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  1. See notes at the beginning of my chapter 2 review for a summary. Again, sorry for the backlog. Overall I liked the two scenes in this chapter. The scenes between A and D held some good information about their relationship and the scene in the cavern underground was interesting. The Good The action at the end of the chapter was very well described, I felt like I knew where everyone/everything was and I didn't get lost in the action. Issues / Confusions I didn't feel as much emotion as I would have hoped in the scene in the cavern. It felt like just another day on the job for these guys and, that can be just fine, if they feel like that, but with the attack in the middle I feel like either the characters need to feel scared / nervous or the descriptions from you as the author need to do a bit of overtime to suggest that the area isn't as safe as they assume it is. Something bad just happened, they were attacked by living fungus in an underground cavern, and I would like to have felt more of an emotional impact from the attack than I did. Nitpicks You've got me in a medical mindset so your comment about the fungus being red and blue like 'venous and arterial blood' distracted me more than it probably would have otherwise. Blood is actually never blue it goes from a dark almost black shade of red (venous) to a more vibrant red (arterial - image for reference) Other Thoughts I'm becoming a bit concerned about the number of viewpoints. I don't mind stories that have many viewpoint characters but it feels like it should be in relation to the length of the book, and that's not something I have a sense of here. If I were to pick up a 350,000 word epic fantasy novel, and read 6 viewpoints in the first 4 chapters I wouldn't think twice about it. If I picked up a 120,000 word thriller, I'd be really put off by having more than 1-2 viewpoints. Since I don't know how long you expect this book to be by the end, I don't feel like I can really judge whether the number of viewpoints is appropriate to the length or not, but I feel like, if you're going to have a character have a viewpoint scene (and especially if they're going to have more than one), then I'm going to expect to see at least some sort of character arc for them during the story. Currently that means I'm expecting at least 4-5 character arcs that I want to be invested in, if the book isn't going to be long enough to justify that many arcs I would suggest cutting / combining some of the viewpoints.
  2. See notes at the beginning of my chapter 2 review for a summary Overall This chapter was interesting overall and I mostly enjoyed it; but, the stuff about the Vagus nerve doesn't make sense from a medical perspective and so I wanted to correct that a bit. Just by way of background, I am a registered nurse and spent ten years at the bedside but left the clinical side of things about 6 years ago. Obviously I don't know you or your background, so maybe you have some updated medical research that I haven't seen (and I'd be fascinated to read up on it if you do), but based I did not find anything on a quick search of either google or some of the medical databases. Based on that, your description of stimulation of the Vagus nerve is not accurate so I've included some details below along with some decent references for you to review to make things more accurate from that perspective. The autonomic nervous system is the term to describe the involuntary actions of the system. It is divided into three parts; efferent, sympathetic and parasympathetic. We can ignore the efferent nervous system because it is not relevant to the discussion. What is important is that feelings of restlessness (can't sleep) and agitation are effects of the sympathetic nervous system, specifically the effect of the hypothalamus releasing ACTH into the blood stream which causes the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (colloquially known as adrenaline). Epinephrine, in addition to the feelings described above, causes an increase in heart rate and a constriction of blood vessels resulting in an increase in blood pressure. This is the flight, fight or freeze response that is often talked about, and it does not involve the Vagus nerve in any way. The Vagus nerve is the central proponent of the parasympathetic nervous system, it is the system that is often referred to as 'rest and digest', because it stimulates an increase in the release of gastric fluids, increased action of the digestive tract, a general slowing of the heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels (and a corresponding drop in BP), etc. Stimulating the vagal nerve will not cause someone to feel jittery, excited or anxious, it will trigger the urge to rest and may cause the person to pass out from a sudden drop in BP. It is important to note that stimulating the Vagus nerve DOES NOT cause the hypothalamus to release less ACTH or the adrenal glands to stop releasing epinephrine so, stimulating the Vagus nerve does not interrupt or inhibit the flight, fight or freeze response. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders has a great section on the basics of the Vagus nerve function as part of the autonomic nervous system before getting into information of how it can treat some disorders which wouldn't really be useful for this discussion. Understanding the Stress Response has a pretty good primer on the sympathetic nervous system and the interaction of the hypothalamus and adrenal glands which is probably what you were meaning to describe being triggered by the E-Vapors and Vagal implants. If you have any specific questions from about what you're trying to accomplish, feel free to reach out to me directly and I'd be happy to discuss a way to figure out something that will accomplish what you want to accomplish in your story that makes sense from a medical perspective. The Good I loved the commentary on how they're trying to adapt to a sense of time on the new planet. It shows how stuck in their ways the admins are, how frustrated the generational are with it and is pretty relatable. It's just the type of squabble to humanize the social structure. The action sequence was solid, and I love how the problems were caused by a conflict between the different groups. Issues / Confusions Other than the vagus nerve issue my only question was about the implication that those in suspended animation do not leave biomass. Patients in a coma atrophy most of their muscle mass very quickly and I would anticipate that would be likely to happen with any sort of long term suspended animation unless it completely shuts down the cellular metabolic processes, maybe this is a trope in hard sci-fi that deals with this type of thing, but I questioned this from a medical perspective. Nitpicks The phrase 'was a major foul' is a phrase that is really specific to modern sports (basketball specifically) since it doesn't seem like those sports have continued on the ship, it just felt a little out of place. The term 'grounder legs' felt awkward. I know what you meant but it just didn't land quite right to me.
