What I gleaned about the story: After the fall, military observation posts have devolved into isolated communities of survivors, still fighting a war, long after its politics have faded into obscurity. In that stagnant backwater, teenage Caroline, scouting for the People’s Republic of Virginia, has developed a thing for Finn, who scouts for their hated enemy, the Democratic Alliance of Virginia. Too bad their respective sides have just resumed hostilities.
Find this book on Amazon.
Note: Wow. A promising start with good writing, strong imagery, and nothing banal. It’s frustrating how rarely I get to say that.
Analysis: It isn’t until Chapter 2 of this first-person story that I discover that the protagonist is a girl. That doesn’t matter at all to whether or not I’ll enjoy the story, but it does make a difference to the world I’m building as I read. Males and females think differently, they are treated differently by the people around them, and that in turn brings different lights to bear on what they think, fear, and strive for. So if I read a book thinking I’m in the head of a guy, I’m going to make one set of baseline assumptions about what the events of the story mean, and if I think I’m in the head of a girl, I’m going to make different assumptions. As a result, when I finally realized that I had assigned the wrong sex to the protagonist, I had to go back and reconsider what I’d read earlier, to see if any new nuances appear.
I’m sure some people are going to complain that this is sexism, that it shouldn’t matter whether the protagonist is male of female, but it does. Not because it changes my ability to enjoy the story, but because it changes my understanding of their journey.
Analysis: Two scouts, investigating a noise on the periphery of their community’s territory encounter four scouts from an invading army that is almost on top of their village. They know full well that word must get back to the villagers or all is lost, they even talk about, but even so, they still decide to hunt down the enemy scouts to buy more time. This is a complete violation of everything reconnaissance is about. They’re betting double or nothing with the lives of everyone they hold dear, and there is no way I can respect that decision. It makes them glory-hounds, rather than the sensitive, responsible people they’ve otherwise been made out to be.
I understand that the author needed them to fight, in order to instigate some further developments that ensue, but a much more sympathetic choice would have been to have them cut off by the enemy scouts and force them to kill in order to escape. Having them choose to go further into harm’s way and risk everything was a real head-shake for me. And guess what? Things do not go well.
Note: But those two stumbles aside, this is very solid writing with a promising conflict shaping up between our gentle-seeming villagers and the overwhelming force that is descending upon them with two allegiance-crossed lovers caught in the middle.
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.