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  1. Over all: Another good improvement, but it's still lacking a more human element. I think you could also lean into the horror aspects a bit more for more spooky fun. As I go: Nice bit of foreshadowing on the top quote I'm getting more flashes of Man treating the people under him as things and devices instead of people. I was sort of under the impression previously that he had some compassion? If it's not intentional, I definitely think he needs more reactions. He seems like he treats the ruining of his shoes with the same emotional energy and intent as he treats the death of a person. I like the more decisive action-oriented end note, as well. The reordering of the chapters has broken up the meta-similarities I was picking up on the first time, so I'm not feeling as unhappy to be in M's POV as I was last time. I am thinking more about the differences in the two POVs than the similarities by the end and that's better, I think.
  2. Generally agree with others. A really good improvement on the prior version, lots more mystery and clearer action, but needs more emotion As I go: I'm feeling like I might need a reminder of why a 3-house magic user would be so powerful/bad, My first reaction to the mention of the 3 house problem was again "but if two is so good, why isn't 3 great, why are we all so scared of 3-house" even though I know better. :T I really like the sense of mystery I'm getting from the beginning. I feel like it wasn't as spooky last time. Man reacting to the slugs eating the 2-house mages feels to me more like he's unhappy he's lost a resource without using it it up first, than he is upset about a human life ending.
  3. A nice resolution chapter. I'm still a little hazy on how everything's all connected to anything else physically. I'm decently clear on the non-N parts of the plot at this point. How N interacts with the "all special circumstances all the time" de facto coup plot I'm still a bit unclear about. Mostly, as in, how does his removal from the game board (for the moment) actually change the coup plot? TOM still has his hand in his political puppet, who still has the mother of all good PR wag-the-dog scenarios to get himself reelected, anyone who could shed any light on this manufactured loss of life is either dead, or under so many indictments any credibility they ever had is shot. The physical evidence is blasted down to bedrock. We have great resolution for the personal parts, the why Q is still here, why he, E, R, T and the rest were roped into this, but I'm feeling like I'm lacking a connection or resolution to the political parts.
  4. Pretty much what others have said. I don't mind a bit scenery-chewing in a villain, especially one as demonstrably melodramatic and diva-ish as N, but it is feeling a little bit much to me right now, especially in the middle. I also agree that D's quick and ignominious end did not land quite right for me. "Oh, well of course. Have to keep the cast small," was my main thought as it happened. The only other thing was, like the last section, I had trouble placing everything in space -- architectural elements, people. I remember the individual parts, and I know all the people, but how they fit together is still a little jumbled for me. As I go: I'm pretty sure it's "stock-still" not stalk. "her stand taught" -- stance? taut? “Convent rat” -- this sort of diminishes the moment coming from Q, I feel. I could see M saying it about herself, though. I appreciate that M has held onto that device for the entire road trip Every time I see "N/monster" written in the text, I get Avenue Q flashbacks. Nothing bad about that. it's just a me thing. I appreciate the Ozymandias reference.