  3. See notes at the beginning of my chapter 2 review for a summary Overall Overall, the deeper I get into the story, the less I'm feeling pulled out of the story by the writing and the more engaged I am in what's happening, because of that the nitpicks stand out more but there are less major issues / confusions. I consider that a good thing. The Good I really liked the section from Al's perspective here. It feels much more like I'm in his brain and the questions are coming from him, so I don't feel like I'm seeing your hand as an author in the story telling as much as I did in chapter 1. I really enjoyed that section. Issues / Confusions I felt like there wasn't enough conflict in the board room scene when they were discussing how to divvy up the planet. I understand that you're trying to show that J. is politically savvy and good at managing things and getting her way but it feels like it was too easy for her to get her way and too high level an overview of the conversation. I felt like I was reading an outline summary of what should happen more than being involved in the scene. Let the other admins speak out, contradict her etc. Let me see their personality in the way they act not just the way J. thinks about them. This could be a really interesting scene but just kind of fell flat. The aliens use a lot of human terms for things (sun, lightning, children) which breaks the immersion of it being in an alien mind. An example that is really common in fantasy literature is to call lightning sky-fire or something similar. I feel like the alien mind is supposed to be more primitive (maybe it's not but that's the impression I have of it) so using technical terms is strange. Also, children, that word implies nurturing caring and a two way relationship, so the alien life thinking about the space ships birthing children implies that the fungus lifeform has distinct separate offspring that they nurture and raise as opposed to seeds (plants), spores (fungi), or larva (insect based) which are all offspring but have different connotations of the type of offspring the lifeform expects. Nitpicks 'Suitable chuck of rock' - typo 'they all live to see' - typo 'It was assumed that this was a method to pick' that's a very wordy phrase "In all it's anxiety" - the surface of the planet has anxiety? 'happening in our lifetime' - awkward, possibly unneeded You had a paragraph start 'which includes' with a lowercase w.
