What interest was sparked by meeting the officer was drowned by a long description of an inanimate object and should be better included elsewhere. That as well as the many acronyms make me lose track, and I’m a nuclear power plant worker, acronyms are everything to us. PAP, AAP, RHR, FWH, PRCV, RCVH, RCA, RA, RRA, HRA, LHRA, VHRA, IDLH, DHPA
Now I could drone on about what they stand for, and everything else,
The R.adiologically C.ontrolled A.rea is the boundary that stands between the clean area. It contains R.adiation A.reas of 5 millirem to 99 millirem, and occasionally we find fields in H.igh R.adiation A.reas of 100 millirem but less than 500 millirem. Near the R.eactor C.oolant V.essel H.ead, there is a L.ocked H.igh R.adiation A.rea of 500 millirem up to 1000 millirem and contains a D.iscrete H.ot P.articles A.rea that must be monitored for D.erived A.ir C.oncentration that if one stays too long, is I.mmediately D.angerous to L.ife and H.ealth.
But was any of that interesting? I assume not. I’d place this paragraph elsewhere or eliminate it.
Mika Krotki briefly examined his MPA, and then looked up, scanning the faces of the people in the lounge who were waiting to embark – or receive friends and family from – whatever vessels were scheduled to dock at Gate 11 after the Victory left. “It appears we are a man short,” he said. “Ensign Robert Moss.”
Charlie and I exchanged glances. Bobby Moss had finished second in our class. He’d seen me as “his competitor” ever since I’d topped the class at the end of the first quarter of our first year at the Institute in September ’87. Bobby Moss quite openly despised me. comma instead of a periodAnd Charlie too, probably by association.
This is more info-dump, but this works as it is good exposition to this character.
“Ah, and here’s your friend now,” Mika Krotki said, unaware of our history. Indeed, Bobby Moss was walking briskly towards us. The first thing I noticed was that he was wearing the signature gray and black Institute uniform. Charlie and I had reasoned that, since we would be getting new uniforms upon boarding the ship, there was no reason to wear – or carry – our old Institute uniforms. In fact, Charlie claimed to have burnt his. try a dash or semicolon here All four of them. We had opted instead for smart casual, and were both wearing loose slacks and long-sleeved viscose shirts. Lisa had clearly reasoned similarly, as she was clad in a white, ankle – length summer dress with a floral print, and matching white sandals. She was beautiful.
This was pretty good imagery that didn’t disrupt flow, since it was a compare and contrast, that the character realized when viewing Bobby.
Bobby went straight up to Krotki and, ignoring the three of us, raised his right hand to his temple and saluted. “Ensign Robert Moss reporting for duty, sir.” Mika Krotki smiled and returned Bobby’s salute. “Commander Mika Krotki. Pleased to meet you. Now, if you would all come with me - you guys have a busy time ahead of you.”
I’m relatively certain that one does not show up late in the military, else they are punished.
Krotki turned in the direction of the airlock door. Filled with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension, the four of us followed.
I think this could be shown better than a couple adjectives.
The act of swallowing works, and could perhaps be enhanced by other acts of anticipation and apprehension.
* * *
I was staring into the eyes of the enemy. The Tsyrikov’s eyes were green. semicolonGreen like Granny Smith apples, glowing, and devoid of pupils.
Good description on the eyes, especially “glowing, and devoid of pupils.”
I knew that, in fact, a Tsyrikov’s entire eye functioned as a pupil.
If this thing is his enemy, would he be thinking this right now? I doubt it, it reads as an intrusion more than a thought.
The creature was impossibly thin. Its skin was snow white and glowed slightly. Telling. Its head was covered by a thick layer of reddish-brown fur, which also framed its face, like a lion’s mane. A slight hump at the centre of its face, dominated by two large, flared nostrils, passed for a nose. Its mouth was a lipless horizontal slit positioned more or less where a human mouth would be. I could not see its ears. They were covered by all that reddish-brown fur.
Overall the description is good, though the skin that glowed slightly was telling rather than showing its glow. Adverbs often do this, in this case “slightly”
Its skin was white as snow and glowed like soft moonlight.
