As the Crow Flies, by Robin Lythgoe (30:57)

IOD-CrowFliesToday I tease out a new and necessary component of immersion.

What I gleaned about the story: A successful and cocky master burglar gets caught during what was supposed to be his last big heist, and will presumably be dragged into an adventure of redemption before he finds peace.

Find the book on Amazon.

WTF #1: Throughout one extended chase sequence, we get:  Thank the god of ornate architecture, the hook caught… Was it luck or a curse that tangled my rope around my wrist… I am blessed with good fortune beyond measure. The god of chance set an opposing section of architecture beneath me to break my fall… From there I banged into three more unidentifiable objects, which was probably a good thing, for it slowed my descent…

Analysis: There were a few more, but these were the most explicit examples of our hero’s improbable sequence of good fortune that allowed him to escape. The fact that he was captured at the end of the sequence does not change the fact that my eyes rolled more roundly with each new lucky coincidence.

WTF #2: Scarcely I had pulled myself from view… Even had it not, I had to contend with the relentless… Still, the gods were obviously with me this night… Neither did it cover my arms…

Analysis: This may just be a style thing that rubbed me the wrong way, but these occasional uses of stilted, old-fashioned sentence constructions leapt out at me. The archaic style was not employed consistently, so when it was, it drew attention to itself. If the historical cadence had been employed throughout, along with a consistently matching vocabulary, I’d have gotten used to it and probably even enjoyed it. But sprinkled about like raisins on a pizza? Not so much.

WTF #3: Relentless intimacy.

Analysis: After a while, I began to feel as though I couldn’t breathe, and when I went searching for the source of that feeling, I found that it was because I wasn’t getting any time to be me. When an author takes me into an intimate POV, in which I’m living the sights and thoughts of the POV character directly, I get no chance to reflect or evaluate things on my own, since I am experiencing the world in lock step with the narrator’s flow of thoughts and judgements. This isn’t a clear-cut case of telling instead of showing, however. It’s more subtle than that. As I’ve said elsewhere, I believe the process of immersion is that of being shown enough things to be able to picture the events and the world, but with enough left out that I can evaluate them and draw conclusions for myself. But in that characterization, there’s a crucial implication: that I am also given time and distance enough to do so. With an intimate POV, however, the author more or less takes over the reins of thought, and tells me what I’m thinking. So if there aren’t enough respites from that intimacy, I develop a back-log of things that I’ve seen, and want to think about, but don’t have time, because new stuff has come along to pay attention to. And that begins to make me anxious, but not in a good way. I have all this stuff I want to process, but I never seem to get a break in which to do so. And from there came a sort of breathless anxiety about the reading experience, which eventually, attracted enough of my attention that it broke immersion.

Kudos: 1st person indie narrative often suffers from the Galloping “I” Disease, but I didn’t see any sign of it here.

Trouble, by RJ Price (7:21)
The Sorcerous Crimes Division: Devilbone, by Scott Warren (4:25)

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.