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[9/8/14] - Jagabond - The Death of Complex Systems (L, V)


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This was...interesting.  It was engaging, and the story as a whole was good, but the writing was very disjointed, to the point that I had trouble following it at times.  

I got the overall gist of it, but the description of the world, the academies, and the Exulted was so brief I didn't really get anything from it.  Why was there an old world and a new, and what was the difference?  Is it still on earth?  In space?  A new place of existence (i.e. the Archangel)?  It made me think it was all just a plot device to set up the twist at the end, which it was, in a way...

You say multiple times that Lily is not bright, but I don't really get that from her actions.  She's probably the most insightful one there.  I would have liked a little more characterization of the Archangel to say why he was so highly revered, and whether he was human or not.


Notes as I read:


I had to read the first sentence about 5 times to figure out what it meant.  I was thinking "Graffiti" was a person at first, and that really threw me off.


pg 3: "In the following weeks, the students show Lily that Angel’s support comes in the form of supply crates, left just far enough from the campus that the Exulted don’t bother."

--I was confused by this.  I don't have a good enough sense of the campus and the surroundings.  Why not just drop supplies into the compound.  Isn't it guarded?


pg 5: "I was looking into the Library of Alexandria for,” she says."

Missing word, or was this intentional?  Either way, it's jarring.


pg 9: “I don’t miss,” Nate says, without pride. “Otto recognized her voice when we hacked their comms, this time.” He leans forward, grips the metal sides of her bed. “I really hope you’re about to tell me you’ve betrayed the Archangel.”

-I had to read this a couple times to realize Nate was saying the Director betrayed them, not Lily.


pg 9: "We can’t scan any Old World tech like."

-another missing word?


Overall, good story and twist, but that's all on the surface.  I want something more underneath to resonate with me why the world is like it is.  It also needs to be cleaned up for clarity somewhat.

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Yeah there are a few typos, I wanted to get the story in early but I just could not see the words anymore, I'd been staring at them for so long Terribly sloppy of me, apologies for that!


My biggest concern is that it's too dense, so clarity issues fall into that. It's very much a first draft; I'm glad you guys can eviscerate it for me. I'm also not entirely comfortable with present tense; do you think that hurt the story or made certain lines too confusing?

Edited by jagabond
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At the start of the fifth page, I decided that you will not be telling us why she is happy and why that is bad, if the Angel(s) is something we like of hate (considering they both obey one and fight many), and anything we want to know about the world or how it became. There is also the glaring chance that you are stalling with no actual "meaningful", "story-making", "lifechanging" events, as when I look back, it sort of feels like you did that the whole time. That means one thing:


Your story is now held not by curiosity about any of those, and not even by suspense or anything. The only thing holding this together is the fact that you write nicely. Frankly, this is not enough to keep many of your readers glued. Even more frankly, I have considered closing it twice during the fifth page, and the thing that keeps me here is my belief in you, as I know you are good at this. I know you can write an interesting story because I read other things you wrote. This is not something a reader unfamiliar with you will think. Be mindful of that.


(somewhat later on, the story becomes compelling again, but I have no idea where)




The bright night sky paradox, of course, is misunderstood and distorted heavily. I hope that is intentional on your part, of course. Personally, when I read misquoted bits of knowledge, I tend to attribute them to the autor being wrong, instead of the character - and you do not want that to happen to readers. Might be just me doing that, though.


Remind me, is she not supposed to be dumb? I see no evidence for it except for the narrator saying so. And for some reason, her using the word "irradiated" seemed to negate that claim, to me. I do know that you need to either drop it or make her feel less bright, as the more I think, the more I question your all-knowing god of a narrator, which leads me to thinking about why he has not spoken of anything that I was interested to know. Am I giving the narrator too much or a personality? Most probably. But my point stands.


