Science Fiction Names and Approaches to Spelling.

I was reading a fantastic sci-fi book that took place between India and Djibouti. The names, so difficult to pronounce, got me thinking about Kashyyyk. Yes, Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld from Star Wars. Without some tribal knowledge, a casual reader would be lost in the pronunciation of that name, too.

Names are the handle readers cling to as they’re pulled by the characters through the story. Names set the tone of the characters themselves. Plain names, tough-guy names, ironic names, funny names, even no name says something about a character. With sci-fi and fantasy, they speak to the invented cultures as well. But what happens when the names are unpronounceable? How do you spell a whistle? And, as writers, how distinctive do you want the name to be? The problem—when does distinctive become distracting?

People of Earth have developed their own sounds for communication, their own rules,


Photo by Miriam Espacio on Unsplash

and their own artistic inflections. We’re the same species with the same anatomy around the globe, yet cultures evolved isolated from others to the point where certain sounds are unpronounceable to foreigners.

The written characters of a language relate to the sounds belonging to the cultures that spawned them. But what about spellings for sounds that don’t belong to that culture? New combinations of letters and accent marks help adapt the adopted sounds. I personally like the Cyrillic sound Ж, otherwise written in my language as Zhe.

Once, some friends asked me to read a section of a Vietnamese newspaper. Vietnamese uses English letters so it appears generally familiar, but the language pays way more attention to vowels, whereas English flexes the tongue on consonants. Those guys had a good laugh. Turns out what I’d read and struggled to pronounce wasn’t even close because I didn’t comprehend the nuances of the accent marks over, under and around every vowel.

Following the book from India to Djibouti, the place names and foodstuffs were difficult to read. I simply didn’t have a linguistic model to adequately contrive a sound. With science fiction and fancy pronunciations don’t fully matter. People form their own sounds and move on, always pronouncing the thing the way they initially described.

Now from Djibouti to Kashyyyk. Why the hell is Kashyyyk spelled with three Ys? It’s an alien planet and we can reasonably assume if they once belonged to the Galactic Republic then the Republic would call the Wookiee homeworld what the Wookiees wanted. It’s also safe to assume the English translation would be an approximation using recognizable letter combinations to describe what the Wookiees were saying. So why would the original writers use yyy to represent the long e sound where ee would work perfectly? Even an ei, as in sheik. Or an ique as in mystique. The triple y makes no sense.


The author wanted to illustrate the alienness of the name, make it totally strange and instantly recognizable by the reader as something other. So why not invent letters to make it a proper alien language.

Because none of those invented letters would translate to English. There are plenty of examples of invented languages all of which follow established conventions. Klingon. Dothraki. Esperanto.

You’ve read this far, what kind of mental sounds would you assume if I suddenly wrote my name as ベンジャミン? Dual Japanese and English speakers would get it, but otherwise, without any clue to form a mental sound, it’s a distraction that would disrupt the flow of the reading process every time the name came up. It’s just my name, Benjamin, as translated by Google. But see how recognizable letters are needed to form familiar sounds? Bizarre spellings don’t really add to the alienness of a name, but crazy spellings do distract from the story. Besides, the alienness of any given character or object should be clear from the context. Who’s going to say Kasheek spelled this way isn’t alien? The sounds are the same and it enjoys the privilege of conforming to non-distracting conventions of English.

With that can I take a moment to point out that no Wookiee with a line in a movie or holiday special ever vocalized syllables that came close to sounding like Kashyyyk. Did Chewbacca ever lead anyone to believe he could say his own name? No! The Wookiees only howled and growled. The names of their characters and planet should’ve reflected their typical sounds. Grerrlrrlrrlrr! Still, you’d need the rolling r from Spanish to pronounce this. A sound that English just hasn’t mastered, yet.

Writing is a personal expression, one derived from the soul. Honestly, all languages need to evolve, otherwise, they become stagnant and unsupportive. If they evolve too fast, however, they lose the meaning inherent in the sounds described by squiggly characters. Besides, I don’t like scolds telling people how to express themselves. But I also feel a sense of responsibility in conveying my meanings clearly and unobtrusively. And so I try to keep my sci-fi names simple, though I do tend to throw in a zhe now and again.