  4. Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to these, work got crazy for a month there, but that just means you get reviews on chapters 2-5 today. I'm going to stay away from commenting on issues I had with previous chapters and just talk about new issues, questions, and of course things I enjoyed. Overall Overall I feel like the writing is a bit inconsistent. Part of this is made more clear by reading 4 submissions today, but there are scenes that I feel are really strong and I'm really engaged with the characters and the story while others feel more like a slog. In general, the more technical aspects of the story tend to weigh me down, while the character focused sections feel like they have a nice pacing to them and move the story along well. The Good I really liked that you started giving me a conversion for megaseconds, it helped my reality trapped brain understand the larger time frames. I'm also definitely interested in the conflicts that you're setting up between the different groups in the story and even the characters in the various groups. I loved Jw's section even though it was so short, you really pulled me into her mind and the way she was thinking and I love that she has a clear goal of what she wants in the new world. As a reader, I hope she's able to build a new life for herself, as a writer, I hope you make it super painful and difficult for her before she does. Issues / Confusions With the megaseconds conversion, you have several all from Ag.'s perspective. The first time she makes a big deal out of it, which is fine, but after that I feel like as a writer, you could probably let her annoyance slide a bit because it slowed down the important information. What is a lagrange point? Never heard that term before and couldn't really deduce what it was supposed to mean from context. Maybe it's a sci-fi thing. Why does Ag. refer to her spouse as her spouse in her own head? I get doing it the first time to help us connect exactly what her relationship to D. is but it got a bit distracting. Sus-ani, I think that means suspended animation but I wasn't quite sure and you never defined it for me specifically to make it clear. Maybe a genre convention that you don't need but being new to the genre it tripped me up. In the last scene where they're talking with H., the characters refer to that character as both 'she' and singular 'they'. Keeping the pronouns consistent will be helpful to your readers. Nitpicks The phrase 'pile of new data' felt awkward "Supposed to be react" - there's a typo in there somewhere Other Thoughts I'm curious why generationals do things younger than their earth counterparts. Looking at the history of civilization, the longer people live and the more secure their lifestyle is, the older people tend to be when they hit major milestones in their lives. The concept that, on this ship, people are starting relationships, starting jobs and getting married younger implies that they don't live as long or that life is more unstable than it is in current society.
  5. Overall There were some rough parts to the beginning but enough pieces of interest to keep me reading for another chapter or two. I understand why you started with Al's point of view because that's when they arrive in the system but I didn't really find anything engaging until they woke up J. and there was the momentum to imply that something is about to change in the world/character's lives, so I'll be interested to see where things go from here but it feels like we haven't really gotten into the heart of the story and conflict yet. I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of hard science fiction; so I'm not going to be very familiar or comfortable with the trappings of the genre; but, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts. The Good Al. is afraid of being 'stuck on a planet' while living on a ship on a mission to find a place for people to live that is not on the ship. That remains true even after he describes how awful it is travelling between the stars. That's fascinating and the first thing in the story that really caught my attention. How do other people on the ship feel? Al. talks about not being able to reach things over head if they land on a planet and it made me wonder if they've been living in low/zero gravity this whole time (made clear later that they are) and if so how that would have effected their biology and I love that you've already started trying to answer that question with J.'s observation of how the people have changed. The alien mind from the planet is really interesting. It's definitely not human and I get a good sense of that from you. The only thing that is a bit weird is that it feels more robotic than organic, but I know it's hard putting us in a non-human mind and I think you've done a solid job. Unlike C_Vallion, I actually really like J. Probably because she at least shows personality (she's grumpy when she gets up in the morning), she's personable (recognizes and remembers a friend that in world is long dead - even though it's only been a day or two for her), and she uses terms that I can relate to (years). Plus there's the emotional shock that she's been asleep for 400 years (or at least alive for that long). She seems to want to colonize a new planet and I want to see her going down there and figuring things out. Issues / Confusions (in order) Mega Seconds Why use such an unwieldy measurements, numbers that large representing something so small are mostly meaningless to most people. Could you just use sleep cycles and/or some sort of equivalent for years At another point you use hours to measure something, so again why mega seconds to refer to a period of years? So the last star was 300 mega seconds ago, that means the next star is 8x further than the previous one. So he was what? About 10 on the previous star, now early 20s? Or are we saying 15, 25 (he'd be 105 at the next star). I don't really care about how old he is (beyond a general vague is he middle aged, a young adult, a teen or a child) I'm just trying to get a feel for time here because the mega second thing makes me want to calculate