For some reason, I have a problem with the term "dorm building". That reason is the fact that this word, to anyone who does not live in the US (or maybe just to Israelis?), connotates basically only to half-naked sloth college guys being stupid in an american way, wasting the time drinking beers instead of studying. And this is because the word is used almost only in these men-are-idiots college comedy films, so that is what I think of. Really not what you were aiming for, I believe. But I am probably not your ordinary crowd either, so feel free to ignore this.


The distinction between Angels and Exulted is unclear. Also, I just realized you are very much like "Neon Genesis Evangelien", again. Last time, it was "sync ratio" that reminded me, this time it is the Angels (Exulted?), which are the same as the Neon Genesis ones. Or, somewhat similar in concept. If you do not know the series, you might like to look into it, just to understand what you seem to be alluding to.


Is Distraction Disorder actually a thing?


Please do not tell me that Nate is a romantic interest after not seeing anything of him except his denial of her. You had no alternative, no way to put him in more and making it interesting, but it still feels wrong. Maybe, just maybe, they should not be interests. She should not have feelings for him, I believe.


Her being dragged in the middle of the night made me think of the fantastic shorts author I must have alluded to before, Etger Keret. In one of his stories, a woman is telling how she wishes she would, just once, be the one dragged out of bed like a dog and shot, while her man stayed to cry, and only be raped once, because they feel kind today. On another note, what are the Exulted said to do?


I think I figured it out: Angel is Archangel, their god/protector-person/something along these lines. The Angels at the beginning are either statues of him or statues of Old World Angels. The Exulted are bad people or entities. I thought of entities because I thought that they were Angels. And antagonist angels, again, are Neon Genesis. Maybe my mind snapped there because it is somewhat familiar.


Wait This post has been reported for attempting to skirt the rules? She wants the Exulted to win?


Okay, this is one wierd story. Interesting, but wierd. Cameron is...? And, well... Yeah, as I said - weird but interesting.


Also, these seem to be professional soldiers, who recruited on their own. Not kid soldiers, recruited of necessity. There is a difference in how they are viewed by their own country, and I can explain it to you. Of course, you would not know that, as you live in the US (right?), and not a country such as Israel, if there are any other than Israel that are this way.


Oh, by the way, I started attributing some of the syntaxial mannerisms of the story to Lily, so congrats! You are percieved by me to be part female now!


I still do not get the happiness and the smiles...





Took you quite some time to bring a hook into this, man. Maybe you should put in smaller hooks leading up to the place where it gets interesting, to lose less people. Maybe you should not. It is up to you.


And yes, I know I neglected the first four pages. I just did not feel that I had much to say, other than the lack of hooks.

Edited by Tal Spektor
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Now that's a lot of critique! Thank you. I will try to address what I can. I appreciate you reading all the way through for the sake of the critique, when you would have put it down otherwise.


Olbers' paradox is thrown in as something she's only read about, which was actually supposed to make her seem less bright, but I was iffy with it. I don't have a perfunctory knowledge of it myself, so I wanted to convey that she had a mostly-ignorant view of something 'Old World', through incomplete knowledge (or, if the reader prefers, from not being bright). Whether or not she is is up to the reader. I think she's brighter than she allows herself to believe, at least.


I'm really glad you pointed out the connotations of 'dorm building' and also the student soldiers, because there's a very intentional commentary there. I picked a few American sounding names to give a sort of underhanded statement that Americans would have no idea how to deal with terrorism so close to their beloved higher education environment. It's not strictly "America" because it's post-apocalyptic, but Nate Parker and Lily Walker seemed like really American college kid names.


As for romantic involvement? No, that was not my intent. They gain a companionship, but I did not try to convey him as a romantic interest, just a colleague that becomes some source of information, maybe sanity for Lily. 


I actually haven't watched the Neon Genesis show or movies, so that's interesting that you point that out. I'm only vaguely aware of it but I gather there might be some similar symbols to this story. I may look into that.


As for smiles, the exulted paint the smiles on the Academy walls, and they wear masks with smiles on them, and Exulted means to be joyful, so I mention that Cameron and the Archangel are smiling, before it's revealed that the Exulted are also Angels. I'll play around with that to see if I can make it clearer.


