Hero for Hire, by C.B. Pratt (12:04)

IOD-HeroForHireToday we see that when the narrator only states facts, there isn’t much to keep the reader’s mind busy.

What I gleaned about the story: Eno the Thracian is not the hero ancient Greece deserves. He is the one she can afford. And he’s okay with that.

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WTF #1: Declarative sentence parade

Analysis: The narrator is a self-proclaimed professional hero in ancient Greece, and the story is told in a cocky voice. But 90% of that voice seems to consist of statements of fact. I’m several pages in but there’s nothing yet for my attention to grab onto, and when my attention isn’t anchored in the story, it’s very good at finding its own things to do: like finding patterns in the voice to bitch about. Trudge, trudge, trudge.

Another problem with the parade of facts is that it seems rather unfocused. There are entire pages where the topic jumps from one item to another with no seeming focus or thread to it. At times it felt a bit more like a squirrel-cam than being in the head of a robust, opinionated human adventurer.

WTF #2: Galloping I disease

Analysis: It’s fairly common for the dreaded I-word to become dominant in a first POV story like this, but this is the first time in quite a while that I’ve thrown this particular flag. It’s pretty hard to avoid the word completely, but in 1st POV a writer has quite limited options for labels, so the chances of striking up echoes with the few that are available is pretty high. This is one of the most common problems I see with first person.

Here’s an example sentence taken from the place where I finally noticed the problem: I was informed that if I had five hundred drachma tucked away, I could consider myself a son-in-law. In this quote, the word “I” appears three times. Even so, taken on its own, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sentence. But when it’s surrounded frequently by similar sentences, the pronoun begins to jangle loudly. And over the course of several pages, it will eventually rise above the threshold of ignorability.

WTF #3: Past perfect problem

Analysis: The blacksmith had protested the impossibility when I said I wanted the wooden bars joined with iron but on my last visit to the agora, I saw that he’d put up his own placard… We’re in past perfect mode, since it’s a reference to the deeper past, but the sentence does not maintain the proper tense. Instead it bounces back and forth, seemingly at random. These sorts of mini-flashbacks can be hard to get right, in regards to tense, and often it’s best to unpack them into simpler sentences. Otherwise, the temporal flopping can yank a reader out of the experience, as it did for me here.

Note: And for those who have been following IOD for some time, you might remember another book I read last year that had a similar premise and used a similar voice: The Last Great Hero, by Scott J Robinson (9:24). It might be interesting to compare the two, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the viewer.

The Tube Riders, by Chris Ward (4:41)
Dark Space, by Jasper T. Scott (8:58)

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.