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Valthyr - 2017.05.01 - Innogen (L,V, G)


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Starting a new story!
I apologize for the text cutting off so suddenly, but I was editing last minute today, and I realized that what followed fit in so badly I had to remove it (also explains why it's less than the 5k word mark). 
This has seen no revisions and almost no editing, so I hope the dialogue tags and grammar doesn't make your eyes bleed too much. 
Looking for info on whether you're confused by things and for any major "breakages" in the text that make you not want to read it. 


Edited by Valthyr
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I like the start of this story--a cool colonist/research/scifi setting.
That said, my biggest problem is that there is a lot of passive voice and "hads" in the text. There's also little to no reaction from Laux to the many very stressful things that happen in this chapter, especially near the end where we see that many people are hurt.

Notes while reading:
pg 3: "they’d already lost two ships", "Lightning struck the ships repeatedly"
--there's no reaction from Laux, and that combined with the passive voice makes this read very dry for a scene about ships exploding. You finally get to his reactions at the end of the page, after all the description, and it feels like an afterthought.

pg 5: "With herculean effort"
--I'd like to see what this takes. How did the pilots save the ship? All this is still very passive and detatched from what should be a harrowing landing.

pg 5: "He decided he didn’t have the energy to be worried..."
--I'm not sure that's his choice...

pg 6: “There! Help her!” 
--suddenly, we're a lot more in Laux's POV. This is good, but jarring
compared to the first half.

pg 7: "Tell him you’ve got a punctured artery and severe blood loss, and get synthetic banks for transfusion.”
--Is Laux a doctor? 

pg 8: "a deep voice that came crackling over comms. “I see you’ve made it as well, Nate.”
--Is the voice talking to Laux? Why is it over a speaker? Are they wearing environment suits?

pg 8: "his sleek helmet visor"
--ah, I guess so.

pg 8: “What do you think - whose was it?”
--they seem awfully jolly for losing part of their crew and nearly crashing.

pg 10: "but he gathered enough to know that they weren’t at all pleased about the start of the expedition"
--I would think that was fairly obvious. A few sentences later, Laux is surprised by the number of people hurt, but still has no real reaction. Did he know they? Does he have any feelings about injured and dead crewmates?


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Hey, good to see you back on here. Some comments for your consideration :) 

  • prime heir to House Laux” – as the name of the house, should be capitalised.

  • The kilometric” – Not sure what this means. As in size? Bit unclear.

  • alight with esoteric energy” – Bit confused. So, we don’t know what kind of energy powers the ship? Is this the word you meant? Then you describe light sails, so we do know. These seems contradictory.

  • What had identified Innogen as the fleet’s first and most important target, however, were two things” – grammar. Compare ‘Two things had identified Inn…’

  • a human-made satellite

  • Unknown biological growths, like translucent veins inlaid in the dark masses of trees had started glowing with a bright blue light” – Unsure of the POV – doesn’t seem that mysterious when it’s explained like this.

  • They launched the very same evening,” – Same evening as what?

  • It was almost unnaturally violent

  • forever lost to the shrill of the wind” – Shrill what of the wind, sound? Also, I'm confused. Is the ship open now? Otherwise, they would not be able to hear the wind, surely, over the engines.

  • The old bastard was right. This is how I die” – There is some very effective description of the mechanics of what’s happening, but I'm not really invested in it, because I feel nothing for the character. I don’t know him, or anyone else on the shuttle, so if they all get pounded to a pulp, I haven’t lost any investment. Similarly, I have little or no emotional investment in their mission to the planet. This line is really the first personal note four pages in. I must say, as a character-centred reader, it’s the first thing to catch my interest and make me ask a question about who the old bastard is.

  • the bright red canvas of the pilots’ chutes? deployed” - ?

  • But Something across the compartment” – Don’t know what that’s there for.

  • the small crowd gathering behind him” – Don’t buy this. You’ve set up that there are other injured people on the shuttle and others are helping them; why would everyone stop to watch this guy with one more injured person?