Shows us how it glows, and doesn’t tell us that its slight but gives us the image of it instead.
It was a tad difficult to believe that this Tsyrikov was actually a friendly one.
I withdraw my comments mentioned above on his thoughts of the eyes. This changes it. Good twist.
After we had boarded the Victory, Krotki had directed us to a voice-activated elevator and taken us to two unused living quarters. He’d told us that our uniforms were inside, and ushered Lisa into the first room and Charlie, Bobby and myself into the second. A few minutes later comma we were dressed in crisp new aqua-blue uniforms with a single white stripe on each of our left collars.
Overall this is a good paragraph. I think the final sentence is a little weak, but I can deal with it.
Krotki said that we’d be shown to our permanent quarters later, after meeting the senior officers, and had then taken us up to deck 6 – the Bridge Deck. He led us down a dark green carpeted hallway and stopped at a door marked ‘Senior Officers’ Conference Room’. As we had entered the large room, the Captain, Commodore Lawrence Barnes, had emerged from a corridor at the opposite end, and sat down at the head of long conference table. The senior staff had then filed in, and sat down to the captain’s right, facing us.
Good scene here.
Krotki had then walked around the table and sat down to the right of a slimly young East Indian man. The Captain had then directed us to the seats to his left. Bobby, who had been lingering some distance behind the rest of us, had immediately brushed past Charlie and Lisa and almost collided with me before overtaking me and grabbing the seat to the Captain’s left. I, much more gracefully, had sat down next to Bobby... directly opposite the Tsyrikov. The fact that I knew from the Institute grapevine that Commander Darty-Something had defected from the Tsyrikov military some twenty years ago, and was the only non-human to have ever served in the UDF, did not make his presence any less disturbing.
I like the PoV of this character, and his thoughts on the alien that is in his presence, but after reading all of that, it has been disrupted by the re-cap of events. I would very much shorten this, as we don’t need a moment by moment recall of details, but rather the character’s perspective of the scene he is currently in. I’d also like to mention the use of perfect tenses, I see you use them quite frequently, and it really clutters the sentences. Expressions like “had” “has” “have” have been marked as unnecessary and I would eliminate them.
Commodore Barnes cleared his throat, and I turned towards him, away from the alien. We had received brief dossiers of the ship’s captain as well as the executive officer back on Earth when we had been told our assignments. Commodore Lawrence Barnes was fifty-two years old, and had been in command of the Victory since it had been commissioned seven years ago.
INFODUMP! It slices your scene right in half.
He was a powerfully built man, with a thick head of salt and pepper hair and a neatly trimmed beard. An intelligent pair of brown eyes, slightly bulbous nose, and ruddy complexion completed his visage.
“As I am sure you all know -” Barnes began. His tone was measured and authoritative. “- my name is Commodore Lawrence Barnes, Commanding Officer of the Victory.” He paused briefly for effect, and then continued, “The United Defense Force’s Military Institute takes pride in recruiting only the best, the brightest, and the strongest. And, your you’re having been chosen to serve aboard the UDF’s flagship shows that you have proven yourselves to be the best of the best, not just as specialists, but as highly competent all-rounders. I would caution you all though, not to become over-confident. Active combat is a little different from UDFMI training simulations.” He permitted himself a brief smile, and then continued, “So, Ensigns Robert Moss, Alexander Kaminer,” – he turned to acknowledge each of us in turn – “Lisa Castillo, and Charles Hutton... welcome to the Victory.”
Very firm tone you’ve given this guy, reflective of any commander.
“Thank you, sir,” I said. My three co-recruits followed my example.
“The man seated to my right,” Commodore Barnes went on, “is Commander Keith Delaney-Smith, the Victory’s Executive Officer and my second in command.” Delaney-Smith was a handsome man in his mid thirties – thirty-seven if my memory of his dossier served me correctly. He had dark hair, narrow blue eyes, and a patrician nose. He was clean-shaven, revealing a lightly tanned complexion, prominent jaw-line, and strong chin. His lips were curved into a broad grin, revealing a mouthful of large, gleaming white teeth. His narrow eyes surveyed each of us. “Ensign Moss, Ensign. Kaminer, Ensign. Castillo...” – his gaze lingered significantly longer on Lisa than it had on Bobby or me – “...and Ensign. Huffman.”
