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Sarah B

05/02-CatRidersoftheApocalypse-7,300-V-SarahB

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This is a long one that took up two slots. There is a page break near the middle if you prefer to take it in pieces or don't feel up to a double sub though. 

Content warning V for implied violence to humans. Animal harm is mentioned but not shown. 

All comments welcome.

This was written to be a stand alone, but I am toying with the idea of writing other short stories in this world with overlapping characters. If there are any questions, characters or elements that as a reader peaked your interest and might merit further exploration I would love to hear about it. 

Thank you!

Sarah B

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I have surprisingly few notes on this! It was a very well constructed story. You have good worldbuilding, exposed piece by piece through the story, the characters are excellent, and the plot fulfills a nice single objective--T getting her cat back.

There were a lot of grammar errors and typos in here, so another pass would be good to catch all those, but that's a second draft issue.

If you want a place to cut this down just a little, the interaction with the townspeople in the middle went on a little long, but has good tension as to what they will do to her.

This can definitely work as a stand alone. It gives plenty of depth to the world and characters. I also love the idea of other stories in this world. Some things that caught my attention were the idea of the Catlords, like Tru. I'd love to see how that works. The townspeople were also interesting, in how they survived. I really liked the Wild West feel of the story though, roughing it out in the apocalypse. I wonder how much wildlife survived this new apex predator though? I'd imagine game is getting scarcer in the Catlands...

 

Notes while reading:
Pg 1: "There was no border in the Catlands and even if there was no self respecting cat who would abide them."
-- missing a comma and an extra "who"

Pg 2: genes -> jeans

Pg 18: "since she spoke with Sir."
--is this P.? I think this is the first time she refers directly to him this way

Pg 19: "could have been her cat."
Is this the mother? A little confused.

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This was a great read.  The premise of house cats grown to enormous size is really interesting, I have two cats who I would be scared to death of if they were that big.  There is a zero percent chance they would let me ride on their back!

The thing that struck me the most about this piece was the palpable sense of fear and tension.  You really had me feeling the desperation, the cold, and the harsh reality of this semi-post-apocalyptic world!  One of the most striking scenes to me is her fear and vulnerability around P in the city/camp.  As a man reading it I found myself saying "holy crap being a woman traveling alone among strangers is SCARY!". Kudos on your effectiveness here and putting me in someone else's shoes, it makes the whole story for me.  The ending was such a great relief after feeling that burden throughout the story, I teared up a little!

Definitely plenty of copy edit items to address at some point.

I would absolutely read more short stories in this world.  There are so many interesting downstream effects of this change to the world to think through.  Is catnip worth more than gold now? :D  Did dogs get big too?  Is a Lion or Tiger now 50 feet tall?! I hope you write them!

 

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Sorry I'm a bit late! There, um, may have been a small incident involving my computer tower and an overturned water glass. All better now. So then, right to it. 

What a title!

Having trouble working out who “lithe tuxedo shorthair” applies to. I think Lily?

P4 I chuckled at “or worse, other people,” but T didn’t seem especially hesitant at running into Maud.

P6 “But L didn’t seem to notice or care that there were one fewer person…” should be “there was”

P7 “… a large rifle in his hand. It was probably very impressive.” I’m really enjoying these little interjections of wry humour.

“There was waving, and hand signals of some kind…” Confused – it seems like we’re going into summary now but they haven’t really had a conversation yet?

“making him look younger rather than more intimidating” nice touch as far as characterization goes, note the typo on “intimidating” 

Also surprised that he’s just letting T into their shelter. I’d expect a little more reticence given the apocalypse situation.

P8 “must have been a few months ago” How does T feel on hearing this? Does this mean that they definitely haven’t killed L? I think this is a good opportunity to give us some more information.

P9 “...on the guard’s shoulder and left it” left what? Confused.

P10 “More like she was a shiny new thing on the shelf.” Pretty sure that would make my skin crawl, tbh.

P11 “Too happy for someone who was only there to eat their food and take a bed…” Yeah, I was feeling this too. Glad to see a lantern hung on it.

P12 “It was bare but clean, a decided trend” not sure what’s meant by “decided trend” in this context

Aside from the fact that everybody does seem exceptionally welcoming, I’m having a hard time telling here whether T’s paranoia is justified or not. We’re far enough in and have spent enough time in this shelter that I would like a better idea of whether she has real reason to be worried.

P14 “…ruffled her hair” I was surprised T doesn’t react to this, as it’s pretty weird/boundary-violating behaviour.

“It had been a waste of time from the start” I mean… she found the information she was looking for and got food and shelter for a night.

We’ve spent enough time getting to and in the shelter that I felt the encounter with P and T was missing tension. I don’t think it needs to come to an actual confrontation between them but I didn’t quite understand why this was the big deal for T that it seemed to be. Are cat riders typically regarded poorly? What’s the danger to her if so? And how reasonable is she being in her paranoia here?

“In the moment T swore it could have been her cat.” Whose cat? Wouldn’t that be L? I’m a bit confused about the flashback just generally. It took me several paragraphs to figure out that this was relating T getting separated from L, but mostly I’m having consistent trouble figuring out which cat T is referring to at any given time.  
p20 “if she could get L free” when did L get trapped? If she normally needs to wear the harness why does it need to be removed?

