aeromancer

Reading Excuses - 2/18/19 - aeromancer - The Oberth Effect (4704)(V)

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This is a break from what I've normally submitted, which has either been short stories or parts of novels. The Oberth Effect is an urban fantasy that I've sketched a rough outline for, mostly because I've always wanted a superhero story with actual physics involved and urban fantasy seems like a good place to do a non superhero version of it.

To that end, I wrote a prologue to the sketched out novel, to get a feel for the characters and world. I'm not looking for normal critique here, because everything is rough. A lot of things are currently loose right now, like the city it's set it (Chicago and New York have both banned the types of guns I'd like characters to use, so they're out). I'm more looking for how the concepts, powers, and (importantly) limitations feel, and whether or not you'd want to read on in a book which starts out like this.
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Okay, so no as I go since its a trial piece. Generally, it paced along well until about page four, when the head villain showed up and the dialogue fell into bravado and almost maid-and-butler back and forth. The fighting of the minor villains was interesting, but I didn't have enough feel for the world to be engaged in a larger boss battle so early in the book. I need more grounding before I'm ready for a pages long dialogue-and-fight. I also think the primal reveal comes too early. Maybe that should be more the focus of the book, with our MC finding that out at the end? Starting off with a chosen one trope where the choosing has already happened doesn't lend a lot of tension. For some comp reading, The Blade of the Poisoner is an older MG novel with this same sort of talents vs. elemental feel, and does well with tension around the chosen one issue. You could read it in like two hours, if I am remembering correctly how short it is.

Your Questions

Concept, power, and limitations

The gun parts are entertaining to me, as I generally like guns. The magic system as it were I think could use a bit more mystery in terms of elementals being revealed so early. I have more thoughts on that above. As far as limitations, it already appears that our MC is The Most Powerful, so right now I don't have a sense of tension about his harm. I do enjoy E the powerful flower vendor, however.

Read more?

I'd be wary due to the boss battle already and the reveal of Super Power, but I'd give it another chapter to see if E develops. Fights within a flower store could be really fun to read. It's a good start for a draft, and I think with tightening it could be a solid novel start. It is definitively urban fantasy, so your grounding is firm.

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I'd be on board to read more, though I'm not 100% certain is this actually the right opening for the book. Granted, I haven't seen your outline and you haven't written a whole draft yet, so I can't put much if any certainty behind that statement. 

I struggled a little because I had a hard time picturing the set up at the begining, but like you said, it is rough and sort of a test chapter.  I liked the voice, was curious to know more about the main character, and the florist/sniper seemed like a really interesting person. I think you had about the right amount of detail about the powers the characters have, though some things could be a little more clearer if you move forward with this. 

I'm getting sort of a Mission Impossible meets S.H.E.I.L.D feel only with more realistic science involved.

21 hours ago, aeromancer said:

A lot of things are currently loose right now, like the city it's set it (Chicago and New York have both banned the types of guns I'd like characters to use, so they're out

OK, but those cities also don't actually have enhanced people either, so...

But on the other hand, are those types of guns you mention banned in Boston? Because Chicago and NY have plenty of urban fantasy stories already. 

7 hours ago, kais said:

As far as limitations, it already appears that our MC is The Most Powerful, so right now I don't have a sense of tension about his harm.

K had a good point, but said powerful MC had shown a little doubt that he's win. Still, that isn't a deal breaker for me, especially not this early in the draft, because you can go back later and change what you reveal when. Plus, there is always a bigger fish. 

And I'm kind of a weird reader when it comes to tension. I read more for the characters and their personalty than anything else. I might be the minority in saying I'm okay not being concerned about their ability handle things where most readers probably want to be somewhere between confidence and doubt. 

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Generally I agree with @kais and @shatteredsmooth. I like the concept, and I think the powers are cool. Using actual physics with powers is always fun. You just have to be careful not to overpower someone accidentally. For example, if he can control time, he can pretty much do anything, right? Like Kais says, this is revealed too early to leave any tension for a full book. This is more of an end battle than a beginning battle. The whole thing actually works fairly well as a short story.