Anonymous Book Review 18

What a unique story. This book was fun. Overall pace was good, characters likable, interesting plot. And it had big words. I like big words.

The scope was huge. Alternate history where a tiny colonial player had nullified the real life powers to retain authority over conquered lands. But that was pure setting and never elaborated upon.

Every aspect of the plot was bedded in dualities. This power against that. One religion against the other. The nature of free will versus slavery with a fair amount of contemplation on both. That part imposed an amazing duality on a single character. A Catholic priest secretly advocating freedom for robotic slaves, pushed to horrendous actions by his religious convictions, yet arguing free will. Then captured and implanted with a spell to force his actions through pain inducing compulsion while pleading that he no longer had free will. That flip I found so cool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy favorite duality throughout the book—alchemy versus chemistry. Yep. In this world they both exist and they’re employed by opposing forces for war. Magic clockwork robots built to slaughter can only be stopped by glue bombs with both sides engaged in an arms race to limit the other’s advantage. Yet another one of those “nailed it” parts of the story.

Now to the alchemically enhanced nuts and bolts of the story.

This was a good sized book. Four hundred and forty pages. Three point of view characters need a lot of space to work. The author wrote so floridly at the beginning, sprinkling in similes by the handful, that the story took a few chapters to get going. Not that there wasn’t a catchy hook and a compelling scene, but it all felt bogged down in the beauty of the world. Those big words that I love so much? Yeah, they became noticeable and to be honest I don’t feel good about pointing that out. Words need to be written and used, but a story isn’t about the words.

I thought this was a tremendous first novel. A bunch of subtle flags gave me that impression and after a meeting of the minds, I wasn’t the only one. Though the author actually has several other titles. Yes, the wordiness threw the first of those flags as though the industry hadn’t yet beaten the love of words out of him. Aspects of the narrative, too, waved another flag. Written in third person close perspective in the past tense (my favorite narrative form), the narrative itself had very strong opinions. The narrative used pejoratives for the opposing characters, even cussing about plot twists it had just informed me of. Yes, I understand the close perspective is interpreting the thoughts and feelings of the POV characters, but this almost treaded into a first person view that made me think it was edited from such. I found several typos, though none to suggest the perspective was actually changed, but taken together, they layered in the feel of a debut novel.

Throughout, this book was very visual. While that added to its all around goodness there was a lot of details paid to bodily functions. Including observations drawing lines to the many qualities of vomit. I could’ve done without. A little glossing over or hand waving would’ve been great for that and a few others seriously taxing sections.

Pacing…. If you read my previous post you’ll know how I like a well paced book. The hair is split with this one. Pacing in the big picture—Hit. Pacing through action scenes—Miss. Overall there wasn’t one throw-away scene, except, perhaps the gratuitous sex scene. Again, a hand wave could’ve done, but even that scene built tension that carried through the book. Things moved fast. I couldn’t tell what would happen from one scene to the next and even when I had an idea, the scene got there faster with consequences greater than I had expected. This is where the author showed his well seasoned writer chops. I liked it and it kept me reading.

The other part… this author is so descriptive he can put you where he wants. The down side to that is during tense, high impact scenes that need to flow really fast he describes the beauty around his characters. This ruined the pacing of many, many scenes. At one point his character even paused to acknowledge how funny it is that it should be observing beauty while in a race for its life from some impressively scary things. NO! I might be able to relate, (High school football, face down under a pile of animals, pondering the blades of grass poking through my facemask), but it sucked all the tension out of the scene and diminished my level of caring. (Coincidently, I wasn’t the best player, either.) This also led me to assume it was a first novel. But it’s not. He has a bunch. Sure, I turned out the light and went to bed during these parts, even cursed a little in frustration, but the story was still worth reading.