  • They wrapped her in a blanked blanket

  • When he saw the surgeon pull the shrapnel out and seal the artery” – You’ve kind of lost me here too. I’m prepared to accept that advanced technology could make an injury like this more treatable and survivable, but I'm not seeing anything fancy in the way of med tech being applied. I’m no medic, but I was really surprised they moved her with that injury, then the doc just pulls out the metal?!! I just not convinced by this. There’s no need for it to be her femoral artery. A quirk search led me to this > http://www.espn.com/nfl/news/story?id=3130182

  • Another point – fridging, maybe not by strict definition, but the first female character you have is there with the purpose of being weak so that the hero can swoop in and save her life. It could be said that, broadly, there’s an equal chance that this character could have been male – but they weren’t. For me, this facet of the scene is not immediately objectionable, but it’s a warning sign for me to watch out for how female characters are treated in / served by the story.

  • I’d hoped it was your ship that got hit on the way in” – I like a bit of gallows humour, but I don’t see any humour in this character, so this came over creepy to me.

  • square, moustache-adorned face” – mentioned one of these before, need the hyphen to make this a compound adjective instead of noun+verb.

  • but it’s not the ship missing” – don’t get this line.

  • You really should thank them” – so far, I'm not engaged with L as a character. His thoughts are of glory and self-preservation. The scene with him saving the woman’s life, for me, was not only unconvincing, but felt contrived to show him as capable and ‘caring’. The narrative described other people rushing to help the injured, but L didn’t do that. He only responded when he heard the woman moaning, i.e. his first thought was not to go help the injured, at least that is how it seemed to me.

  • I can’t find anyone on personal comms right now” – sort of see what you mean, but Var did speak to him on comms. This sounds a bit like he can’t talk to anyone on comms – which he can.

  • wide semi-circle and their floodlights revealed heavy machinery being rolled out into the mud” – While, I'm not doing all that well with the character(s), I do find your description effective. I get a good sense of setting and the chaos and upheaval of the landing.

  • amazed at the amount number of people

  • he would’ve looked almost glorious if he hadn’t been as wide as he was tall” – Hmm, so a fat guy can’t look glorious? Napoleon? Again, we get a reinforcement of how important glory is to L, which is not the most noble motivation for a character, especially a scientific one – although maybe he’s going to get his world view changed.

  • through authority of position rather than appearance” – meh, some body image issues arising. So, only buff guys are impressive commanders?

  • He made a mental note to ask someone about it” – what kind of scientist is he? Not a chemist or a geologist apparently, or he would have more cogent thoughts about the mud and would not have to ask someone else.

  • I’d rather fleet command didn’t take my head over that” – why would they, is L also a security officer? Surely, as a scientist, he’s not responsible for the doctor’s security and wellbeing.

  • used as a pedestal for his bulk” – it’s still a pedestal, regardless of the doctor’s bulk. Seems like an unnecessary bulk comment.

In summary, I get a good sense of the conditions, the description is effective, including that of the landing and the chaotic situation on the ground. That’s all good. I’m not convinced about L as a character. I don’t really like him or identify with him, so far, and I'm not really interested in his perspective, which comes over as macho and not very scientific. What I mean is he lacks the natural curiosity I would expect from any scientist in landing on a world that is new to them. Take the mud for example, there’s inquiry in the way he thinks about it. Oh, that’s weird, need to ask someone else. I’m an engineer, but I feel I have a natural curiosity about things that will lead me to looking up, poking around, testing things (e.g. literally poking with a stick or my toe) to see how they move and behave.

Interested to read more and see how this pans out some more.