  5. Sorry I'm late getting to this! I forum when I have downtime at work; I'm not at work, so is it possible for me to visit the forum? Anyway, this is a really great question and the responses have been really great too. Here's my bit, hope it helps! Dealing with critique is a tough issue for everyone! It's a learned skill, and not one that gets taught or explained through normal, traditional channels (just like giving critique, for that matter). Just because someone has been giving crits for a while doesn't make them either good at it, or good at being on the receiving end of criticism, either! I'm definitely still working on both myself. There are a lot of online resources and advice for this issue, but most resources seem to boil down to a couple basic points, namely: Don't take it personally Don't talk back Don't reply immediately Say thank you And those are very good, fundamental things to keep in mind! They can be incredibly difficult to put into practice, though. Don't take it personally 1. For this, it's important to remember that critiquers are talking about the work, not the author, even when the critiquers phrase what they're saying terribly. Reading and reacting to a work critically is a skill, phrasing things diplomatically so as not to hurt others is a skill, articulating one's reactions coherently is a skill, and most importantly, combining all of these things together in a way that makes sense to someone else is a skill. Not everyone critiquing a work is an expert in all four of these skills. We all of us tend to think we're better at these skills than we are in reality, and we all have off days when we just don't have the mental bandwidth to spend on making our raw opinions nice (or even realizing low-bandwidth days are not the days to post, lol). The critiquer probably did not mean to disparage your beloved pet and intimate you couldn't write your way out of a wet paper bag. Probably. Some people do have agendas. If they stick to their guns after a polite request for clarification, those crits can go in the round file. Nobody in a crit group's signed up to be someone else's punching bag. An author does not owe a critiquer their pain. 2. Critiques are like [certain body parts], everyone has them, they all stink. Critiques are opinions of individuals. Opinions don't have a fixed value. You can't go to the store and compare prices on opinions. You can't trade standardized opinions on any market. They are worth exactly as much as you want to pay for them, in emotions or stress or whatever else. This is a good place to remember the limitations of your critiquers and critique groups. Everyone has their favorite genres, their comfort zones, and their subjects on which they are deeply read. This group has a fairly narrow range of genres, narrator types, voices, etc. that it is comfortable with. When critiques come in that feel out of left field or unduly hurtful to the author, it might just be a comfort/format mismatch. It might not be, either. Sometimes a work that's "in the zone" for a group can engender just an overwhelming amount of feedback, too. 3. This is a good time to remember that individual data points can look stupid and weird, but an aggregate of data can show a valuable trend or conclusion. I tend to take the critiques I get here, find the 2 or 3 major themes of each person's crit, distill each of those down into one short 4- or 5-word sentence and then mentally count up how many people say things that can fit under each theme sentence. Three is my randomly-decided take-notice number. Less than three crits talk about a theme, I might not worry about so much. More than three, I'll tend to give that one more weight. Distilling crits down into my own words and abstracting them into something extremely basic and general takes some of the sting out of the individual responses. This is what some of the others have said, too. Putting things in your own words can help you process what's being said. Don't talk back/don't reply immediately 1. Almost everyone's initial, gut reaction to hearing something that can boil down to "ur doin it rong" is defensive. Anger, avoidance, defensiveness, depression, aggression, those are all natural, valid reactions critique! Those are real feelings, and important feelings. Replying when you're feeling those things the strongest is also a natural response. It's the one you need to sit on, though. Doing just about anything from the heat of anger is not a good idea, and interpreting critique is no different. It's better to wait until the hurt has healed a little, and then look with an eye to use what is said. This is also a learned skill that not everyone has a lot of experience with. It's also one we all tend to think we're better at than we really are. If you think you're clarifying and it turns out you're speaking from anger, hurt, defensiveness, etc, well, that's a thing that happens, too. Nobody's perfect with this. Apologies are important in these cases. 