everything out (I literally kept a separate window open on my computer to calculate out these times because every time I saw mega seconds because it confused me and I had to figure out how long that actually was) I made at least six notes about how annoyed I was with mega seconds. Maybe this is common to your genre but when I look at the way people behave, we always try to reduce data to understandable numbers. (We split time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia and even millions of years and use the time frame most applicable to the length of time being discussed). Inconsistency with the names for the planets Al. decides to change all the other names back except Lida. That's a great shorthand for us as readers that Lida is important and we can discount the rest. But then a few minutes later he changes it anyway because he doesn't like the thought of settling down. That seems inconsistent, if he's that opposed to settling down why did he even consider keeping the name and if he's interested enough in the planet to keep the name at first having him change his mind a minute later just makes him seem very arbitrary and flighty. That sense is exacerbated because, up to this point, his only reason for renaming the others is 'protocol' he even reported Xnk. for changing the names in the first place. Does he care about protocol or not? Not remembering the Vagal's name How many people are on this ship? In the fleet? How many people does the processor interact with? Is his failure to remember the soldier's name because he's a jerk, because he's bad with names in general, or just because they don't spend much time together. If this was an office job, does he see her often enough that he should know her name or is she one of the hundreds of faceless workers at a large company that you know by sight but don't bother to learn their name because you only see them once or twice a week in passing and don't ever really interact with them. I hope she's not important because right now the sense I get from being in Al.'s head is that she isn't and so I can just forget about her, she's a world building detail not a person I should care about as a reader, but that tells me more about Al. than about her or the Vagals. What does Al. want? We can clearly see that he doesn't want to settle on a planet (love it as mentioned above) but what DOES he want? It seems like the only thing he wants is to continue with his life as it's been to this point. Not knowing what he wants is something that's already a question in the back of my mind and if I don't learn that soon, I'm going to be annoyed as a reader. Al.'s Age How old is he? How long do people live? 2500 mega seconds to the next star. That's just shy of 80 years. Is he only 20? If so how recent was their previous star that he is able to remembers it. How fast are they travelling when they go between stars? The average distance between stars is around 5 light years. So is this 80 years longer than normal? Is he already at least 80 years old? This is answered later when we learn it's only been 10ish years since the last star, but it still confused me. Al.'s Life How many planets has he visited? In the second scene from his point of view I finally understood that this was his second planet but several of the paragraphs in the first section (especially the one about people being punished after waking one of the administrators up) makes it seem like he had visited several of the planets before this one which made his age even more confusing. In the section where he talks about the people having petitioned to stay at a previous planet it sounded like Al. was part of that petition; especially because of the section talking about how he would still be on cleaning duty if the punishment had been a longer period of time. Generation can either mean an actual generation or a period of time (and frequently means a period of time in genre fiction) so I read it as an approximation for 20-30 years of punishment, again making me think he was older and had been visiting multiple worlds. It doesn't help that Al. feels like he's in his 30s but that math doesn't make sense (child at their last world) Al Being Plot Savvy When they decide to wake a ship commander up, Al is convinced that means they're going to settle on this planet. The last time that happened the commander took one look at the planet and decided to move on but somehow, this time, Al knows they're going to land. Wouldn't he just assume (or at least hope) that the ship commander would decide the same thing so he could stop worrying about his nightmare come true? If there's a reason it's definitely going to be different this time, I need to be more grounded in what Al. knows to make him so certain which will help me understand his emotions. Nitpicks (in order again) From a technical background, I'm hesitant to see an abbreviation without a definition of what it means (I still don't know what UGS means) Why is it 'one of many stars'? Is there a reason it couldn't be the most recent star or the newest star or just a star? '10 times before' - why this specific here. It seems using an approximation would let us move on and then we can get into the specifics later when we discuss why the number of planets they have visited is significant. This early on I don't even know the character so I don't know why I should care about the specific number of times this has happened before How can space be a 'resource rich atmosphere' If the HUD displayed information about where the planets were then shouldn't he be able to point to exactly where they were? What's the HUD showing if not the planet's location. Do they really refer to each ship by UGS Name even amongst themselves? I would expect people to have come up with shorthand / nicknames (or just use Name) Lilly could be considered "cutesy" but would the processor really think that? He seems to be very practical and him thinking 'cutesy' feels weird. What is a processor anyway? Maybe you'll answer this later but it's a question that's still hanging in my brain. If that's you're intent and you'll explain it later, great; if not, just know that