Okay, the finale. I kind of knew that this book began a series. I kind of figured there’d be a question leading into the next. And when every story line concluded with a cliff hanger I shrugged, a little crestfallen at such an open end. I would’ve preferred at least a semblance of resolution. Meh. Internet says the guy is friends with George R. R. Martin, so he gets a pass on conclusions. The part that put me over, the one scene that utterly, unequivocally disappointed, the one devise I’ve known about, yet never reacted to so strongly—? The knock-out scene. Right at the end. Right where an explanation was needed most.

A little exposition. Knock-out scenes; when the hero is in a dire situation, when tension is at its peak and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The hero is knocked unconscious, then miraculously awakens in safety where the events of the rescue are recounted by another character. The hero survives through no fault of their own. It’s anticlimactic. Often a wave of the hand to speed along a difficult scene. I’ve even heard it called lazy writing. Personally I don’t mind if they come early in a story, they can set a tone or send a message, but this one….

Character has fought its way to the heart of the evil empire, battled enemies beyond its class. Its free falling into the center of an alchemical inferno surrounded by vats of acid with massive metal rings collapsing all around while the castle crumbles! It blinked off just before certain death. Next scene… the character wakes up safe. A nameless helper switches it on and says it was luckily buried in a gap when everything else in the chamber was incinerated and crushed. The few other survivors were found around the outskirts of the castle.

Great character. I’m glad it survived, but why did I have to read about so much vomit instead of how it managed to escape, other than knocking itself out. I would’ve preferred this character to die accepting some kind of metaphysical conciliation to living like that. It just didn’t fulfill my expectations.


It’s not until I looked into the structure that I saw things that robbed the tension and allowed me to take breaks during action scenes. And those are extremely picky reasons to disparage an otherwise great work of fiction. The unique alternate history, the perpetual dualities, the themes of free will and slavery, the beautiful description, the well drawn characters, all of it made such a fantastic book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It is one that I’ll wholeheartedly recommend.

Anonymous Book Review 17

What an amazing book series. This installment covers the third of a trilogy, the first two of which stunned and the last didn’t fail. The author wrote something special and I hope there will be more to this universein the future. Preferably from the unstoppable aliens’ perspective. They were funny.

As I approached the end, when the situation looked bleakest, I tried guessing where the story would go. I suspect that’s for my own comfort because the tension was so high that I wanted to imagine a victorious conclusion. The scene was set for outright devastation, odds were impossible and the main character’s only option was to give herself up to buy everyone else a little more time.

I thought of two fairly obvious ends. The main character should prevail (I’m taking comfort in the structural form of the narrative itself), but that would only solve a part of a problem which could only be resolved with more books, though I haven’t heard rumors of any more. Or the main character might die, which would have to be handled extremely well for the ending not to suck. The author is talented enough to pull that off.

Neither of those options occurred.

The pace of this book was incredible. I couldn’t tell where the end was going. In fact, at no point in the series could I tell where the next scene was headed. And not because a lot of stuff happened fast. Actually the opposite. People interacted, ships flew, aliens quibbled and the action scenes lasted only a few paragraphs, but the story moved.

This is the stroke of a master. The author stayed at least one step ahead of the reader. Granted, I’m not a very savvy reader. No decision made was apparent to me, yet every turn of this story made perfect sense. Even the end (which lacked the devastation I was hoping for) was set up in book two.

Everyone has read a book, acclaimed books, too, that drag. Where there’s never a surprise. The plot is good, the characters are likeable, action making or love scenes are handled well, but it’s an otherwise bore.

Enter pacing.

Listening to children is tedious, not because their lives are dull, but because they don’t know how to tell Child reading to elephantstories.

Enter pacing.

Radio talk show banter sounds natural until a caller tries to tell their tale.

Enter pacing.

When your coworker describes at length how his bombastic presidential candidate is better than your bombastic presidential candidate.

Enter, well… that’s just obnoxiousness.

See? That unnecessary scrap of information bogged down the pace, slowed the flow and let a reader’s mind wonder to topics outside the page in front of their face.