“Hutton, sir,” Charlie corrected.
Delaney-Smith’s eyes narrowed further, and his grin grew even wider, if that were at all possible. He looked like a smiling wolf. “Of course,” he said to Charlie, without actually correcting himself. I decided that I did not like Commander Keith Delaney-Smith very much.
“Beside Commander Delaney-Smith is Commander Yee D’Art.” Barnes was introducing us to the alien seated across me. D’Art, I made a mental note, not Darty. “Commander D’Art is our Chief of Security. He defected from the Tsyrikov military twenty years ago, and has served in humanity’s defense for longer than any other individual on this ship, except for me.”
D’Art surveyed the four of us and nodded. “Welcome,” was all he said. His voice was guttural and sounded like a mixture of that of an Arab and an Eastern Eurasian. His lipless mouth was filled with misshapen, asymmetrical canines. Tsyrikav are silicon-based, and there are no analogues to “plants” in the hierarchy of Tsyrikan life-forms. Tsyrikav are essentially totally carnivorous. They feed on a variety of lower silicon-based animals indigenous to their homeworld and farmed on their settled planets. I fleetingly wondered how Commander Yee D’Art procured his food supply while aboard the Victory. Organic material, while not toxic to Tsyrikav, offers them no nutritional value, though Tsyrikov soldiers have been rumored to eat body parts of conquered human settlers – and soldiers – just for shits and giggles.
It’s a little longer than should be, but it’s a good description.
“Moving down the table,” Commodore Barnes said, “we have Commander Doctor Robyn Ambler, our Chief Medical Officer.” In my awe at meeting my first real live Tsyrikov, I had totally missed the strikingly beautiful brown-haired young woman sitting next to him, opposite Lisa. As a medical officer, Doctor Robyn Ambler’s uniform was white rather than the aqua-blue assigned to commissioned officers of all other specializations. She had a heart-shaped face, light blue eyes, high cheekbones and a small chin. And she looked very young – impossibly so. The UDF’s flagship’s Chief Medical Officer appeared to be no more than thirty years old, quite possibly less. How in the Universe can she be Chief Medical Officer within barely six years of graduating from the Institute?
“Thank you all for joining us aboard the Victory.” Dr Ambler’s tone of voice was poised and soothing. “Congratulations on your postings. I hope that despite the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves under with the Tsyrikov war; you will all nevertheless spend your time here growing professionally in your chosen areas of specialization, and as individuals as well. That’s all for now,” she smiled.
You commanded a lot of exposition here, quite well in fact. The tone of the captain was well done, and the character descriptions were equal.
Commodore Barnes went on to introduce us to Lieutenant Commander Sue Chang, Chief of Informatics and Communications – Charlie’s boss to be. Sue Chang was a square-faced Oriental woman with short, dark hair. I guessed that she was somewhere in her mid thirties mid-thirties. She muttered something unintelligible that vaguely sounded like “Welcome”.
Not much of a conversationalist...
Seated beside Commander Chang was Lieutenant Adi Obisanjo, who we learnt was the Victory’s Senior Tactical Officer. He was a tall black man of indeterminate age with a shaved head, broad forehead, beady eyes, and a sparse beard. He appeared to have a permanent smile fixed to his face, though his smile held none of the menace that Delaney-Smith’s did.
It seems I’m getting a little off track with all the characters, and I can’t remember who looks like what, perhaps we should cut this down a bit to only the essentials to the scene.
“It is a pleasure to have you aboard this ship,” he said in an accent that was distinctly colonial. Lieutenant Obisanjo had most definitely been brought up on one of the older off-world settlements, where accents and language usage differed most significantly from those common on Earth. “I have greatly enjoyed my service here, and I hope you use this opportunity to become powerful soldiers,” he declared.
