by Dr Gonzo
A review of my first piece of fiction seemed rather harsh, but what would I know?
|This review was kindly offered to me on my piece 'Heavens Above' and I thought it worthy of posting.
Reviewing this item is going to be difficult. I try to review only when I have something worth saying, and in this case, I find very few fully formed thoughts to share, and almost none, I imagine, would be particularly useful.
I don’t feel strongly about the topic at the core of this story. I am not religious, but religion interests me to some degree, being a powerful part of human mentality. Some brilliant and memorable stories I’ve read feature biblical motifs (Hell is the Absence of God by Ted Chiang comes to mind), and many things have been done in the past to twist the canon to surprise (or shake, or offend, even) the readers (e.g. God is a woman).
People of different faith segregated in the afterlife to preserve the illusion that their faith was the only true path to heaven is a clever idea (and I love clever), but not particularly new (and that’s all right, nothing is truly original). Hell being a place for joy and heaven being full of struggles and inequality is another memorable concept that I’ve also seen somewhere. I liked how your heaven is full of sinners exploiting the loophole of repentance. You give the traditionally spotless characters recognizable human flaws, which allows us to reflect on human nature more than on the divine. In the end, truth, unity, and cooperation—Liberal values—wins, which is, to an educated liberal, a happy ending. All in all, these are decent story bones.
Perhaps because I don’t feel strongly about the topic and find other themes more pressing and in need of exposure, your satire wasn’t too effective on me. I confess that I don’t read much comedy, and I might have a queer sense of humour (is it even possible to judge your own sense of humour?). You made me chuckle a few times: for example, I loved how God had a twitching eye since he blinded himself by creating light. But overall, for the most part, this wasn’t the brand of comedy I’m crazy about. Or maybe your story has caught me after a particularly nasty day at work.
I cannot say much about your writing. I’ll leave the mechanics alone since nothing bothered me too much while I was reading (there might be some issues with commas, though). The writing style seemed quite consistent, although I think the density of comedy in it wasn’t uniform across the story: some scenes seemed to be there to propel the plot rather than entertain or pass the Message. Reworking those scenes to keep the consistent level of funny and critical would improve the overall impression.
What worries me is that there were a lot of words for a relatively concise message, and I think the story would have been stronger if you could make it at least twice as short (I wish someone would make me realize the same about my own stories). I understand that sometimes the plot, or the writing style, or the character arcs require more space, more time on the page, more air to breathe, but 8,5K words seem a little self-indulgent.
I am left with the impression that we have different tastes in stories, and I just cannot fully appreciate this piece. Sorry.