I'm mostly curious that you didn't pick up any life-changing events. Short stories are supposed to be about the most important event in a character's life, and I tried to hit that with Lily. You and Mandamon have commented that the story is too much style and surface, not enough substance, so I'll keep that in mind for the rewrite.


As a joking side-note: Distraction Disorder has been canonized from the Old World's Attention Deficit, a term deemed too complicated for people with the disorder to remember. :P


Thanks again for your comments, man!

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Writing as I read - haven't read past comments so if I'm redundant I apologize.


Page 1 - Is it just me or did we head hop from Lily into Cameron? Good if it's in omniscient, bad if not...I'll keep reading. Like the setting so far....Toto, I don't think we're at Hogwart's anymore (mixed metaphor, I know). Either way...Seige-based dystopia...cool.


Page 2 - Use of present tense is starting to bother me - but that's a personal thing. What's not a personal thing is that you stay in present tense when describing whats on the list and to "by the time Lily arrives"...when you're describing the past in a present tense story, past tense might make it cleaner. 


Page 3 - Like the description of romances. Chilling. 

"Which is, of course, the whole problem. "...Hmmm, now you have me thinking.


Really getting curious about these implants.


"This is how she dies: learning the capital asset pricing model " - now I'm really interested - what the h*ll is going on here. 


"“Also, the Exulted are riding velociraptors.”  - Umm, velociraptors aren't that big. I mean I'm sure these are genetically-engineered freakoraptors, but the dino-nerd in me isn't buying it. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velociraptor#mediaviewer/File:Vraptor-scale.png


Page 4 - Feel like this is getting too preachy and obvious - show don't tell. That and I feel like their arguments and thoughts are too formulaic and simplistic. It's straight up preservation of knowledge vs. immediate survival - feel like there needs to be more to it than that.


Now the implant...THAT I'm interested in! More of that, please! 


"Lily even knows a few from those nights hunger drives her from the Archives" - had to read this three times before I figured out what it said. perils of present tense. I think the nights are in the past, so we need "those nights when hunger drove".



Page 5 - So has she had contact with people or not. We have a "something resembling contact" on the last page and a "shared her bed" on this one. So is she participating in the "tomorrow we die" orgy or not?


Otto is weird - but you knew that already...


"Looking into the Library of Alexndria for". For what? Or is she just looking into it. Might be a typo but not sure. 


Page 6 - Otto is actually extremely endearing, but trying to figure out what he and his plant add. 


Because you mention the people of New Seran you might note that we are not actually back in New Seran for this new scene. Thought I was for some reason. Anyway, "People back home" might work better. 


Like Nate's bit about avoiding questions. 


Really getting to like Lily's sarcastic, rapid-fire inner monologue - wish that was more present earlier. 


Page 8 - Ooooooh, Intrigue!


Read this page very fast - which means it's good!


Page 9 - Aaaand suddenly I remember that Cameron exists. Might mention her a few times after the first page or two because I had forgotten her.  


Feel like the revelation that it's all a game comes too quick.


Wait, why did she want to fail? Didn't catch this from her earlier - either I missed the foreshadowing or it wasn't there. Got that she was tired but not that she wanted to fail. 


Page 10 - Okay so the plant is definitely a big deal then.. this is a really cool climax, but maybe the beginning should emphsize that lack of plants in this world so that I see this earlier. 


"She wonders if there’s a roster at New Seran, if the Archangel will strike their names. " - LOVE THIS!


Electric migraines? Ouch!



Page 11 -  Like the ending. The Archangel's disappearance feels abrupt. Left wondering what exactly the Archangel wanted or who he is - and what the heck is going on back in New Searan



OVERALL. Good piece, very engaging. Feel like a few things could have been foreshadowed better, and the ending doesn't give me quite enough closure - but on the whole I really like it. 

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As far as I understand Olber's paradox, it is not a paradox, but a faulty set of assumptions, and an extensive one at that. Let me try and explain.