2. So what can you do with these initial reactions? Keep them out of the crit forum, obviously, but nobody said you have to keep them to yourself. Non-crit-member friends are GREAT for crit-related ranting. Talk to non-crit friends, vent your spleen, write snarky comments like @shatteredsmooth said, be as wrathful in private, away from anywhere it could come up to a critiquer, as you need to be. It's certainly what I do. Humans in general benefit from talking about their feelings to people, being as social an animal as they are. Once the worst of it's out of your system, come back to the forum. Exercise, violent video games, cleaning, meditation, there're a ton of things people use to dissipate stress, and critiques are legitimately stressful. Get that stress reaction out of the way before you even come back to collate your crits, much less rewrite based on them. You don't have to do it all at once, either. Repeat stress reduction options as often as needed! 3. Others have replied with how they collect crits and then put them away for later. This gives the initial emotions a chance to dissipate. The urge to fix it and come back is strong, but unless you're on a strict deadline, there's no real reason to do it quickly. This forum has a culture of authors reacting to their critiques, and reacting very quickly, but it's neither necessary nor required. A lot of in-person groups and many other online ones don't allow authors to talk at all, and some only allow one or two clarifying questions. We're pretty unusual here in that regard. Saying "thank you" 1. That leads to the last part, saying thank you. Evern the crappiest critiquer is still a human, and still spent possibly a lot of time on that crappy, awful critique. Even the crappiest critiquer is still a human who needs an attaboy to feel worthwhile, too. Thank them for their time and effort, even if you can't thank them for the substance of their critique (don't tell them that's what you're thanking them for, just say thanks. Telling them "thank you, you're useless" is A-1, top-tier jerk behavior). They read your stuff (even if they so completely missed the point you wonder how they managed to survive elementary school reading classes. They still read it). They didn't have to. Nobody here is required to read your stuff, or read it and give a crit. That's worth at least a little gratitude. Giving thanks is social lube to keep things going smoothly and to keep everyone feeling like they matter. People who feel like they matter are more likely to learn how to do better critiques. I personally think that's where this forum's culture of detailed author responses to critique evolved from. Authors are under no obligation to provide feedback or extra praise to the critiquer, however, even if that's the culture here, and there can be a decent amount of pressure to do that. A thank you conveys that you see the crit, and you appreciate it. That's all that're really required. Sometimes, in other groups, that's all an author is allowed to do. Applying crits to a rewrite and making yourself do a rewrite at all There are just as many online guides for applying crit in rewrites, but I've not found as much I can synthesize into some general recommendations. So I'll talk about how I talk myself up to redoing things. 1. Time. You don't have to start a rewrite immediately. You don't have to start a rewrite in a "reasonable" amount of time. I've gone years between rewrites because I just wasn't ready to face it. I'm not under contract, I don't owe that rewrite to anyone: I can take my time to mentally prepare myself for what is a legitimately difficult procedure, especially for a beginner. Forum regulars here have a fast turnover. That's them, and their work process. Everyone is different. I'm no less of a writer or less worthy for working slowly. 2. Spite. I have a really rather horrible and traumatic "traditional" art/art crtique background. I am well-placed to be an artist in the electricity-free zombie apocalypse or time traveling back to the Enlightenment; I am not well-trained in not overreacting to critique. So, I use spite in my rewrites: "Oh, you think this? Well, I'll give you THAT, I'll give you so much of that you'll see how wrong you are! You'll rue the day you said that crit to me!" This is not usually a good rewrite, but by doing it, I accept that I have these emotions, get them out of my system in a hopefully productive manner, and get myself into the mindset of changing the thing I wrote. Then by combining pieces of the spite-write back with the original, I can end up with something that's hopefully better than either of the things I started with. (Nobody sees the spite-write. it's not good. lol) 3. Nondestructive edits. I tell myself that I can save the original. I can always go back to it. Save it off in its own file. That one's mine, the version of my heart. I can make a copy so easily in this modern digital age, there's nothing preventing me from trying some of these suggested edits. It's not the real version, just a copy. I can always go back later if I don't like it. I can always go back. 4. The error message only generates where the code fails; the problem might be in a completely different function. AKA the opinions are wrong, but the sentiment has merit. So, if I don't like the critique I've gotten, after I've gotten the spite and the complaining out of me, I will go back and try to backwards engineer where the failure happened. I try to think of it almost like a computer programming issue. The result was this crit I don't like. So, what went awry prior to the point the critter mentioned to cause that error? What can I change, that's not the thing the critter wants changed (spite again, lol), but that nonetheless fixes the critter's underlying issues? I'll try that, usually in a completely different file from both the spite-write and the original-of-my-heart, then try a combo of all 3 versions. 