I once listened to a highly acclaimed author talk for a while. Audience members had asked if he was going to make a third book to the two he’d all ready released. The first was a stand alone, the second was written under popular pressure. The author revealed that he intends to write a third, that it’ll take place a few years after the others when the main character and his girlfriend are adults. Okay, none of that really intrigued me until he mentioned that the story following these adults would be written in a YA style. When asked about that he explained that word choice and pacing make the YA more so than the character’s age.

Pacing, again. There is too much to pacing, word choice, sentence length, talk styles in dialog, all of it to build the proper feeling for the right moment. But the idea to anticipate and stay ahead of a reader’s expectations delivers a surprise with every scene.

I like fast paced books and even though these books moved slow as far a locations they moved quickly in the interactions between people. And interactions make the story. Loyalties, motivations and tension move the story forward. The greater of all three, the faster the story will progress. Or slower, if the authors purpose is producing long, involved works. In this case it moved fast. Which led to the subplot which wound back to become the justification for the resolution I didn’t see coming until the very end.

I had an impression of an end I would’ve like, though that required several more books, and the pace of those books would have to change. To be honest, if I magically got my way I don’t think they’d change for the better.

The next time you find yourself either enjoying a book or bogged down and bored, take a moment to analyze the pacing. Do you know what’s coming, or is the next scene a mystery that keeps you reading?


Can I Brag?

The rough draft to my third legitimate novel is finished. Started November 5th, 2015. Ended June 24th, 2016. Seven and three quarters months. And it’s only 74,500 words. Not exactly what I was shooting for in terms of time or word count, but to some extent, every story writes itself.

This writing business is a strange and amazing process. So many twists and turns to the story of the story. Grandiose ideas that fizzle. Characters’ morphing arcs, motivations, genders. And here, at the end I’m sitting back thinking of all the turning points. How, if this didn’t happen in real life, than I wouldn’t have written that piece of fiction. In this story’s case, if events had happened differently two years ago, I would not be posting thisMonkey-typing-300x214 write-up today.

I’ve composed this post to brag about an accomplishment, but also to illustrate the importance of writer friends. I’m saying this now in the afterglow of a finished rough draft because I knew I was getting close, but insurmountable barriers obscured my view of the end.

That is, until I reached out for help.

I have been thinking of this novel for about three, maybe four years. There’s even initial hand-drawn sketches of scenes in my two-inch thick stack of notes. What was originally a pure action hero became a deeper character struggling to answer questions. Of his allegiances, of the plot, of life. Shit gets blowd up, too, don’t get me wrong, but the focus has changed.

In one of the stranger twists, if a demoralizing event didn’t occur to me almost two years ago, I wouldn’t have met (again) the person who brilliantly forced me to reevaluate aspects of my main character, then helped me with major road blocks.

A few years ago I had met this writer lady through a mutual writer friend. The meeting was brief, just introductions, really. My second novel was in the works at the time, off to an agent, per request, who never got back to me (part of, but not close to the demoralizing event).

The second novel had major structural issues so I quit it to write this third. I had what I thought was a good outline, knew the plot points, drawn all the supporting characters so last November I sat down and started writing. My goal was 100,000 words in about four months. I wanted to be finished, or nearly so, by February, 2016, in time for a writers conference.

Yeah, none of that happened. But I still attended the conference. After all, writers conferences are good places to meet like minded people. This writer thing is so isolating to begin with, getting out and talking to other cave dwelling humans who intimately understand the struggle is refreshing. And after said demoralizing episode the conference was exactly what I needed to believe in myself again.

lrg-786-monkeys_-_best_friendsOkay, back to friends. I had met the writer lady again at the conference, this time in a sociable setting with dozens of other inebriated writers all exhausted from the busy weekend, all recounting shared writerly experiences. At one point I talked to a dude. A romance writing dude. About sex scenes. At a bar. Where non-writers could hear. More than the subject matter, the subtext and technique he explained to me was amazing. The information translated in my mind at first in the form of fighting scenes (my specialty), but then I figured out that the questions should be asked and answered about every scene. That was an awkwardly transformative conversation.

Later the writer lady and I discussed our works-in-progress, found out we live vaguely near each other and agreed to meet at some time later. That’s common at conferences, though it usually never happens.