Another book series to read is by Larry Correia. I'm not very fond of him as a person, but his Grimnoir Chronicles are very good and have elemental magic similar to what you have here.

I think the area of limitations is where you're going to get the most mileage. The powers are cool, but if you can find ways they don't work, that makes them even more fun. For example, how long can a primal tap into whatever powers they have? What if it's only for a second or so, because the power is too much? I'm thinking something like YoYo in Agents of SHIELD. She can move incredibly fast, but only for the space of one heartbeat.

Anyway, good concept here, and I'm interested to see you develop it.

 

Some notes while reading:

pg 1: intrigued so far.

pg 2: I like the money/flower conversion. A little unsure on how Emma is a sniper. is she also superhuman?

pg 3: "I focused, gathered my nexus, and used it, triggering it as I hit the ground. I barely felt the impact."
--so he's got some sort of gravity power...

pg 4: "Enhanced. It’s a term we use for people who have an augmented human ability. "
--I think we've figured this out by now.

pg 4: "I slid in a fresh earpiece and dialed a frequency."
--this seems odd. He just has a second earpiece? Wouldn't it be able to be tracked like the first one?

pg 5: "“That’s kind of odd for a strength enhanced.”
--but he's not strength enhanced, is he? Because he couldn't hold on the I-beam at the beginning.

pg 5: "Just right of it was T."
--wait, who is this?

pg 6: "But you’re no spark; contained, loose, or live. You’re a gimmick. Your power is a gift, temporary at best"
--not really sure what's going on here. Are their powers temporary?

pg 7: not sure I understand the difference between an enhanced and a gimmick...

pg 7: “TAKE IT. That’s an order.”
--Is he in some organization with hierarchy over E?

pg 7: as this goes on, I'm less sure what's going on. Grey is now Russian? And has other powers? confused.

pg 8: “I’m a primal. Time. I kept it hidden because there’s no way Von Jolt would get anywhere close to me if he knew I was a time primal.”
--ok, cool from a physics perspective. The reveal needs some work, though.

pg 9: “Like there was a chance of Jolt beating you.”
--Something's off about this. He's set up as being weak to start with, so it's an unreliable narrator, but also just lying to the reader. The reveal isn't satisfying.
 

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57 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

The whole thing actually works fairly well as a short story.

I think you are right about this. It would need some work on slowing down to help the reader picture who is where and maybe a little tweaking at the end, but it could make a short story. 

59 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

This is more of an end battle than a beginning battle.

To be contrary, I did read a book called Year of the Knife by G. D. Penman that started with a battle where the MC seemed so powerful  and tough I wondered if they could get taken down, but then the next chapter introduced a more powerful enemy and showed some limitations, like the MC had pretty much drained herself in the first battle and didn't have a whole lot of energy left. I might have complained about this in my review, but more because that first battle had just been to plant a seed for something that would happen later, so by the time I got to the end and looked back at it, it felt very contrived. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

but if you can find ways they don't work, that makes them even more fun

I do agree with this. I like when someone has the potential to be all powerful but there is a catch. A time limit or a dire consequence. 

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I generally agree with @Mandamon and @kais. It's a solid concept, as far as it goes, and as-is would make a good short story. I'm not sure there's enough there for a whole novel at the moment.  I also don't find unlimited power to be particularly compelling, so the fact that the protagonist can do basically whatever he wants is not terribly interesting to me. I usually like gun geekery in stories, but again, here they ended up being completely useless, so I'm left wondering why anyone bothers with them. Powers with limitations, reasons why a gun could work in a superpower situation, those would interest me much more in the world and the characters. 

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On 2/19/2019 at 11:27 AM, kais said:

Your Questions

Concept, power, and limitations

The gun parts are entertaining to me, as I generally like guns. The magic system as it were I think could use a bit more mystery in terms of elementals being revealed so early. I have more thoughts on that above. As far as limitations, it already appears that our MC is The Most Powerful, so right now I don't have a sense of tension about his harm. I do enjoy E the powerful flower vendor, however.