I'm still wondering. Why is he just now noting to report Xnk's violation? Wouldn't he have done that when he was first told the name? He's formal enough to refer to Xnk by her full name but not formal enough to use a title when thinking about her to himself? Or is Ag. a title? "gifting him with" is awkward (talking about his parents giving him presents) Are the Vagals and the administrators the same thing? There are times when it seems like they are and times when they feel clearly separate. Which is it? Was he supposed to meet Maria? Is it a problem that he didn't? Why does it matter that he just missed her? Or does it? Typo: "father down the length" How can you owe someone RR time. Do you have to give yours to them? Is Alvin a superior to Noce and doesn't want to give him extra time off? Maybe this makes sense to people who have been in the military or are familiar with that culture, but it was confusing to me. 'Some sort of Asian and African descent' is a bit awkward 'Infuriating person was...' not sure what this sentence is supposed to mean. 'clumsily' can you show us this through action instead? Note this is the first adverb I've noticed in the entire text, which is great. 'animal-like things': scientifically that would be fauna (ie flora and fuana = plants and animals) everything else is very grounded in scientific terminology so this feels a bit weird. How do the Vagal's / processors tag something as sentient. Seems weird to assume sentience without actually attempting communication. If you're going to stick with this assumption, maybe give us a reason on how they make that determination. Other Thoughts The dramatis is something that I've personally never found useful. Maybe it's genre specific but every time I see it in a book I just skip over it. If the writer can't help me understand who the characters are in the actual story, I'm definitely not going to remember character names from a list. Similar with the conversion sheet at the end of that section, maybe this is genre specific but, as a reader it annoys me that you're making me learn a new form of calculation and measurements and using them in a precise way instead of just using the approximations you've already listed. I can accept that maybe the ship wouldn't be using months any more but surely they have some way to measure age that's not as unwieldy as calculating out the exact number of seconds they've been alive. If you're going to make me learn a new system of measuring time, giving me in world examples of how the times relate so I can approximate things myself would be useful. The term 'vagal' for the soldiers. From a medical background, that term is used specifically to refer to the Vagus nerve which has the effect of slowing the heart rate and dropping the blood pressure. That feels weird for a soldier unless they fight in a way that lowers the blood pressure of their enemy inducing unconsciousness. That could be an interesting way of fighting but there's no indication there's any reason at all for the name which makes me wonder why that specific term was used.
  6. If writing stories was as hard as writing a personal introduction, I'm not sure anything would ever get published. I am a software developer by day, and a family man at night, and lately I've been trying to fill in the cracks in between with some writing. I started writing in elementary school (if not earlier) but have always had problems getting out of the first act of a story. I'd get an idea, get excited, write the first few chapters, lose my momentum, start revising and editing and never get any further. I mostly stopped writing about ten years ago after getting married and trying to at least pretend to be an adult, despite my wife continually begging for me to write down the stories I tell her. About a year ago, YouTube randomly suggested one of Brandon Sanderson's college lectures to me, which was weird because I hadn't even thought about writing anything for at least four or five years. Out of curiosity, I decided to watch it. Then I watched every other lecture I could find (and reading his books, I hadn't heard about him as an author before that YouTube suggestion). With his ideas on plotting and planning out stories I've finally been able to start finishing some of my old projects and my wife has convinced me to try geting some (less biased) feedback on my writing. As far as favorite authors / books; outside of Sanderson (Words of Radiance and The Final Empire are my favorites of his), I love Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo remains my favorite book of all time) and Tolkien. I enjoy Jordan and Rowling. I love adventure stories like Shogun (Clavell), Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy), Arsene Lupin (Leblanc), and Dealing with Dragons (Wrede). I am always looking for more lighthearted treasure hunt mysteries (ie the Goonies) and feel like that style of story is sadly under-represented in fantasy as a genre. When it comes to writing, most of my stories are YA or 'new adult' and I'm a fan of Sanderson's theory that in fantasy you can write any type of story you want plus you get to have dragons and everyone loves dragons (or magic or whatever your brand of fantasy is). The stories I've been working on include a story about two people shipwrecked on a mysterious island that find themselves transforming into wild beasts every night when the sun goes down and have to uncover the truth behind the curse on the island, a noir detective story set in a non-earth Victorian era world where anyone who indulges too much in certain behaviors / emotions (based on the seven deadly sins) transforms into a literal monster, and a story set in a near modern non-earth world (around the time of the first personal computers) where the main hero tries to use new technology to solve a hundred year old mystery and find a lost treasure, which happens to involve discovering that magic really exists in said world. I'm excited to start reading and critiquing some of the work here and hope to have a short story to submit sometime in the next month or so.
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