Sample Reading Report: A Science Fiction Novel
- September 28, xxxx
- Birthright of Darkness
WHAT WORKS: I'm hesitant as to how to start, mostly because I don't want to seem like a flatterer. I assure you, I try my best to be honest with my clients. But, damn, this is a good one.
You'll probably want details. You have created a complex world, with an intriguing social dynamic (racism with actual different races) and a rich and complex history. Yet you explain nearly nothing, simply dropping your readers into the middle of things and letting them fend for themselves. This takes an immense amount of confidence in your writing ability and a solid grasp of the world you've created. That kind of world building is the key skill needed for the kind of sci-fi you're writing, and you do it skillfully.
Then there's your characters. Katt is a marvelous creation -- smart, resourceful, emotionally open, intensely sympathetic. When she was torn over Francois or furious with Ro, I felt it along with her. And her terror at being dragged into the world of Tenebrae was beautifully handled. Both Francois and Devon both capture in different ways the quandary of immortals falling in love with shorter-lived creatures, and I love the way you've created Francois's dark past and his battle to overcome it. Ro, too, strikes a very nice balance between kindness and genuine family feeling and greed. As I say, I was enraged along with Katt, yet I could believe that he was not such a bad guy by the end of the book.
And your plot. Another difficulties of the sort of fiction you're writing is in crafting a plot that is open-ended enough to make your readers want to keep reading the rest of the trilogy yet complete enough to leave them feeling satisfied by the end. And you've managed to do it. There are still so many unanswered questions about who Katt is and what will happen to her that I would (in all honesty) read the remaining two volumes for free. Yet you created this wonderful tension over whether or not Katt would finally find someone who loves her, with Devon turning out to be the older brother and Ro (another character with a nice balance between light and dark sides) turning out to be more greedy than not. So when she finally meets up with Francois -- and you do a skillful job making their love plausible after the way he used her -- it does feel like a completion.
Oh, and your style. Your character voices are sharp and believable, and you manage to convey even Katt's more bizarre experiences beautifully. Your descriptions of her dream sequences, and of the Tenebrae ritual at the end, make good use of another tricky stylistic technique -- allowing your writing voice to momentarily transcend your character's voice.
And all of this is not simply fun adventure. In their various ways, your characters are exploring the problem of how to either overcome or come to terms with their pasts. Francois and his drive for revenge. Dune and his bigoted upbringing. Whatever was going on with Devon. And Katt, who seems from your title to be the one with the most to fight against.
Yeah, this is a good one.
WHAT NEEDS WORK:
PLOT: I've got to tell you, this section is usually much longer than this. The only drawback I might mention (and I'm not sure this is a drawback) is that I think I can see some of your future twists coming. I did pick up on the fact that, despite the fertility drugs and the frequent sex, Ro was not able to get Katt pregnant. (By the way, having Ro's son stare at her belly was a beautiful hint.) And if I remember right, humans and Innate' can't impregnate Immortals. This supports the reality that her DNA has been altered so that she appears Innate'.
Okay, I realize that compliments are encouraging and fun, but you probably wanted to get more for your money than compliments. Well, I would dearly love to do some line-editing. You don't really have any persistent stylistic flaws, but there are always small, context-specific adjustments that need to be made -- there were times at the beginning when I had a hard time telling what Jemmy was saying, for instance. Also to line-edit intelligently, I need to have read the entire manuscript, so what you've really gotten for your money is the foundation for the next step. As to how much line-editing and what it should cost, let's talk and work that out. Let me know when we can get together on the phone. And I'm really looking forward to working with you further.