The Group, by Kevin R. Doyle (9:30)

IOD-TheGroupToday we see that exposition about nameless, unspecified people doesn’t engage.

What I gleaned about the story: A detective examines a dead body in an alley and shivers, because the corpse is better dressed for the weather than he is.

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Kudos #1: Everyone likes a good mother-in-law joke

Details: I quite like this turn of phrase, that appeared on the first page: today the cold had come slamming in from the north like a visiting mother-in-law. It’s not that it’s especially witty or profound, but it’s got a nice wry feel to it and it fits the tone of the narration. More importantly, it gives me an early signal that this writer has the power to be entertaining with his prose, which is not as common as you might think.

Note: The pace feels a bit choppy. I think it’s because the paragraphs are so short. Sentences that all relate to the same sequence of thoughts are often broken into multiple paragraphs, rather than grouped together in one. As a reader, I tend to see paragraph breaks as logical stepping stones between successive topics, so when I encounter lots of them in short order, it feels like rapid-fire topic changes. i.e. “choppiness.” I’m not throwing a WTF for it, because it hasn’t yet become intrusive or annoying, but having noticed it, I thought I’d pause to mention the effect.

WTF #1: Pronoun confusion

Analysis: Peering closer, he saw a thin tendril of blood seeping out from the back of the man’s head. Hollis stood up and went over to one of the crime scene techs. He’d been jammed up interrogating a witness when the call came, accounting for his being among the last to arrive on the scene.

On first read of the above passage, I thought the final sentence was about the crime scene tech, but it turns out it was about the protagonist. This only became clear later, when the tech turned out to be a woman, so I had to go back and re-read everything to figure out where I’d gone wrong. And since we’re still on the first page, the flag-arm went up.

WTF #2: Unbelievable character behavior

Analysis: The protagonist is a detective, examining a murder victim at the scene of the crime when the medical examiner arrives. In the course of their conversation, the M.E. asks if it might have been some kind of crime-world execution. The detective responds: “A furniture salesman in his fifties? If he was hit, it’s doubtful it was over something like drugs or women.”

But that seems an entirely unfounded supposition to me. Do furniture salesmen not have drug problems? Or owe money to pimps? I find it very hard to believe that an experienced homicide detective would reach such conclusions so early in the investigation.

WTF #3: Conspicuous exposition

Analysis: Chapter two begins with a new, unnamed POV character. A guy of unspecified age, getting ready to go to a job interview. Unfortunately, with almost no information at all about him—no name, no age, no career field, nothing—there just isn’t enough there for me to care about his problems. So when he starts recounting how desperate he is for the job, and how his wife is beginning to question his manhood, I found myself skimming ahead, looking for facts about him, or some other nugget that would make me care. Unfortunately, when I catch myself skimming, that’s ironclad proof that I’m no longer immersed.

 

Days Gone Bad, by Eric R. Asher (3:21)
Purenet, by HJ Lawson (5:32)

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.