kais

4/10/2021 - Kais - Pruitcu - Chapter 9 (L,S) - 4366 words

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S for discussion of sex and some suggestive nudity. No actual sex.

Moving right along. There are three main beats in this chapter and I’m hoping they tied into each other well and that you feel like this chapter does move the plot forward and doesn’t just rehash what we already know. It’s got some critical emotional points for readers from the first four books but I don’t know how new readers would see it. 

 

Thanks in advance!

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As I read:

p2 - Ata seems like she's in a little bit over her head. It's not a huge surprise at this point that Ori's expectations about Ard were way off base, but this demystifies Ard further (which I assume is what you were going for).

I like the fungus alien.

p4 - I'm not sure what's going on with the black sludge? Is that the stuff that Ard has been spreading everywhere and causing trouble?

p11 - 'Panic won't get me anywhere' 

p11 - 'Pushing our connection now, if she's that distracted, I don't want to make their situation worse' - phrasing

p13 - I'm getting that it's significant to Ata that a N is trying to contact her, but not having read the previous books, I'm not sure why. If this is important, you might need a line or two to explain.

p13 - I have now figured out that Ata is a N. I might have missed something obvious before.

p13 - 'never done an impulsive thing in his life'

p14 - 'Ata thought back to her childhood' you have a stray " mark at the start of this paragraph

p14 - 'offworld for over a decade I think'

 

Overall - this does feel like a 'make sure everyone is up to speed with events of previous books' chapter. The good news is that I think I have a good grasp of Ata and E's situation by the end of the chapter, even if the emotional beats don't hit as strongly as they would if I'd been following these characters for four books.

The bad news is that it's not super engaging. The political meeting was a bit dull (apart from the fungus alien. That was cool.) The part where they notice that S and her ship are missing and can't contact her went on a bit long for the amount of new information we get from it.

The part where Ata realises that G4 tried to contact her was the most interesting part of the chapter, I think because it felt relevant to the main plot.

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Overall:

I think the biggest thing that interfered with my enjoying the chapter is that I haven’t read the other books, so I’m not hugely invested in Ata by the part in the chapter where she’s processing her own discovery of Ard and what it will mean to Or, and what a BIG DEAL that is.  More specific thoughts on that below. 

There are a lot of little details that I liked: The frustration of cleaning up after the fungi. A sense of the tedium of the daily life of an eld. General world setup and character details that tie me into the world better.   But as a whole, it felt a little disconnected from our current storyline until we get to where she's actually getting the note that Or was reaching out.

Pg 1:

Are we supposed to know who/what gatoi are?

“many kinds of urgent” : I like these contrasts of urgent. 

Pg 2:

I’m having trouble picturing the ambassador here.  For the most part, the paragraph at the end of pg 1 is helpful for getting the sentient-fungus-species idea, which is enough to interpret hyphae as a fungus-related term, but I could use another visual cue to help visualize this.  The “fluffy stalk of hyphae” is helpful, but I’m struggling to match that up with the “tannish colored mat” mentioned later.

“They’d never get that color out of the floor.” This line does a pretty great job of portraying Ata’s sheer exhaustion with this meeting.

 The message from E read as either three separate messages or a back and forth, which made me have to pause to reread that section.

Pg 3:

“as apologetic as she could on three hours of sleep.”  Oh man. I feel this pain.

Still having trouble picturing the ambassador here.

Pg 4:

“Mind awash…take better care of herself”  I think this might be confusing to people who haven’t read the previous books? I’ve read enough comments from people who have read the other books to have noted that the trees communicate with them, but can’t remember if/where it’s been mentioned in the text of this one.  So I’m not sure if I would have had the context to understand this if I was just reading through.

Similar response to the switch from verbal communication to telepathy at the end of page 4.  Is this the first time we’ve seen someone both speaking and communicating telepathically?  I think it’s a good, clear introduction to how conversations would work for people who can communicate in both ways, but my first thought upon seeing italics was that it was a thought in the narrative, not further communication from E.  If this isn’t the first time we’re seeing this sort of communication, that’s probably just my fault for reading it too late last night, but if we haven’t seen it before, it might be helpful to clarify to keep it from being jarring or confusing.