It says that if:

1. the universe is infinite, AND

2. stars are infinite in amount as well, AND

3. stars are scattered completely evenly in every and all directions, THEN

there is a star in every direction we can point


and if:

A. there is a star in any direction you can point, AND

B. their light is not blocked or screened in any way, AND

C. the universe is not expanding too fast for it to reach us, AND

D. they are not too far and too young to be seen, AND

E. their light is in a frequency that can be seen by the naked eye when it reaches earth, THEN

the night sky should be well-lit.


However, we have seven assumptions here, and each and every one of them is very possibly wrong. Therefore, this line of reasoning does not apply to the real world.



Distraction Disorder is a cool joke. Totally untrue, but nice.


I was not that bored with the story - there was just a long takeoff until the fifth page and some part after that. When you actually did take off, it was a rather interesting flight you took me on. But I did feel that it took you time.


I do not know... it just feels like same-old staying alive future, for most of the story. Perhaps I did not understand how deeply Angel is ingrained or something, but I don't know, nothing was really that new to me.

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True enough, it might be a too obscure/delicate paradox to throw into a story as a worldbuilding element.


With Distraction Disorder, I meant in-story. I left out the line explaining what it is because I didn't want to pause for a laugh.


But that's okay, man. It just didn't grab you or stand out. It's definitely a chimera of all the post-apocalypse I inhale so I can't say it's all that new to me either :P


@CommandanteLemming: Thanks for all the praise! I think you're right in that the big reveal and the plant (and Cameron...) need some more foreshadowing, and I'm glad you liked Otto. He was a weird character to put together, although I think blind characters garner sympathy a tad more quickly. 


And you're right about the velociraptors. Another joke I thought I'd extricated.. Not happy about Nate and Lily's whole first scene, dialogue feels a bit stale

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  • 2 weeks later...

As usual, I find your writing assured and challenging. Your style certainly pulls me through the story. There were a couple of places where I felt that the dialogue was hard to attribute. I feel that you are good at showing and not telling, but I'm not sure that I always get what I'm supposed to, as if maybe it is a little oblique in certain aspects, so I feel the need to recount what I’ve taken from the story to see how close I got.


So, Archangel sent Lily to retrieve this old data, because there are no actual comms links to Academy 5. I questioned that initial premise at first, always tending to think in current terms, why can’t Cameron waltz in with an external hard drive or two and just down load it all? But I kind of shut those questions out and accepted the premise.


I presume the Exulted are former students from other academies, since those of Academy 5 are either still there or dead.


From the ending, it seems that Archangel has set up the defenders of Academy 5 so that he can learn about the nature of resistance, and ensure that it does occur in his society. But he has manufactured that situation, it comes from a false viewpoint, so I'm not sure how that profits him really. I suppose that he can see how they resist and learn from that.


The trigger for the turn/change is the flower, and yet do they not have plants elsewhere, since they have bread? Or is that manufactured from synthetic wheat? There’s a reference to irradiation, so I presume that they are in some post-war nuclear wasteland, explaining the significance of the flower as an image to imply that humans could return to the wasteland sometime soon, and I presume out of the clutches of Archangel’s society, perhaps.


I enjoyed reading the story, the style and the imagery, but I'm not sure I bought the premise about the data and the outturn entirely. Sometimes that isn’t necessary to enjoy a story however, which is what I felt here, but for me there was nothing broken, perhaps just some tweaks with the show-and-tell of the premise and the catalyst for the solution.

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Robinski: Thanks man, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I know I often abandon clarity for the sake of flair and as a result some of the clear writing gets lost in the shuffle. You always go pretty deep into the critique, which is great.


You're right to challenge the reason for Lily acquiring the data, because as you said, it was all about the social experiment of them defending themselves time and again. You've got it all down, I think. Seems like you've got a solid grasp on the story events. But that's actually a good question about the food they eat and the existence of the flower, I'll see if I can make that more significant.


So I'll definitely take another look at the believability of the premise and the showing/telling balance. One of these days I'll get it :P

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