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Thank you Mandamon! I'm writing this off my phone as I'm on my way back to my place to read the other submissions.
I see you have identified a problem I kind of felt would be there - the passive voice. More Laux it is!
The helmet reference was there earlier in the story where he "banged his helmet hard in the bulkhead" so yes, they are wearing mimetic suits of synthetic muscle and helmets. 
Laux is supposed to feel detached for now, but reading your comments I can see I overdid it quite a bit. And no, he mostly doesn't care about the injured and the dead, though he knows it is his duty to save them if he can. The universe this is set it is sort of Warhammer-ish in that regard, and the contract at the beginning is what everyone else has also signed (standart contract of service - makes them know they forfeit their lives basically). Hence his rather jolly reaction to the downed ships.
I am looking for ideas on how to make that come across better - acceptable losses are a thing in this universe, and though people care, the officers are more or less used to it, as more experienced members of the fleet.

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12 minutes ago, Valthyr said:

acceptable losses are a thing in this universe, and though people care, the officers are more or less used to it

I'd try just coming right out and have L think that very thing. With something as cold as that, I think you could just come out and 'tell' it.

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50 minutes ago, Robinski said:

I would expect from any scientist in landing on a world that is new to them. Take the mud for example, there’s inquiry in the way he thinks about it. Oh, that’s weird, need to ask someone else. I’m an engineer, but I feel I have a natural curiosity about things that will lead me to looking up, poking around, testing things (e.g. literally poking with a stick or my toe) to see how they move and behave.

Exactly. This is what I felt was missing. A good scientist POV is Prax in the 3rd expanse book. it's still heavy SciFi, so same sort of story, but we get in his head and his feelings even when he's calculating and analyzing situations.


35 minutes ago, Robinski said:

I'd try just coming right out and have L think that very thing. With something as cold as that, I think you could just come out and 'tell' it.

Agree as well. If that's a basic fact of life in this universe, I'd let the reader know.

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- I like the opening epigraph . . . does a good job building some ominous foreshadow.

- There's not too much character in the first couple pages, and that's a bit worrisome since the opening promises a heavy character arch in the beginning.

- The dialogue feels a little maid-and-butler-ish in spots. Plus I'd like to get to know more of the character of Laux, and it feels absent at this point.

- Interesting start. The dialogue is a little rough, and I feel the description outweighs the character, but I am curious where this all goes and what this "corruption" entails. 

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Most of the things i wanted to say were said already, but I have a little bit to add. Its mostly technicalities, mostly regarding the planet Innogen. While this might be nitpicking, the points are probably worth considering.

1. General geography of Innogen: Is the whole planet covered in a forest? No oceans, no deserts, no polar icecaps? Nothing in the text contradicts the existence of those; however - if we see this all from a scientist's point of view - a general notion about the planet would be good. At this point we know nothing about Innogen except "strong storms and shining forests", to put it bluntly. We don't even know if Innotel has (or is) a moon.

2. The storm: is the storm covering the whole planet? While not neccessarily impossible, such events might have a strong impact on the ecology (-> Roshar). If the storm is not global, then there might be a reason why the expedition did a partly suicidal dive straight into the area of worst possible landing conditions on a whole planet. Did they land in the center of the glowing forests? Or on a lone island? Next to the highest mountain range? Exactly at the south pole?

3. Time: We see a notice: 20:33 Innotel time. It stays unclear what "Innotel time" means - 20:33 regarding what point on the planet? (Atmosphere entry point? Intended landing point? Actual landing point? - it also suggests that we have a 24-hour planet here (which, cosmically speaking, is not likely). Or are the hoiurs shorter/longer than on earth? Certainly worth explainig somewhere (not neccessary in the first chapter).
Also, IMO, a cosmic fleet should keep its records on a more objective basis than local time. Just imagine how complicated the records of the fleet will become if a part of the fleet reaches this other planet where the days mioght be longer or shorter.

4. Gravity: Just a short question - is the gravity the same as on earth or wherever the fleet came from? Laux makes no notion on this point when landing so I assume it does not diverge strongly enough to be noticeable. However, even a slightly different gravity might have an impact (including problems with landing, balancing, throwing stones etc).

Edited by Alfa
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