Survival in the Robot Dawn, by C.W. Crowe (6:46)

IOD score cardToday we see that a prologue involving the same cast, setting, and time period as the rest of the story isn’t really a prologue. It’s Scene #1.

What I gleaned about the story: In this world of the future, robot families keep human pets to help guide them in how to behave more like a human families. Why? Who knows? But it’s an interesting place to start.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: There was no cover in the book file. I’ve seen a number of authors send out ARCs this way, but I’ve always thought it to be a risky practice—particularly with indie fiction, where any number of things can (and frequently do) go horribly wrong. So to combat any fear of that, you want your reviewer to get the very best experience your book has to offer. And that should include the cover.

WTF #1: Quirky typography

Analysis: This began as a really minor quibble that I noticed while getting ready to read. The metadata ToC is presented with an inconsistent layout. It lists the prologue and first three parts of the story using normal roman text. Then the next three parts are listed with both bold and italics, before the epilogue and back matter finally revert back to standard roman. It made no difference at all to my conscious reading of the story, but who can say what subconscious impact it might have.

Once I got into the story, however, a second minor quibble arose. The body text is laid out with a proportional font, but has double spaces between sentences. I didn’t stop because some arbitrary rule had been broken. I stopped because something seemed unnatural about the text. Each sentence felt strangely ominous, like when you drop a single sentence into a paragraph of its own for dramatic effect.

Like this.

Reading the story was beginning to feel like crossing a river on widely spaced stones, with each leap another pause for dramatic effect. And that’s a hard vibe to maintain for very long without it wearing thin. I was still wobbling from that when I hit a section with hyphens instead of em-dashes and decided it was time to throw a flag.

The thing that’s really frustrating is that none of these issues have anything to do with poor writing. The prose is actually pretty decent. But this continual barrage of non-standard publishing/typography choices continue to sizzle at the edges of the experience for me, distracting me from actually staying in the story where I belong. And when I’m weaving and dodging around the distractions rather than watching the adventure unfolding in front of me, immersion has definitely left the building.

WTF #2: Inconsistent and erroneous capitalization

Analysis: The word Raptor is used frequently in the prologue, and each time, it appears like that. Capitalized. Almost as though this is a brand name, or a Christian name, rather than a common noun, but the more I read, the more it appears to be intended as a common noun.

A few paragraphs later, the father says, “Come on, Son. She can’t do anything.” We don’t know the boy’s name yet, but it seems unlikely that it’s Son, or Sonny, so capitalizing the word gives it an unwanted air of formality.

Then a few lines after that, the mother says, “Go on son, play with your dad.” Here it isn’t being capitalized. But now I’m getting a bit punch drunk from trying to imagine reasons that would explain what I’m seeing. Time to call a monkey wrench by its proper name.

WTF #3: Fauxlogue

Analysis: The story opens with a prologue in which a family goes to the zoo and has a strange interaction with one of the animals there. It’s a bit unsettling, but it was supposed to be, and then the prologue ends. I turn the page, and begin the story proper with Chapter One.

But the story seems to just continue from where the prologue ended.

What? A prologue is supposed to be a scene or chapter set significantly apart from the rest of the story. Usually, my complaints about prologues have to do with them feeling pointless: unimportant backstory related through unimaginative or uncompelling means. In this case, however, the content of the prologue seems appropriate, but this time it violates the other half of the prologue equation. about time, location, and cast. So it’s an old WTF type, but being triggered this time for a new reason.

So once again, I find myself wondering whether this might have been an intentional misdirect. Maybe we really have jumped to some other family or some other zoo. But since no names or descriptions were given in the first scene, there’s no way for me to know. All I can judge is what I’ve read, and my reading is telling me that this is a prologue without purpose. And since I’ve stopped to analyse all this, either way it’s a break in immersion.

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

The Jewels of ImmerseOrDie
Metal Chest, by Chris Yee (4:27)

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.