5. I'm the author. Me. In the end, the author is the only one who can say what is and is not working in a piece. Sometimes, a rewrite just involves deciding not to use the critiques you've gotten so far. Only you can decide. Deciding the crit is wrong because the change is hard is not the way, however. This, like everything else, is a balancing act. Here are some of the articles and pieces I used writing this: Mary-Robinette Kowal's amazing infographic on parsing critiques: https://twitter.com/maryrobinette/status/1124108884858347520 (seriously, if you don't look at any of the others, look at this one) How to Take a Critique. This one I think is linked of the sff Critters website, and is specifically geared towards the beginning writer: http://www.zanzjan.net/writing/take-critique.html How to take criticism from lifehacker. Yes, it's lifehacker, but it is pretty well-written, and down-to-earth: https://lifehacker.com/how-can-i-learn-to-take-criticism-without-taking-it-per-5915488 A pared-down bullet list from this writing website: https://www.thewritersloft.org/critique Zen Habits' How to Accept Criticism with Grace is a little too "optimism at all costs" for me personally, but still has some good insights: https://zenhabits.net/how-to-accept-criticism-with-grace-and-appreciation/ This one's a little business-speak-ish, but still useful: https://www.themuse.com/advice/7-tips-thatll-help-you-stop-taking-criticism-so-personally-and-make-it-easier-to-move-on I think this is talking about design and/or marketing, but it's also a good one: https://scottberkun.com/essays/35-how-to-give-and-receive-criticism/ This one is from a general art perspective (and writing is art): https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/how-to-deal-with-a-bad-critique-as-an-artist And a couple about tackling a rewrite: From writer's cookbook (I especially like the part about mourning the old version): https://www.writerscookbook.com/how-to-rewrite-your-novel/ How to rewrite from Justine Larbalestier. A little old, but still good: https://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2008/01/02/how-to-rewrite/
  6. I've been thinking about this and I can see a couple things. One, would be to go back into the second book and this one and reduce the "other tensions exist around Ari" references. File it under second facet wanting to put a good face on things and the POV characters being too overwhelmed with new things and immediate crises to see what's going on in the margins. Come back in with a bonus story or novella or something to show that the utopia has shadows, too, when it can be dealt with as a focus. Two would be to roll back the detail about the fence and its "voluntariness" itself. I know that goes counter to mine and everyone's exhortations to "more description always forever," but I feel like if it wasn't there, or was purely ornamental and not given any focus, I wouldn't be getting as strong of a signal. Move the sliders around and focus way more on the house details and other sensory details like smell, color, and memory rather than the city layout and spatial setup. It wouldn't make me terribly happy, but it would probably keep most other people from noticing overmuch. Three would be to lampshade the "hey this looks like a ghetto I thought you said they liked you here" directly. It would be a pause in the story to handle it, and probably not great, but it would be out there so it no longer looks like its being ignored. S probably got Exclusion Acts in school, albeit briefly, or could make other connections. I could also see E and In being hyperaware of perceived inequities and suspicious about believing how good things are in the second facet after their treatment and persecution in the first facet. Four would be remove the "voluntary" again and set up an explanation of the civil war like you told me. Again, a tangent, but I feel like a group having a violent identity crisis yet still maintaining enough outward awareness to protect others from their fighting is enough of a departure from irl "reality" to be an interesting bit of backstory. It could even be dispositive on the character of the "good" Ari. Maybe this is a dinnertime discussion? Five would be to just let everybody be nice. Racial tension is no more "necessary" to the "reality" of a multispecies setting than rape is "necessary" to the "reality" of a medieval one. Or, something completely different. but that's what I thought up last night in the shower.
