Call of the Kaiju, by E. Stuart Marlowe (8:17)

IOD-CallKaijuToday I noted that when the narrative voice is passionless, the reader disengages.

What I gleaned about the story: While swimming off the coast of Hawaii, Samantha’s excursion boat is attacked by a sea-monster and she herself dragged off to its lair. Something tells me this is not the beginning of a romance.

Find this book on Amazon.

WTF #1: Detail mismatch

Analysis: Three passages combined to leave me confused:

  1. Sam may have been fatigued and sunbaked, but she was itching to jump back in… 
  2. “Make sure you keep drinking water. Or else you’ll get dehydrated. You hear?” 
  3. The wetsuit was keeping her body warm.

One of these sentences doesn’t jibe with the others. She is either sunbaked and at risk of dehydration or she is cold enough to need a wetsuit for warmth. It can’t be both. And when all three passages are on page one, they come so close together that they can’t help but call attention to their mutual conflict.

WTF #2: Odd word usages.

Analysis: Sam rested afloat the gentle waves. I’ve never seen the word “afloat” used that way. In my usage, it needs a preposition. “Afloat on the gentle waves” would be fine, or maybe “floating atop the waves.” But as written, this just feels wrong on my tongue. And a google search of “afloat the” reveals no hits at all, except for passages that are intervened by punctuation, such as “afloat. The”

Then, while she’s afloating there, some twit bumps into her and she notes: He had meandered too close… Do people who are floating “meander?” In my parlance, a river can meander, because it zigs and zags across a landscape. And a person can meander by walking a zig-zaggy path. But a person floating idly on the ocean does not exactly zig and zag. They float. So in this context, the word feels all wrong to me, and it jerked me out of the story to start thinking about the nature of agency in distracted wandering. Clearly, I was no longer immersed.

But since both of these occurred in fairly close proximity, I decided to count them together as one WTF.

WTF #3: Distant, detached voice

Analysis: The entire first scene is oddly detached. There’s a definite drone of declarative sentences happenigg here, but I was able to ignore that for a while. In hindsight though, I think this is where the sense of detachment began. Facts are being stated, but I’m not getting much of an engaging, emotional dimension along with them.

Here’s an example: The arm yanked her below the surface. Her snorkel gear came off. As she labored to cry out, water rushed into her mouth… Even in this short excerpt you can feel the slight trudging of declarative sentences in sequence. This effect is then amplified by the use of distancing language: labored to cry out. That’s not an immediate, in-her-skull representation of what happened. It’s not: “She opened her mouth to scream but only choked as torrents of salty brine flooded her mouth.” It’s a much more distant interpretation, perhaps that of a tax accountant watching from shore. “Oh look. That girl out there is laboring to cry out. I wonder if she’ll succeed. Oh. Too bad.”

This is the single most terrifying thing that has ever happened to poor Samantha, and she knows that she will very likely be dead before her next breath. But I got none of that sense of urgency from the text, and this lack of passion clashes with my understanding of people and my ability to relate to them, so my immersion dissolved.

Cold Hands, by Matt Perkins (29:42)
The Zoey Chronicles, by Sophia Grey (2:01)

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.