Pg 7-10

I feel like there’s a whole lot of page time spent trying to get in touch with the others.  I think it could be trimmed back a bit and still get the point across that there seems to be no way of getting in touch and it’s really strange and a little concerning.

Pg 11:

“crossed her arms and pulled the small blanket” Are these supposed to be simultaneous movements?  I’d assume pulling the blanket into place would have to come before the arm-crossing.

Pg 13:

“shouldn’t there be …crew?”  This and the following paragraphs are really helpful for knowing how strange Or’s situation is, and what is more normal for Ne people.   I assume the other books deal a lot more directly with Ne’s culture and social setup, but we haven’t had too much of that here yet. 

Pg 14:

Are biofilms at risk of breaking when being dropped?

Also, E then “gently takes” it, which to me implies that it was still in her hand.

Ata calls Or a hero, but Or seemed to be of the opinion that she was still working to achieve hero status.  Should we be aware of what Or has done to so concretely earn that title to Ata?  Or is it more that Ata personally considers her a hero because of the impact she’s had on her? Knowing that there’s a big long stretch of events that Or knows nothing about makes me think that something she’d done before leaving had earned her official hero status while she was gone?  If that’s not the case, it might be helpful to clarify that it’s Ata’s regard for her that earns the term.

I imagine this page would hit pretty hard for people who’ve read the other books, but I definitely feel like I’m not getting as much of the emotional impact as I’m supposed to because I haven’t spent that much time with Ata.  I can see that this is a big deal for her, but when the main interaction I’ve had with her as she is now (as opposed to where she is in the intro) is that she’s been in a lot of meetings and is tired of it (relatable, but not hugely engaging) and that she’s more concerned about getting E into bed than she is about her friends’ well-being (she hopes they’re fine and has good reasons to believe they’re probably alright, but it’s still not the most appealing first impression). I’m just not entirely invested in her character at the moment. But I also don’t know how you introduce three books worth of context into the first half of a chapter in a way to feel the full impact of what she’s dealing with here. (insert helpless shrug emoji here)

Pg 15:

“Ata’s head fell back against the wall.”   What wall?

Pg 16:

So E seems to interpret Ata’s description of Or as her childhood hero, which I’m assuming is more accurate than having something she’d done earn her hero status after she’d left Ne.  It might be helpful to make that a little clearer above.

“First… then send a ship.” This is not really helping my engagement with Ata and E.  But I don’t know enough about the characters to know what makes sense. I almost want to see Ata say “no, I need to go take care of getting G4 here” as a sign that yeah, seducing E was the most important thing to do that day, but this has shaken her priorities.  She’s just had this realization that is a BIG DEAL, where she knows she’s just about the only person who can walk Or through the world-shattering, life-changing knowledge she’s about to receive, but alright. Off to bed.   I don’t know enough about E or Ata to know what fits their characters, but this ending isn’t exactly earning them points in my mind. 

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While At's pov is satisfying, if definitely doesn't hit the same as it would if I had read the previous books. I do get a "recap" feeling on some things, but it didn't bother me at all. I think the biggest thing here is that this chap could really benefit from being shortened, especially when At and E are trying to contact S. I don't think they both need to keep trying cause it felt repetitive. Yeah, i think that's just the main thing for me: cut things down.

The most satisfying part to me was when At learned of G4 trying to contact her. I'm more interested in that because we've been struggling with G4 for a while. I do like reading about At's godlike duties tho, especially after the prologue, it makes her feel very important and powerful and it makes me curious to know what happened in the previous books.

few things:

pg 2

“She would not vomit” i like this character voice, but i think a bit more about why she would vomit would help. Is it because of nerves? Because the fruit is gross? If it's the fruit, why would that make her vomit?

pg 5

“E was a flare” I forgot what this is

“And what is on your robe” was this via telepathy?

 

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Agree with the others that this chapter is probably necessary, but not that engaging. Having read the previous books, it's nice to jump back into A's life, and the fungus are great as always. I also really liked A's reaction to O. which is what I wanted last chapter. E is...not as engaging as I wanted this chapter. She's mostly just trying to get A to come to bed, which, fine, but I think in the larger context of the plot seems superficial at this point.