  7. Other than the one more meta problem I had with this chapter, it was really good.Much more consistency of feeling from In, more logic about the crown, and the combining houses scene was really engaging! As I go: I am still fairly uncomfortable with the idea of a "voluntary" ghetto, fantasy or not. Does this also imply fantasy redlining or "voluntary" defenses to extreme fantasy racism and fantasy Exclusion Acts, since most of these sorts of areas -- especially with fences around them -- don't happen naturally? That said, this is better incorporated than the first version. I am also confused by Accretion. Did this get renamed in a rewrite or did I just miss it? And then the gate itself seems more like a fantasy expensive gated community, which would to me impute a fairly high degree of fantasy racism and fantasy xenophobia to the Ari which seems odd given the way they're persecuted and enslaved throughout the other books. Which would put it back at Exclusion Acts and redlining and internment camps and I'm just really uncomfortable with the whole idea and especially the way everyone is so okay with it. Maybe it's just a call-out to the Wizard of Oz movie, but I find it hard to simply take the "ethnic quarter of a large city with a pop-referential gate" at face value given the rest of the way the Ari are treated in the prior books and lore. There are more sensory details and they are better incorporated into the narrative, that's good. None of them make me feel any less upset about this fantasy ghetto/internment camp/gated community.... I like these hints about the crown a LOT. They're setting a good foundation. The crown in general is much better integrated into the story. In is sounding more himself this time around, too, I think. He is feeling different from S now. I'm catching some pronoun errors around Mat. I think my problems with this Ari settlement is the promises it seems to be setting up to me. For two books we've had much about how hated, feared, disenfranchised, enslaved, murdered, discriminated against the Ari are in the first facet. Then there's this second facet that seems to me to be set up to be the opposite: ruled by an Ari, Ari incorporated into society, no murder, no discrimination, no marginalization, no-no-no they're peaceful really. But then there're hints that all's not daisies and kumbaya around the edges of the second facet, in both this book and the previous one. I feel like it keeps getting hinted, implied, that there's more going on, and this fenced-in "voluntary" ghetto is a really big hint. I have this set up of two facets with multiple cast members making comparisons between the two; I have these hints that no, you really can't beat fantasy racism not even with an Ari ruler; I have two books' worth of Ari treatment; I have two A-team, primary members of an ensemble cast who are Ari and who are getting a ton of focus this book; and this all sets up expectations. I expect these issues to be addressed. But that isn't happening, hasn't happened. We're just sailing along like it's a non-issue, just ignorable background flavor. I feel like I'd be cranky even if the issue not being addressed was more innocuous than the effects of fantasy racism in two different incarnations, with the sort of long set up I feel like I've been seeing. Ethnic sections of a city like this aren't a natural part of city formation, they're a response to outside stressors. If the intent is to deal with these outside stressors, then I think I'd appreciate more of an indication it's going to happen; but if that's not the intent, then I think that some of these details need to be rolled back or altered so that they become less prominent. I like the ending. The descriptions of the magic were good. As always, i wouldn't say no to more emotion, but I was much happier with this end than I was with the previous chapters. I get much more of a feeling of anxiety but determination from S and his decision to stay this time around, and I'm less frustrated by them deciding to stay. Other than the systemic/meta thing this is a really good update!