MC is powerful, but he does have limitations, the main one being Newton's Third Law and his power only works for fifty feet at maximum (the latter one isn't said explicitly, but it's in my notes). Also, as noted, if VJ knew about his powers, he could've used a razor cloud to kill him.

On 2/19/2019 at 11:27 AM, kais said:

Read more?

I'd be wary due to the boss battle already and the reveal of Super Power, but I'd give it another chapter to see if E develops. Fights within a flower store could be really fun to read. It's a good start for a draft, and I think with tightening it could be a solid novel start. It is definitively urban fantasy, so your grounding is firm.

The impression I'm getting is to start off the novel a lot lighter of a conflict, maybe skip the 'boss battle' interaction and just have the initial fight against the mob. I'm also on the fence about just having Gray's power be clear from the get-go, especially since he's got quite a few weaknesses to outline ahead of time.

 

On 2/19/2019 at 7:18 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'd be on board to read more, though I'm not 100% certain is this actually the right opening for the book. Granted, I haven't seen your outline and you haven't written a whole draft yet, so I can't put much if any certainty behind that statement. 

I struggled a little because I had a hard time picturing the set up at the begining, but like you said, it is rough and sort of a test chapter.  I liked the voice, was curious to know more about the main character, and the florist/sniper seemed like a really interesting person. I think you had about the right amount of detail about the powers the characters have, though some things could be a little more clearer if you move forward with this. 

Two for two for further read. I also like how everyone seems to like the idea of a florist/sniper. And yes, things need to be clearer.

On 2/19/2019 at 7:18 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm getting sort of a Mission Impossible meets S.H.E.I.L.D feel only with more realistic science involved.

I normally don't like description which compose of 'X meets Y', but MI meets SHIELD plus realistic science is now an exception to these rules. And makes me want to write it.

On 2/19/2019 at 7:18 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

But on the other hand, are those types of guns you mention banned in Boston? Because Chicago and NY have plenty of urban fantasy stories already. 

Suppressors are banned in Massachusetts, and I'd like E to have a legal armory, not an illegal one. So that's a no go either.

On 2/19/2019 at 7:18 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

K had a good point, but said powerful MC had shown a little doubt that he's win. Still, that isn't a deal breaker for me, especially not this early in the draft, because you can go back later and change what you reveal when. Plus, there is always a bigger fish. 

And I'm kind of a weird reader when it comes to tension. I read more for the characters and their personalty than anything else. I might be the minority in saying I'm okay not being concerned about their ability handle things where most readers probably want to be somewhere between confidence and doubt. 

There is always a bigger fish. And Gray is planned to be one of the lesser powerful characters.

Hopefully, I'll get good character interactions and personalities. And as to the tension point - well, that's why we have Sanderson's First Law.

 

6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Generally I agree with @kais and @shatteredsmooth. I like the concept, and I think the powers are cool. Using actual physics with powers is always fun. You just have to be careful not to overpower someone accidentally. For example, if he can control time, he can pretty much do anything, right? Like Kais says, this is revealed too early to leave any tension for a full book. This is more of an end battle than a beginning battle. The whole thing actually works fairly well as a short story.

His time control power is supposed to be relatively minor. There are three main limitations. The first is that his mind doesn't catch up to his body, so he has to figure out all the movements he wants to do before he does them. So, if he's pinned down by gunfire, he can't use superspeed to go out, aim, and shoot, just go out and shoot. The second is Newton's Third Law, or he can't just hit things at superspeed without killing himself in the process. He uses the collapsible sword, partially because the collapsible structure lets it absorb impacts better. The third is that he can move more than fifty feet (possibly less, I'll see what I can get away with). Why? I'm not sure. But he can't.