There's a lot of rehash here, and I think even more for someone who's read the previous books. Maybe this could be cut down to a little fungus negotiation, one or lines from E about sex, and then A's reaction to the news? I feel like that last part is the only really relevant plot point.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "She tapped twice"
--nnoooooooo...

pg 2: "I can grow a fruit for you if you’d like?”
--oh ugh.

pg 4: "(she’d been on the stairs a lot today and brown was not the only color staining her robe)"
--Not sure what this means. She missed a bathroom break? She's bleeding?

pg 8: I'm wondering if all this explanation is needed to bring the reader in? I can't remember if there is an A/E chapter before this or if this is their first real introduction. If the latter, then it's probably necessary, but it seems like a lot of this is rehash of talking about Ard and Prit. They're trying to find the ship but we already know what happened to it.

pg 15: Good. This is the reaction I was looking for last chapter from A's POV. I feel like there's still a lot of the characters learning what the reader already knows in this chapter.

pg 16: "First, we’re going to go have sex."
--lol.

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As I go:

pg 1. I think the internality is too unclear/complex here, especially as a new reader. Much more straightforward to just let us know what At is doing and why she can't be interrupted right now

pg 2. I don't think we need quite as many interruptions from E. As is it makes her seem like she can't give At any space at all in an unhealthy way, especially since as a new reader this is my first time seeing her.

pg 5. Maybe it's because I'm still in lab at 9pm but my attention drifts halfway through the big paragraph in the middle. I'd say try to fit everything we immediately need to know in half the space and hold off on the rest

-Oh so is it more than just the one message from S she's ignoring? I'm a bit confused here

pg 6. How routine is it for planets to explode like this? And the fact that At's reaction is basically "sucks that it creates more work for me" makes me not like her here

pg 7. If this is really as serious and time-sensitive as E thinks it is, I'm not sure why she's so calm. And if it's not worth a panic like her tone is implying I'm not sure why she can't just let At eat (maybe me being hungry and stuck at work makes me agree with At here lol)

pg 9. Okay if telepathy is on the table then why isn't that the first resort rather than the last? I believe there's a reason but I need to see at least a hint of it here

pg 10. After "At smirked," is it E talking? I'm not sure

pg 12. Okay so O is calling. My engagement spiked here, which also made me realize I was kinda coasting before and wasn't the most engaged

pg 13. Pretty clear to me that At's extended wondering here is getting her nowhere. She should just contact O if possible

pg 15. Again a lot of speculating that isn't going to go anywhere. I want At to do something. She's a powerful person; she can get stuff done right?

Overall:

If I'm being perfectly blunt here, while the writing here is good as always I didn't get a great feeling for the emotion. The good news is I don't think it's a lost cause even for a new reader like me. I felt like I really understood the connection between O and At in the one flashback, but here I'm just... not quite feeling it. I think for me the lack of emotion coming across isn't a problem with the characters or the feelings themselves, but just that those feelings aren't really translated into action. If At really has strong emotions for O in any sense and she's a ruler of this plant, she should do something without needing prodding from E. And while I did believe that there wasn't really anything she could do for S at the moment, it makes the whole scene less engaging to me because it feels like nothing was accomplished or changed.

Basically, I think my lack of emotion here stems not (entirely) from being a new reader, but from the fact that At is acting passive here even when she's in a position of power. 

Also, while I'm sure you've found your niche with this and I am in no way the target audience, I felt like the flirting/sex talk was more of a distraction than anything else. I think I'd have liked it better if the chapter either pulled back on it so it didn't get in the way or honed in on it a bit more so it becomes a clearer centerpiece. Like one thing I felt like I was missing was the physicality of the attraction (both ways). The dialogue was telling me it should be there but I didn't really feel it (which is something that I have picked up on in stories before despite being ace). 

 

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Thank you all for the comments!

I've taken out over 1000 words, added in some more plot stuff (fungal pigment secretions are dissolving cellulose!), and tried to streamline. In the end I think this will end up being a chapter mostly for the older readers, so as long as it wasn't too boring, it should be okay. It does mean that I need the chapter after it to be a stronger installment, so moving on to those edits. 

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