  8. I am pretty much in the same place as @Mandamon and @kais -- this is a big improvement, but I'm still lacking good reasons to care about these characters. This is a much more dynamic start, for sure. I am more invested the characters at the beginning. However, a protracted fight scene is not the easiest way to convey character personality and I end up losing interest in the fight as it progresses. As kais and Mandamon have said said, I need to know why these characters are fighting in order to care about the fight for very long. Action is interesting, but action without knowing who is fighting and why (what they hope to gain, what they want to prevent, why they have come to blows), is fighting that becomes boring quickly. Think about for example, the Princess Bride's fight scenes versus a Michael Bay Transformers action sequence. When we care about the characters and know what they're fighting for, we are far more invested in the outcome. The Princess Bride leads with characters' personality and motivations, and the early action sequences are short, without a lot of extraneous details, and often punctuated with dialogue that reveals motivations and personality without having to state things directly. Transformers' action sequences happen frequently right from the beginning, go on for a very long time, and it's unclear what any one of the participants gets out of the fight other than vague ideas about "good guys fight bad guys." The fights could be between just about any robot in Transformers, but it's really difficult to think of a fight from the Princess Bride done by anyone other than the characters involved in it. I am also getting a bit snowed over by the sudden influx of names and terms with nothing for me to latch onto about them. Names and terms are important, but throwing out too many at once without explanations and reasons for the reader or protagonists to care about them (that "why" and "who's affected" again), I feel like can weigh down the story and make it difficult for me to get immersed in what's going on. If an explanation is going to be coming later, that's fine, but then that one term or name to-be-explained-later I feel like needs to be the only one asking me to wait at that particular time. Otherwise, at a certain point, my brain just has too many bookmarks waiting on later explanations and it just lags out. And then i'm getting up suddenly to do the laundry or feed the cat and I'm not quite sure why I stopped reading. (And the cat does not need that many treats.) The information about M's family and the destruction of her home town is great! I'd love to have the information about the magic bounty hunters be told to me through that lens. How does seeing one of these people at her test make M feel? What did it feel like when they swept through her town too late to save her parents? Does she blame them for her parent's death? What would that make her do? Does she want to impress this one and that makes her reckless? Is she going to be distracted watching this guy instead of her fight? Is she shaking because of the memories and physical sensations seeing one of these guys brings up? I want to know about M: the fight is almost secondary, a vehicle through which I can learn about M and K. If the start is with a fight scene, I think this one would be much better. It's more important to the characters, and therefore, I care about it much more, plus I feel like it has more of a chance to tell me things about these characters -- their relationships, their values, their personality. It's also a fight with a clear purpose, even if I"m still not clear on what exactly that purpose entails. After I know who these people are, after I've figured out why I want to read more about them, then I'd be more willing to follow them through a normal school day (because magic schools are my jam and I am interested in this one). This is still a big improvement. Keep it up!
  9. Hello and welcome! Since I see you're planning on subbing a rewrite though here shortly, I won't belabor the points already covered here. I, too, had issues with both the technical (grammar, spelling, tense) and the plot-related (starting point, lack of relevancy for the prologue, extraneous information obscuring action and character) aspects of this story. Finding a good starting point is very important for a story, and sometimes difficult to pinpoint for anyone. There are a lot of good ideas here. I enjoyed the protagonist, M, and the magic school seems interesting. Even the prologue character, A, was interesting, and I think that if that story becomes important to the plot, it should be put into the text closer to where it is needed. Otherwise, I feel like A's prologue would make a great appendix or bonus material. It's important for the author to have thought about much more of the world than is ever put on the page for the reader, and everything that's been flagged as "info dumps" is still good information to have and refer back to as the story is written. Finding the balance between what is needed to flesh out the world and what is good-for-the-author-but-not-important-for-the reader-to-know is a skill that takes time to learn -- and that's why critique groups exist, because it's sometimes a second set of eyes gets to point faster than working alone would. I look forward to seeing this piece again!
  10. Not a whole lot to say here. A good, tense chapter, and I stumbled at the same places @shatteredsmooth and @Mandamon did for the most part. I did recall the the general setup of the habitats/viewing areas from way back when, but I think a quick recap from Q's POV would help refresh my memory a bunch more, since I got confused when everyone was moving around in it. And I did cringe a bit at that last line. I think it would have just as much impact for me if the chapter ended just at "Hello Father."