It feels like T eventually gets to L too easily, especially for the time we’ve spent getting there—this is a lot of time on the road, but then it feels like L is just suddenly there. I think we need to see a little more of T actively trying to find and free her—right now it feels like she’s just going east and hoping for the best. I really wanted more of a challenge, whether that was her having to sneak into the camp or having to really work to persuade L or what have you.

Overall: I enjoyed the setting and the voice, and I’m a sucker for really character-focused stories like this one. I do think the emotions need punching up to make the story really function as a character piece. I already highlighted the scene with P, but I think that’s true of the ending too. I’m reading this as the relationship between T and L being the central conflict of the piece, and if that’s what you’re going for than I also think this needs to be punched up throughout. It feels like the foundation is here, it just really needs to be dialed up!

On 5/3/2022 at 6:57 PM, Warmacky said:

There are so many interesting downstream effects of this change to the world to think through.  Is catnip worth more than gold now? :D  Did dogs get big too?  Is a Lion or Tiger now 50 feet tall?! I hope you write them!

I did not know I needed the answers to these questions, but now I definitely do. 

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Posted (edited)

I read through most of this on my phone on a bus and made comments directly in the Google Doc, so I'll probably just send that over to you instead of copying over specifics. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading through this, and as the others have said, I am fully onboard for seeing more stories set in this world. I also really enjoyed T's wry side-comments, especially the ones that ring so true to being a pet owner (even if said pets are massive0. There are a few places where I struggled to follow what was going on (during the time with M and in the flashback later on are the ones that come back to mind), but I'd have to read through it again while not on a bus full of shouting teenagers to determine how much of that was the text and how much was a distracting reading environment. 

I agree with @Silk's thoughts about it ending up being pretty easy to get L back at the end once T found her, as well as the thought that dialing up emotion would add a lot of strength to the story. Losing a pet is scary enough in a world where they're not also a means of survival. We see T missing L's warmth, transportation assistance, and general presence, but having a few other details about their relationship (what's a normal day for them when T isn't chasing after L? Is it the same for everyone in this region? How''s T/Li's relationship and life differ from M/Le's?) could really drive the feeling of L's absence home harder.

Thanks for submitting! This was a lot of fun to read :) 


Edit: 
Forgot to mention characters/elements I found interesting.  
Through this story, we see 1. life for people in the unclaimed catlands 2. non-cat-people in the catlands 3. catlords are a thing.  And really, I'd love to see any of those things fleshed out in some sort of story detailing what sort of challenges each of those groups face and what different aspects of this world looks like from the perspective of different groups of people within it. 

That doesn't narrow it down much, but ultimately I'm intrigued enough by the world that I'd probably enjoy any story that takes the idea and runs with it.

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall

I really enjoy the premise of this. I assume it's a short story? I think this chapter has the bones to be a full novel, and one that I would read! The ending felt flat to me, because you'd built a neat world and then we didn't get to explore it. And the retrieval of the cat was too easy and not satisfying. But if this were expanded, even to a short story, I think it would be killer. Nice work.

 

As I go

- the second line has a redundancy on 'distance'

- That first paragraph has the potential for really neat imagery, but the sentences need a bit of restructuring to make them easier to parse

- pg 2: Good kitty, this is an interesting greeting for sentient, giant cats. Would they find it infantilizing?

- pg 5: I'm stuck on the cat issue. They're extra large but still just basic house cats? I think we might need a line or two of exposition, or dialogue, or something, where we get a quick, Traditional cats had been lap sized. But irradiation (or whatever) turned them giant and did XX to their intelligence, and now they bond with humans like Cringer from He-Man or something akin

- pg 6: we get a bit of explanation on page six but it isn't answering my primary question. And unfortunately that question is so big it's keeping me from engaging with the narrative the way I want to

- pg 7: Like a boy being made to eat creamed spinach. <--- LOL I love this

- the battery trade is a really interesting world building point and it's a great hook. I also am enjoying the cat hunters town. The world building is moving at a great pace

- pg 12: I'm really interested in this no-cat town. I love the idea that the old people are just excited to have a young person. The MC may be afraid but there's something really relatable and comforting in this town that really draws the reader in, even though we know it's populated by cat-haters

- pg 14: She should have followed her instinct and carried on past the town. It had been a fool's errand and now she was here and indebted. If they wanted to make trouble, there wasn't much incentive she could give to let her go. She could offer everything she had, and it would be exactly what they'd get if they just decided to steal her bag. <-- I don't understand. Everyone has been really polite. Aren't her batteries payment? I don't understand this or her paranoia

- pg 18: the townspeople were just fine. I don't understand the MCs reactions and anger on this page. Is she being coded as autistic maybe? She seems to be following some sort of internal set of rules that the townsfolk, and the reader in theory, don't see. In this page she comes off as young and naiive, with a chip on her shoulder for no reason

- pg 20: I don't understand what or who the 'feral queen' is

- pg 22: she just...found her cat? That was really easy and bleeds a lot of tension from the narrative

- and she just cut her free and they're off? Why did we get the backstory of the cat hoarder then? That seems like unfulfilled reader promises

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Thank you for reading and for your feedback!

@Mandamon

@Warmacky

@Silk

@C_Vallion

@kais

There is consensus on some weak points in the story that I especially approciate! This definetly needs some heavy edits, but I'm looking forward to tackling them. Thank you all for your feedback and for including points of interest. I love the idea of Catnip and associated products having inflated values :-)

I apologize for all the typos and grammer issues, I'll try to sub cleaner drafts in the future. 

Thanks again!

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