Momentary Stasis, by P.R. Adams (40:00)

IOD score cardToday we see that when you set your story in the distant future, readers will be disappointed if they don’t see much evidence of it. Distract them with non-stop action.

What I gleaned about the story: Sergeant Jack Rimes, a military commando and level-9000 badass, gets tossed into a mission with a new team, but somebody tipped off their targets. Things go south, and he has to battle his way out. As thanks for his hard work, Uncle Sam cancels his shore leave and sends him to be briefed on his next mission.

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WTF #1: “We’ll cover more ground if we split up.”

Analysis: The team realizes their mission is compromised when they see their four targets split up, taking positions on different floors of the complex. As a reader, I don’t see the advantage of the enemy’s strategy. Rimes seems to agree with me, thinking, Why separate? Why not create a single ambush point? There are a lot of great places to attack from. The bit of lampshading helps me buy into what I’m seeing, but I’m still not fully on board.

The team agrees to continue the operation.  They split up, apparently so they can hit each of their four targets on a signal. This countermove confuses me as well: I don’t see why they would do this rather than taking out the enemy one by one.

I’m not getting the sense that their decision is a bad one, but nobody on the team actually says, “Here’s our strategy, and here’s why.” The strategy is agreed upon wordlessly. It feels like the explanation is in the author’s head, but it never made its way onto the page.

Then the ‘go’ signal is given, and suddenly I have plenty of other things on my mind.

Kudo #1: Tight, breakneck action scenes.

Analysis: Rimes is tough as nails, wired to the gills on stimulants, and ready to roll. The opening chapter does a good job of building up to the action: the tense infiltration, the growing awareness that the plan is falling apart around them, the hair-trigger crouch as Rimes waits for his team to get into position. Then the signal is given and all hell breaks loose.

This P.R. Adams person knows how to write action. I’ll just throw a taste your way:

Rimes twisted the doorknob and pushed the office door in. He caught a flash of movement—a large, frighteningly fast shadow—and then the door slammed back at him, bending his arm aside and knocking him off-balance.

He dropped.

Three muffled gunshots sounded as three holes appeared in the door at chest level. He rolled away and returned fire, sending three rounds into the door in a diagonal, starting at an imaginary thigh and ending at an imaginary torso. He rolled again, this time coming to a stop to the door’s right, flat on the ground, pistol ready. He breathed shallowly, not making the slightest sound, and listened.

What am I feeling right now? Google “popcorn gif” to find out.

WTF #2: The more things change…

Analysis: There was a ticklish thought in the back of my head from the moment I read the opening date/location line (I’ve been told to call them “sluglines,” a term borrowed from screenwriting).

20 February 2164. Singapore. Pei Fu Complex, Hougang Industrial Sector.

2164. 147 years in the future. That’s a long time, especially in modern military history: 147 years ago, the US had just fought the Civil War. Everything about warfare has changed beyond recognition since then.

But now we hop 147 years into our future and everything still seems eerily familiar. There are occasional nods to technological progress (their body armor is nanoparticle weave), but it’s still recognizable guns firing recognizable bullets, and men in recognizable body armor sneaking past recognizable barbed wire into a cookie-cutter research complex.

This only bothered me a tiny bit, because I’m telling myself it’s just a number on the calendar. Then an ensign tells Sergeant Rimes:

“And there are rumors about [Evil Corporation’s] ambitions in the colony worlds.”

That ‘fwoom’ sound was all my subconscious thoughts crystalizing. That’s right, we are in a distant future with honest-to-god colonized worlds. Where are the killer quadrocopter drones? The ambient network of sensor dust? The AI-mediated situational awareness? The strength-multiplying exoskeletons and genetically perfected cyborg supersoldiers, mingled in an unholy union of flesh and steel? Where the hell is my jetpack, Future?!?

Okay, Bryce. It’ll be okay. Breathe.

I once wrote a long rant on “believable” amounts of technological progress. It’s on my website: Saving Sci-Fi from the Singularity In Thirty Minutes or Less. So this is kind of a pet subject of mine.

When I hit the 40:00 mark, I was still waiting to find out what the new, even-more-secret-than-usual mission was about. During the lull between the missions, the writing remains pretty engaging, but I had the nagging sense that there was a bunch of filler between the first mission and the second. Some of it was needed backstory and context, some of it gave a needed respite from the initial burst of adrenaline. But I was itching to get on with the next mission, and when you’re writing fiction, a little bit of that feeling goes a long way.

Momentary Stasis is well written military fiction, though the sci-fi elements don’t feel well integrated into the story. The action is tense and nail-biting, the prose is well edited and polished, and I like the sense I’m getting of where the book is headed. It’s sometimes a bit by-the-numbers, but if you’re a fan of military commandos doing what they do best, Sergeant Jack Rimes may be the guy you want to follow on your next adventure.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

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