6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I think the area of limitations is where you're going to get the most mileage. The powers are cool, but if you can find ways they don't work, that makes them even more fun. For example, how long can a primal tap into whatever powers they have? What if it's only for a second or so, because the power is too much? I'm thinking something like YoYo in Agents of SHIELD. She can move incredibly fast, but only for the space of one heartbeat.

Sanderson's Second Law. Yeah, I have limitations, they just didn't get expressed yet. I'd do it in a short story, but since this was a novel, I planned on doing it later, possibly having him explain to someone why he wasn't overpowered. Also, it's funny you mentioned YoYo - I don't watch Agents of SHIELD, but I had one of my friends point this out to me when I was explaining the concepts.

6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 7: as this goes on, I'm less sure what's going on. Grey is now Russian? And has other powers? confused.

He's Russian in the sense that he's from Russia, doesn't work for them. He's actually Georgian, but he speaks Russian thanks to the communist takeover. I thought it'd be an interesting background.

 

1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

I generally agree with @Mandamon and @kais. It's a solid concept, as far as it goes, and as-is would make a good short story. I'm not sure there's enough there for a whole novel at the moment.  I also don't find unlimited power to be particularly compelling, so the fact that the protagonist can do basically whatever he wants is not terribly interesting to me. I usually like gun geekery in stories, but again, here they ended up being completely useless, so I'm left wondering why anyone bothers with them. Powers with limitations, reasons why a gun could work in a superpower situation, those would interest me much more in the world and the characters. 

I addressed the power issues earlier by Mandamon, they exist but they weren't written well in this segment. As for guns - they're mostly worthless, I suppose, but ceramic rounds would've killed VJ, and a sniper shot to the neck would have killed Gray if he didn't know where it was from. The point here was just for the character's introduction, the actual plot is a fight between three or four factions for the relic mentioned in the title.

 

Overall, I got a lot of feedback on how the characters need limitations, which is only to be expected from a forum on the 17th Shard. I also got a lot of book recommendations, so thanks for those too. Most people seemed positive about this towards a novel, so I'll start working on this as my next project.

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6 minutes ago, aeromancer said:

The first is that his mind doesn't catch up to his body, so he has to figure out all the movements he wants to do before he does them.

Ah yes, I do remember reading this now. This would be a perfect thing to bring out more. Make him afraid of snapping his neck if he does something wrong...

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Just now, Mandamon said:

Ah yes, I do remember reading this now. This would be a perfect thing to bring out more. Make him afraid of snapping his neck if he does something wrong...

Not like that, sorry. I wasn't specific. His head does, but his mind (soul, conscious, call it what you like) is an independent entity from his physical body, and is unaffected by his power. But, yes, if he moves too fast he can crack his neck. Or burn himself on air from friction. Snap his ankle from a misstep. There's a scary amount of things that can happen. Also, I don't know the strain on human limbs, but at some point he'll swing so fast the force will just pull his arm clean from it's socket. Fun stuff like that.

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12 hours ago, aeromancer said:

Suppressors are banned in Massachusetts, and I'd like E to have a legal armory, not an illegal one. So that's a no go either.

Feel free to ignore the following ramble about setting. 

Google says they are legal in Maine.

 Bangor is a much much much smaller city than something like Chicago and NY, but I wouldn't be surprised if there actually were sniper florists in the Bangor area in real life...not necessarily mob snipers, but snipers never the less. Northern Maine is a world unto it's own. When I look at Google's list of states where they are legal, you probably have options with much bigger cities that are more likely to have mob snipers... I'm just bias and want more people who aren't Stephen King and who aren't cozy mystery authors pandering to tourist to write stories set in Maine.

End ramble. 

 

12 hours ago, aeromancer said:

I normally don't like description which compose of 'X meets Y', but MI meets SHIELD plus realistic science is now an exception to these rules. And makes me want to write it.

I'll keep this in mind as I tend to make those kind of descriptions more frequently than I probably should. 

 

And regarding the limitations, the ones you describe sound good if they are at least partially introduced early on. 

 

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