The Prophet’s Daughter, by Kilayla Pilon (3:19)

IOD-ProphetsDaughterToday we see that stories without details are just empty word husks swirling in a box.

What I gleaned about the story: An undescribed, nonspecific person vaguely laments the arrival of some kind of apocalypse.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: Since publishing this review, the author has informed me that an entirely new edition has been edited and re-released. If anybody wants to check that out, you’ll find it here.

WTF #1: Platitude wisdom

Analysis: 1st person narratives often start with a wry observation. Something like: All things considered, Wednesdays are my least favorite day to die. An opening line like that can really establish the mood for the kind of droll and jaded protagonist who usually powers a 1st person story. So I understand the tone that was being attempted in today’s opening. The problem is, we’re not given a quirky and insightful observation. We’re given a series of platitudes. 

I had always believed that everything in life happened for a reason, even if they weren’t things that I wanted to happen. In life, you had to learn from an early age that not everything was going to go your way, and that everything had a consequence. Some of us had to learn sooner than others and some of us just never learned.

Part of the thing I enjoy in good writing is hearing the author’s particular take on the lessons of life, but this is not that, and I was left with a sense of listening to a high school valedictory address, in which someone young tries to say something profound, but ends up saying more about their youth and enthusiasm than anything actually original or interesting. I expect that from valedictorians. But from my fiction? I want more. And that fact that I was thinking about high school instead of the story world demonstrates that immersion was broken.

WTF #2: Informationless infodump

Analysis: From there, we moved straight into a history lesson, but since we haven’t been given any glimpse at all of the protagonist yet, I still have no reason to care about his/her world. And in an unusual spin on the traditional information dump that I have not seen before, in this one, almost no information at all is actually dumped in all that discourse.

After the initial impact of the disease, everything went straight to hell. For the first five years, everything was somewhat tolerable – people did what they could, tried to go back to the way they used to lead their lives, but it had become a struggle. Times were tough and it wasn’t long before resources began to run low and the government could do very little. They weren’t magicians, they couldn’t make the food grow when all the experienced farmers were dead, save for a few hundred. People did what they could to survive, even if it meant resorting to joining a gang or cult – most people tried hard to survive without taking those routes.

Writing a novel is not about inventing vague things that happened – it’s about inventing very specific things that happened. Without them, stories are just empty, lifeless word husks.

WTF #3: Most of the Canadian military had been wiped out, and they were the largest organization to fall first.

Analysis: Being Canadian myself, I’m always secretly thrilled to see a mention of my homeland, but I simply cannot parse what the point of this sentence was supposed to be. As proud as I am of my country, and despite all the respect I have for the people who serve it, saying that the Canadian military was wiped out is not much of a statement. If the intent was to show how powerful the disease was, that point could have been made much more clearly by choosing an actually powerful country as the exemplar. The US, China, or Russia, for example. Or France, or Germany, or India. On one web site I checked, even Turkey has a more powerful military than Canada, although that’s perhaps not widely known, so sticking to one of the first three might have made a more impactful statement.

Setting nationality aside though, what does it even mean for a country to be “the largest organization to fall first?” Something can be the largest to fall, or the first to fall, but if Canada was both the largest and first to fall, then it couldn’t really have been that much of an apocalypse. And when I have to struggle to unearth the author’s point, the story has stopped working, and immersion is broken.

Overall, with youthful platitudes substituted for authorial wisdom, info dumps that don’t even dump info, and confused statements demonstrating a lack of world experience, I’m left to conclude that the author is not yet ready to be selling fiction commercially.

The First Book of Ezekiel, by Colby R Rice (2:36)
The High King's Embalmer, by S. Copperstone (7:47)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.