The young East Indian man, Lieutenant Commander Ravi Madhavan, had a long, thin, clean shaven face with nondescript boyish features. Barnes informed us that Commander Madhavan was Chief Science Officer. Like Sue Chang, Ravi Madhavan was taciturn – he simply nodded at us and offered a slight smile.
Again, I feel that these details are spiraling this scene out of control, and perhaps these characters could be introduced later in the story. Simply speaking, we’re really dragging against the dirt right now, and I hate to say it, what you had going, is getting pretty boring.
“Finally,” Barnes said, “we have Lieutenant Commander Mika Krotki, whom you all have already met. Commander Krotki is our Chief Engineer, Acting Chief of Personnel, and unofficial hospitality officer. He makes it his business to help new officers acclimate to life on the Victory. He will be taking you on a brief tour of the ship after we finalize your assignments.”
“That’s me, hospitality officer,” Krotki admitted good naturedly.
“We will be reaching the Khlyzy sector in about fifty hours,” Barnes continued. “As you should know, the Victory heads up a fleet of nineteen other warships that maintain a presence in the general vicinity of the Tsyrikav homeworld, and defends the relatively few but frequently attacked human settlements there.”
“And now for your assignments. Ensign Hutton, you will work directly with Commander Chang. She is investigating some new information security protocols for the UDF which could benefit from your input.”
“Thank you, sir,” Charlie said to Barnes, before turning back to nod at Sue Chang.
“Ensign Castillo, you will report to Commander Krotki in Main Engineering.”
“Now,” Barnes said, turning towards Bobby and me, “we have a slight predicament. You both graduated in the CTS stream, and having reviewed both of your applications and transcripts, I – along with my senior staff – was certain that I wanted you both to serve on the Victory. However, there is presently only one CTS division position available – that of Assistant Tactical Officer. Furthermore, Commander Madhavan tells me he is presently in need of more hands for his – work – in his astrobiology and biochemistry laboratory. So, one of you will be assigned to the Bridge, and the other will work with Commander Madhavan in Science until a more appropriate position becomes available.”
The Captain turned to me, “Ensign Kaminer, as class valedictorian, I am giving you first choice. I assume you want the tactical position?”
What I said next would puzzle me for a long time to come.
“Thank you sir. But if it’s all the same, I would be glad to take the laboratory position for now. I did complete eight quarters of biochemistry and astrobiology at the Institute.” What the fuck? You chose the bio lab over a Bridge position?
This here was quite well written, the dialogue that came beyond all the droning details, brought this scene back to life.
“That will be fi-” Barnes began, when the wolf-like Executive Officer, Commander Delaney-Smith, cut him off and thundered “Unacceptable!” I turned to look at him. His eyes were bloodshot and bore into my skull. His face was contorted into a scowl to end all scowls. “Unacceptable,” he screamed. “If it’s all the same? If it’s all the same? It is not all the same. You train in the command stream. You apply for a Bridge post. And when someone gives you the opportunity to take one, you decide to go play with Petri dishes? Where do you think–”
“Mr. Smith!” Captain Barnes interjected.
Keith Delaney-Smith swung his right hand into the air, as if swatting an insect. “I’m not listening to this anymore.”
“So, it’s settled,” Captain Barnes said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice. “Ensign Kaminer, you will work under Commander Madhavan’s supervision. Ensign Moss, you will report to Lieutenant Obisanjo. That will be all.”
I would really think that cutting off a captain in mid-speech without showing any form of respect, and then further going to pure insubordination would have extreme consequences, as it would in any military.
I think perhaps this could use some attention to basic natures of military hierarchy. Perhaps don’t have him cut him off, but suggest that it’s unacceptable. Unless there is some vital reason for this man to openly disrespect his superiors, it borders on something that I can’t believe and therefore this character has lost any credibility to me as the reader.
He stood up and walked out of the conference room.
I will say that aside from the exposition that kept going and going, this second half turned out to be a good ending, though I think it could very much use a hook at the end of the chapter.