Short Stories of the Days to Come, by Kenny Yao and Kevin Yao (0:40)

IOD score cardToday we see several ways to erode a reader’s confidence before they even reach page one.

What I gleaned about the stories: Apparently, the United Nations has several locations.

Find this book on Kobo.

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 on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Random Information Dump

Analysis: The copyright declaration is followed by:

*****

UNITED NATIONS

UNEP GRID

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

UNEP HEADQUARTERS

Nairobi, Kenya

UNITED NATIONS

Geneva, Switzerland

*****

After a few moments of staring at it, I couldn’t work out what purpose it served. The UN Environment Program didn’t seem relevant to copyright. But if it was a list of locations in the stories, why did it only feature the UN and not other places. And, if it were the setting of the first story that had been transposed onto a previous page by a formatting issue, it would be a single location and proceeded by the story’s title.

My trust that the author would provide a clear vision of the world damaged, I moved on.

WTF #2: Multiple distractions in the same sentence

Analysis: The first story opened with a rough location and date line, ruling out one of my theories for the previous list of UN addresses. After two sentences of slightly wordy dialogue about something not being possible, I hit: The Center for Space Studies (CSS), a local agency for NASA, exploded with excitement as baffled researchers were trying to find out what was happening. Between the attempt to pack so many things into the sentence, duplication of information, and the conflicting tenses, I lost what little immersion I’d built from the previous sentences about an undefined thing happening. Instead, my mind diverted onto which of the issues was most distracting: the oddity of having a location description at the start of the story, then giving another one a few lines in; the repetition implicit in scientists who sought to find out why an inexplicable event was happening being currently baffled; or that peeving “were trying” rather than “tried” which suggested that the trying to find out what happened was an ongoing state against which a single explosion of excitement happened.

Concerned that the description would throw lots of things at me and leave me to put them together rather than build a picture piece by piece, I moved on.

WTF #3: Bait-and-Switch

Analysis: When I followed the ToC link to (what I believed was) the second section of the book, I discovered it was actually a teaser for the next books in the series. Rather than being the short stories that the title suggested, the book was actually part of a longer narrative divided into eight pieces. Had I known in advance that the book was the first part of a story rather than the first part of a series of collections, I would have made the choice to read it anyway; however, coming across it without warning, I was left with a decided feeling not just that the book was less than immersive but that the author was actively deceitful.

I yanked the plug and sought coffee to settle my mood.

It seemed unlikely I’d have added this to my IoD list if I didn’t think it was a collection, but I was open to the possibility I’d missed something when downloading it; so I checked the blurb, half-expecting that I’d see “The first part of..”, “First in a series of short stories…”, or some other indication of the actual content that I’d missed the first time. Instead, I found a request to review the book – not a description of the contents and a request for a review, but a request to review free of any indication of the content.

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.

Toby Smart, by Aaron D. Phillips (1:16)
Squawk of the Were-Chicken, by Richard J. Kendrick (40:00)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction.

He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.