What I gleaned about the stories: There is a thin membrane between sanity and reality; a membrane that thins like scum in the sun.
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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move onto the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.
Analysis: A few paragraphs into the first story, I hit: Far off in the distance a soft gallop is heard pounding the floor… The word “soft” suggested quiet, careful, or stealthy so I stumbled over “pounded,” a verb that suggested hard, noisy action.
My mental image boggled at the off, I moved on to the next story.
Analysis: The second story opens with a modern, casual description, giving the impression it’s set in the real world, then brings in suggestions of an apocalypse. Toward the bottom of the first page, I encountered: Ruins, every building was two and a half, maybe three walls with no ceiling like a bunch of unfinished coliseums. Coliseums are massive arenas, which seemed an unlikely enough model for most buildings that the image tripped me.
While there is nothing to say that an imaginary society wouldn’t construct all their buildings as giant circular structures, nothing about the previous paragraphs suggested the story was set in a such a world.
Unsure whether it was a poor choice of simile or a lack of contextual triggers, but considering either a sign the description might not suffice, I moved on.
Analysis: A few pages into the third story, the protagonist notices a gelatin substance smeared across something. Gelatin looks much like other jellies. So, a character knowing by sight that a smear was gelatin rather than some other semi-transparent glob made me stumble.
A stumble made worse by gelatin being more a scientific than casual word. If a character tends to think in technical terms, it seemed less likely they’d jump to a conclusion without more than a visual inspection.
My trust in the description assailed for a third time, I pulled the plug.
Analysis: The third story uses the ‘report of past events’ format beloved of Lovecraft and other writers of his ilk, descends neither into parody – intentional or not – nor tedium. So, I’ll be giving this another try to see whether this voice holds.
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.