Aristeia, by Wayne Basta (21:07)

IOD-AristeiaToday we see that a character can be believably expert at his job or he can be beaten by an obvious trick, but he cannot be both.

What I gleaned about the story: When a down-on-his luck smuggler accepts a job from an old adversary, he is immediately duped by the old “henchmen hiding in the cargo” trick. I suspect things go badly for him after that.

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Note: Maarkean Ocaitchi felt an unsettling sense of nostalgia wash over him as he moved down the corridor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that line except that, as the opening sentence for the book, it put my guard up. It sounded to me like code for “Here comes the old ‘How did I get here?’ flashback.” This turned out not to be the case, so everything was fine, but I thought I’d mention the little panic attack it gave me.

Note: In the middle of the first page, I encounter my first echo—two successive sentences that begin with “The.” Not a crime, in isolation, but it suggests that the author is not sensitive to echoes, because most first pages sparkle as cleanly as the author knows how to do.

Note: There’s a bit of declarative sentence parade going on. Not egregiously so, but enough to ripple my sensors. Like a radio station that’s not quite tuned in properly.

Note: A few pages further on, and I’ve passed two or three more echoes. Curiously, all of them echoed on “The.”

Kudo #1: Deep-space carrier

Analysis: I was quite intrigued by the notion that his ship was being serviced on a deep-space carrier, rather than the more traditional space station dock. Having a potentially mobile dock yard makes a nice twist on the usual space opera furniture.

WTF #1: Echoing headwords

Analysis: It’s happened for both echoing sentences and for echoing paragraphs, and still, they are all headed with “The.” They’re not coming quite densely enough for the echoing word itself to trip me up – I think it’s the fact that it is also part of the declarative sentence pattern. “The thing verbed.” “The noun was adjectivish.” And thirdly, there seems to be a lot of description of what’s going on with objects, rather than people. Perhaps that’s why so many sentence are headed with “The”—”The ship,” “The deck,” “The station,” etc.

Note: Continuing to trip over The-head echoes every page or two.

WTF #2: Sigh. More echoes.

Analysis: One of the problems with these stylistic WTFs is that most writers are only committing them because they’re blind to them, which means they’re likely to be everywhere in the book. So once I’ve noticed a pattern, it becomes harder and harder for me to stay immersed, because those patterns I’ve already been sensitized to just repeat and repeat and repeat. I pulled the trigger this time when I encountered three sentences in a row of “The-” sentences.

Note: I’m disturbed that a stow-away would climb out of a crate into an unknown cargo bay and not be worried in the slightest about whether he would find atmosphere when he opened his crate. Sure, it’s possible that cargo bays are always filled with air, but is that something your average spacer would simply trust? I’m not going to charge a WTF for it, since it’s a common enough assumption in SF, but every time it happens, I shake my head, common or not. And it would be a simple enough fix. Just have him drop his environmental probe back into the crate after he steps out, since he no longer needs it.

WTF #3: The oldest trick in the book

Analysis: When your main character is a smuggler, widely renowned for his craftiness, you have to make him walk that walk. So when his old adversary tricks him by hiring him to deliver some cargo, which turns out to have henchmen hiding in it, you’ve undermined your protagonist’s expertise. He now looks stupid for not checking for one of the oldest gambits in the business. I can understand having a policy of not opening the cargo, but if he’s good enough to have earned his reputation, then he’s good enough to seal the cargo in vacuum, or in a locked cage, or inside another container. Especially when dealing with a customer he already dislikes and distrusts.

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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.