Green Zulu 51 and Other Stories from the Vyptellian War by Scott Whitmore (13:15)

IOD-GreenZulu51Today we see that engaging plots and characters lose their power if readers don’t trust the narrator.

What I gleaned about the stories: Humanity, finally tired of violence and prejudice, united into a single civilisation; and then split again and started a generations-long war against lizard-aliens.

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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 loose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Muddled timeline

Analysis: The protagonist shoots at a Vyptellian ship. ‘At the moment the charged slugs should have slammed into the enemy craft the Vyp pilot again drastically slowed and evaded.’ The sentence implies that, had the Vyp not evaded, the slugs would have hit. But he doesn’t slow until the moment the slugs were going to hit, so at the moment of impact, was still where he would have been had he not evaded.

It seems clear that the author meant that the moment before the slugs should have hit the pilot drastically slowed and evaded, but the image of the dodge retrospectively changing events was strong enough that I lost belief in the description of the battle. So I moved on.

WTF #2: Tense niggle

Analysis: A few pages into a story, I hit: ‘Seingha and her peers were told over and over that war meant killing: taking the life of an enemy before your own life is taken from you.’ The sentence is structured as a broad point followed by an explanation. As the first half refers to a series of past events, I expected the explanation to also be in a past tense, so the present tense tripped me.

Potentially, the second half was intended to be a quote from the person doing the telling; but as it was the lack of speech marks didn’t make this clear.

Having been shunted into grammar mode, I moved on.

WTF #3: Sudden drop-in explanation

Analysis: The protagonist, a military pilot, has his flight status revoked and narrates that because of this the rec hall and vid center are now off limits. While the connection might be immediately obvious to the protagonist, it wasn’t to me. I might have slid over it, but the author had already included explanation of such matters as why particular 21st-century phrases were still in use and the rules of a basketball variant so I was programmed to expect background detail.

The lack of explanation therefore leapt out at me, disrupting my belief that the narrator would provide me the information I needed to understand the story.

Kudo #1: Varied narrative voices

Analysis: While most of the stories are straight military sci-fi, the narrative voices were both distinct and plausible. So, at least to the point I reached, the collection lacked the feeling of sameness that many collections about battles against aliens can have.

While the collection didn’t reach 40:00 minutes, I will definitely be coming back to it.

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.

1/2986, by A. Wendeberg (3:42)
Exodus, by Andreas Christensen (3:03)

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.