Colony One, by E.M. Peters (3:58)

IOD-ColonyOneToday we see that exposition about the politics of a place is uninteresting if we have not yet met anybody who lives there or cares.

What I gleaned about the story: A man was yelled at by a woman. Earth has sent colony ships to the stars. Some people don’t like how the colonists were selected. The newscaster has a nice suit.

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Marketing note: I quite like the cover, which establishes the genre clearly and manages to depict a human connection, placing the characters into the context of an enormous ship. With that visual introduction, I’m nicely primed to get inside that ship.

WTF #1: Distant voice

Analysis: The story begins with a prologue that seems entirely pointless, other than as a conspicuous attempt to inject drama. But how much drama can I feel when “a woman” shouts tense orders at “the man”? It seems odd that this scene, which feels like it was added specifically to inject excitement, chooses to do so using such distancing prose.

There was a moment near the end where we at least got a couple of names, but then it was over. And the problem with prologues is that they are almost never about the main characters, so we have to throw out most of the character stuff we learned there and reset the expectations for chapter one.

Unfortunately, that cold and dispassionate tone continues into the first chapter, where “a sharply dressed man” announces world news reports on TV, and no POV character arises to give me a focal point.

I found myself jumping ahead, trying to see how far it would be before I started meeting some actual people who might hang around for a while. But when I’m skipping ahead, immersion has clearly been lost.

WTF #2: Exposition dump

Analysis: Oddly, the entire first scene (after the prologue) is just a description of the news feed. The news anchor is fairly clearly not the protagonist of the story. Instead, the entire scene seems intended to shovel backstory as fast as it can, recounting the history of the recently launched Colony ships that have been sent out from Earth, but we get no foreground characters of any kind.

The problem with this, for me, is that news happens everywhere. Right now there is a news anchors in Bolivia telling people about a lost dog, and one in Madagascar describing an earthquake, and in Viet Nam showcasing some ridiculous pop star’s new line of socks, and in Malasia wailing about bank fraud. News happens all the time. Everywhere. So much so that none of it is interesting until somebody somewhere reacts to it. As a reader, I don’t care about news; I care about people. Show me the little boy crying about his lost dog, or the priest pulled from the collapsed church, or the proud mother of the celebrity, or the cop who arrested the fraudster. Give me somebody with skin in the game, and suddenly, that news report becomes important.

But without that person who gives a damn? I don’t either.

WTF #3: Echoing headwords

Analysis: On the second page of chapter one, I hit a run of five consecutive sentences that echo on “The”. If I had been given anything in the foreground that looked even remotely like a POV character or even a sidekick—somebody who would actually be in the story more than a page from now—I might have been engaged enough not to notice the repetition. But watching a news report from another world/place/time for which I have absolutely no context and no skin in the game, doesn’t hold my attention.

So when the echoes happened, I noticed.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

A Facet for the Gem, by C.L. Murray (11:00)
Life in a Grain of Sand, by Geoff Le Pard (1:59)

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.