  11. My schedule just got virus-ed, too. At least I get union-mandated overtime?
  12. Over all, I really liked this chapter, right up until the end. As I go: This has much more personality from E and I'm really enjoying it. Her thoughts make more sense and her outburst seems more logical. I think, if anything, you could lean in to the descriptions more than what is already here. They're good, and they're E-flavored so I like them. I'd love them to be even more E-flavored, for sure! I feel like descriptions can be a whole lot more than just a necessary unpleasant chore to trudge through in a work; what a character chooses to notice and how they describe something can show more and portray things more believably about their personality and values than a bland bald statement of the same ideas in dialogue and thoughts. I think this goes back a little bit to what I was talking about on the last sub, where S felt calm and detached because the descriptions in his POV section were feeling detached to me. In this part, I am getting a sense of E and how overwhelmed she feels in this new situation from the way she is describing the things around her, and I would love to be able to see more things about her mental state and personality in more descriptions throughout the piece. A shallow surface read can miss some of these bits, but that's no reason to scrimp on description or ignore the opportunity to highlight differences between POVs, especially in a book with as many of them as this has. I'm oddly unhappy with S in this section. Like, I almost wish he would go away. I think... maybe because the bits with E are so good, and then S comes in with what's feeling to me like a very trite sort of "Oh woe it's all my fault" hero-grief, like he's trying to make E's chapter all about him instead of actually caring about her... and I just feel like, no son. E gets to have a chapter in which she's not thinking of you or talking about you or praising you or coddling you. E gets to have a time when she's not explicitly noticing how awesome you, S, have become. A girl can have a little bit of narrative focus, as a treat. But of course, E's problems don't matter in the end. It's all about S being so strong and E realizing it. I was so there for this section and having the end be all about S just really soured it for me. Heck, In praises E in the context of S, even. Not for her own sake, but for her ability and conviction to protect S from the voices. I like the line, but the sentiment behind it makes me grouchy. Does E have to be constantly contextualized?
  13. I think I agree with @Mandamon. This story feels like it's being pulled in two directions for me. One way is a character-driven narrow-focus vignette about two characters dealing with a fire and how their high- and low-class backgrounds affect how they view it, as shown through their interactions with each other; and the other is a high-concept intellectual piece in a more Enlightenment/parable-style about how immortality robs you of your humanity and thinking for yourself is better than stagnant peace. For the character-driven part, I'm expecting a payoff from the setup that will affect the characters as individuals, and I feel like the story misses the mark there. The resolution doesn't feel individualized; as Mandamon says, they could be any two people from their social strata having these conversations, so I'm left wondering why I was following these two in particular and feeling a bit disappointed by the end. For the parable part, I'd expect there to be more talk about the ideas involved and less focus on the framework around it, less worldbuilding, even. If the ideas are the point, then I feel like I want to really understand them both, and as a parable, have one come out as superior to the other. Whether I agree with which side of the argument "wins" is immaterial, I just believe that in a framework such as this one side does end up winning (or, more difficult, both sides are shown to be equal and the "winning" idea is a statement about the choosing of one or the other, but I don't really think a statement on choice is what's going on here). Here, the ideas seem to be weighed down by the character-driven parts and so only show through in bits and pieces, and no resolution for the ideas ever happens, so I'm also left feeling disappointed by the end on this front as well. I don't feel like the two parts are working together with each other in this piece. It's entirely possible to blend character-driven plot with high-concept parable-like discussion of ideas, possible, if difficult. Octavia Butler and Carol Ermshwiller are two fantasty/sci-fi authors who I feel like manage this hybridization well. Their works also have very well-defined stances on the philosophical ideas they're engaging with that permeate the entire work and come to a definitive conclusion within the text. Mary Gentle's and Eve Forward's works also do this, but with a heavier leaning into the character side than the other two (the ending of Gentle's Ancient Light notwithstanding lol). Gentle's and Forward's ideas tend to be less complex and their statements a little less prominently developed, in order to accommodate more robust characters. I think there is a very interesting world here and some interesting discussions on the idea of stagnant peace and individual creativity, but right now the parts are working against each other instead of with each other. As I go: The POV character, P, seems to be thinking about everything except the things that he's worried about, and recalling what feels like encyclopedia articles on everyday things that he then discusses in depth. I'm a little confused as to his purpose here.
