All Is Silence, by Robert L. Slater (24:39)

IOD-AllIsSilenceToday I learned how sensitive I am to compounded implausibilities.

What I gleaned about the story: After some kind of plague wiped out almost everybody, a young girl finds herself alone in the city. With zombie-type survivors. But at least she can still chat with her BFF by cell.

Find the book on Amazon.

Kudos: Another awesome indie cover.

WTF #1: Repetitive sentence structures.

Analysis: Declarative sentence. Declarative sentence. Declarative sentence. It doesn’t bother me in any one small section, but over time, it becomes increasingly distracting. This happened. That happened. Things happened.  Not just in this book, but any time I encounter this problem, the recurrence creates a sort of trudging rhythm in my head, as if the narrator is bored and simply ticking off the events from a check list. I know that’s not what’s happening, but it’s the feeling I get, like the relentless drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet in another room. No one drip is a problem, but the pattern is enough to irritate and distract, once you’ve spotted it. And I did, so immersion broke.

WTF #2: Repeating headwords.

Analysis: For a while, i was able to dismiss the repeating sentence structure issue and keep reading, but then it combined with a repeating head word. She went here. She went there. She did something. She did some other things. And immersion broke again.

WTF #3: Strained coincidences.

Analysis: The plague was said to be 98% fatal, so there should be about 2 survivors out of every 100. And that’s assuming everybody was exposed. But Lizzie walks through several neighborhoods, presumably housing a combined population of several thousand, and only sees one other person. Yet somehow, there are enough people who survived elsewhere in town that the Internet, cell phone, and electric power are all still functioning. The survivor she sees wasn’t even a full survivor, but some quasi-zombie. So out of all those people, it’s just her. (Except for the unseen utilities people.) Then she meets another person who is lucid, but he only survives long enough to give her some important advice. Then he too dies.

And yet, with what appears to be a 99.9999% successful plague (still not counting techies), Lizzie has managed to make only one other human contact: her BFF. By cell phone. Who now lives on the other side of the country. The only way for this to be plausible would be for Lizzie and her friend to share some common experience or background which explains why they are both immune. But if that is the case, it needs to be at least hinted at. Otherwise it feels like an entirely contrived coincidence.

For many readers, these implausibilities will be fine. But for me, well, I’m a scientist and a mathematician by training. When extremely unlikely events start holding hands and occurring in groups, I get twitchy. And when I start fuming about the mathematics of probability, I have to concede that immersion has been broken.

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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.