The Star Thief, by Jamie Grey (7:44)

IOD-StarThiefToday we see that when the protagonist’s problems solve themselves, the story becomes pointless.

What I gleaned about the story: Just one more heist and then I’m retiring for good. But with sci-fi nouns, so it’s completely different.

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Note: Pet peeve. “Too big of a thing” is a sloppy language construction. “Too much of a thing” is correct, or “Too big a thing,” but not “Too big of a thing.”

Note: Capitalizing “Dumpster” is technically correct, because it’s a brand name, but using it that way in casual narration is very distracting. Most people use the word in its more generic sense, as a common noun, but by capitalizing it, the effect is to make the protagonist seem hyper-aware of which actual brand of trash bin she is hiding behind. Even if she is, calling specific attention to it is a distraction from the point of the story.

WTF #1: Logic problem

Analysis: The protagonist has just entered a highly secure building after several days of stakeout. Then we get: There was a beep as her cranial implant downloaded the building schematics from the net…

So after going to all that painstaking sneakery, she just blithely downloads the schematics? I don’t know which part irritates me more—that the manager of the purportedly high-security building didn’t think to monitor the net for people looking up his schematics, or that the ultra-tricksy burglar woman didn’t even consider the possibility that he might have done. With one move, the author seems to have discredited both parties.

WTF #2: Declarative sentence parade

Analysis: As is common with action scenes, there is a strong preoccupation with the character’s physical movements, expressed in a tediously repetitive sequence of declarations, which calls attention to the text. But that effect is heightened with the addition of what I have previously called the “techno-noun jamboree,” wherein the author scatters frequent but superfluous technical sounding nouns and adjectives into the text to convince the reader that this really is a science fiction tale. For example, the bag over the burglar’s shoulder is a bag over her shoulder. I don’t need its chemical signature to know that this is in the future. So once again, my attention is drawn to the text, rather than that story.

WTF #3: Incompetence bomb

Analysis: In addition to the above-mentioned schematics problem, now I’m told: A Saltani safe had sixteen manual tumblers, an electronic lock, and the most advanced internal circuitry out there, but once she got past the tumblers, it was easy work since all their safes had a weak point in the circuitry. You just had to know where to look.

So in other words, all these high-tech defenses she’s been hired to circumvent could have been dodged by a syphilitic monkey. This is another problem I see commonly with dramatic conflict—authors create difficult situations for their characters, but instead of finding clever or creative solutions, they solve it by weakening the problem. But that makes the villain (or problem) look stupid/easy, which then makes the protagonist look stupid for having treated it as a difficult problem in the first place. When that bomb gets dropped, everybody at ground zero gets blasted with incompetence.

Phrases of Light, by Richard J. Kendrick (10:23)
Stories with Twists, by Larry Klos (3:46)

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 uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.