  14. Over all, I think this is better, but is still missing the mark a bit for me in terms of really nailing that tension and hitting the ground running. It's not full fall-off-the-starting-block, but it's not the powerhouse start that I feel like this needs to set the tone for what comes next. I think it's hanging together better than last time, but I'm having a very hard time remembering what the previous version was like at all. (So at the very least, this one is more memorable!) As I go: I don't know, something is niggling at me about that opening line. It's strong for sure, but it also feels a little bit off to me somehow too. Maybe it is the big block of description breaking up the ideas -- I definitely appreciate the inclusion of species descriptions right off the mark, but the way they're presented is I think maybe a little too ... detached? Neutral? for the urgency that's going on right just then? Or maybe it's something else entirely. At least I feel like it's gotten past he basic sorts of "this right here is not landing right in this precise way" and moved on to the more advanced kind of "this general area feels kind of squoogy maybe?" and that's definitely progress. I still want to shout "FINALLY" and pump my fists at "his gf/his bf" but I'm also a little wondering when this shift happened? Was it offscreen or am I just blanking on it? I feel like S recognizing and admitting that to himself (finally) would be super satisfying to read and I don't remember it at all, but wow has my memory gotten bad so maybe it's me. "how much xy remembered" -- In is the xy? I'm having pronoun-antecedent confusion here. "it is not the symbol" -- Should I feel personally attacked, or just lampshaded? But I do appreciate dealing with this. I hope this means In gets to do some more angsting around putting it on later! I'm with @kais re S. He's feeling flat to me. I don't know that he needs to be more anxious, but I feel like I need more feeling -- or, like, investment maybe? Intensity? Color? Voice? Presence in the moment? Argh. -- in general from him as the POV character. Right now, I feel like I'd almost prefer this scene from E or In's perspective, since they're clearly more... kind of... there I guess, for lack of any better description, and E would be closer to a new reader's perspective, it being her first time in the court and all. Maybe not prefer, but like I'd get more out of it? Like, there seems to me to be a very calm and detached feeling to a lot of the descriptions and non-thought-non-speech text and since the POVs in work are all really tightly bound to the characters, that makes me feel like S is calm and detached, too, despite what he says about himself in thoughts. I end up not entirely sold on the urgency or the trouble with choice to stay or to go, not understanding why the problem with the portal is such a big deal (but it's supposed to be, yes?), and sort of not really caring about the slugs or the timestream and whatnot. I like the way the emperor is handled this time around. I appreciate all the little lead up actions to her collapse. They make it flow together much better.
  15. Over all, I thought this was a very good chapter. It's really nice to finally be getting some action and payoff and I'm excited to read more! I did get confused with some of the blocking around the action scenes, and everyone's position relative to each other. As I go: I agree with @kais , that's not a great word to use and a more appropriate one can probably be found. Stiff? Bilk? Skip/run out on? Leave in the lurch? Leave high and dry? Leave holding the bag/baby? I have forgotten what the acronym TF means. I hope it's just WRS, but if it hasn't come up in text recently, it might be worth it spell it out again as a reminder It was a little confusing, but I really liked how tense M's crawl was. Very good! I figured D would be using the phonetic alphabet for shouting the gate code, since I thought they were a decent distance apart? Or are they close enough it doesn't matter. I'm a bit hazy on everyone's relative positions in general though "This try-fail stuff" -- lol! "Faster, Dinosaur!" -- So many in jokes lol "pogrom" -- Going all out with the jokes, apparently, "Send two raptors" -- Aren't they programmed to not attack humans? Are the troops not human? How would the dinos know? I guess I'm confused why the dinos would stop or distract the troops longer than it would take to shoot the animals from a distance and move on. Is this doing anything other than needlessly killing a couple dinos? It doesn't seem to me like it would even slow down the sorts of troops being deployed here, especially if they know the dinos are programmed not to attack people (or have a copy of the direction app. I think it'd be just giving them more weapons at that point).
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