After the conference I contacted one fellow (not the dude), met him for coffee. I’ve always hated a specific enormous chain coffee shop, but hell if it isn’t a convenient place to meet writers. Anyhow, we made future plans, but his course in life is a little different than mine and we haven’t seen each other since. I met another writer from the conference shortly after, read some of her stuff, though she’s at a different place in her writing journey than I am. We still keep in touch. I never like it when people discount me because they’re ahead of me, so I make it a point to never brush off others who may be newer to the game than I am. Everyone has needed help and everyone has help to give.

Finally met the writer lady. We’re in similar places, writing wise. I told her about a major problem I’d been having with my main character. She asked me one question. One damn question that I couldn’t answer. That one damn question stuck with me the rest of the meeting, the entire drive home and into that night despite normal household chaos. Over and over the question recycled without answer. I couldn’t shake it. It bothered me. Simple enough, but I couldn’t answer a basic foundational question about my own freakin’ character.

Then it hit me. I scrambled for paper, pencil, scribbled, thought, rewrote the idea legibly, placed it in my notes, wrote it into the rough draft, although I was about half finished. It defines the character so needs to be mentioned as early as possible, but that’s what edits are for. I was amazed that the one question could affect my writing in such a way.

But it didn’t stop there.

Approaching the end. My main character has a few more obstacles to cross, but I can’t figure out how. First problem—should a lady character get beat up? In the story she deserves it, but I just didn’t like the arrangement considering the following scene. No matter, I’ll jot it down and ask my friend later. As I wrote out the set-up and problem, I thought of an alternative that produced a much more meaningful end. Still two more lingering issues, one about motivation, the other about logistics. Coffee, I posit my problems and though a series of questions, some back and forth brain storming, we came to some rough solutions. Not write-arounds, not writing over them, these solutions ran straight through my problem spots. These solutions worked so well I finished the story two weeks after the last meeting.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have been at that conference without the demoralizing episode, which means I wouldn’t have learned about sex scenes from a dude at the bar, nor would I have found that foundational trait for my main character. I would have a couple more pointless clumsy scenes in the current draft and a less satisfying ending if I hadn’t embraced people from the writer community and asked for their help.

I finished writing my third legitimate novel, but more importantly I know there are people out there willing to invest time and energy into helping me succeed. It’s not a one way street, however. I, too, am willing to help others succeed. By reading manuscripts, brain storming problems, or sharing posts. It’s the friendships built over time that help all of us writers become better at our art than we were the story before.

Anonymous Book Review 15

What a difficult book to review. The story could be called thin, the main character whiny and the theme indulgent. The first book of this two book series slayed me. I loved it. I wrote about it as Anonymous Book Review #2. Of course that sold me on the second book. Which I liked as a text book better than a here-and-now sci-fi adventure. With this sequel I was bored at points. I was enthralled at points. I was annoyed at some points. I wantedr it to be mandatory high school curriculum at other points. The plot and characters were written around info dumps, the author says as much in his afterword, and those were my favorite parts.

This book opened at a massive desert festival that will go unnamed to preserve a semblance of anonymity. Fun. Odd. But three entire chapters were devoted to the festival scene. I’m not talking about a book or movie scene. A scene, like the kind the cool kids hang-out in. Within that description the author spent two or three pages describing his favorite coffee and how his method is superior to the 99% other methods of brewing. First freakin’ yawn.

For all of the info dumps the coffee scene entertained me least. The coffee instructions were a perfect example of an author’s baby. Their literary baby. The thing authors love and believe the rest of the universe should love as much as they do. This one was easily identifiable by the word count alone and to me earned the most horrendous of all writerly advice. The author should’ve killed his baby. Literarily.

First chapter—no conflict. Second chapter—the beginning of conflict, but nothing much. Third chapter—the inciting incident. And just in the nick of time because basically it was the chosen one being anointed moments before the quest began. Then the predictable reluctance to build tension, though there’s never any question which direction the hero will take.

The stakes almost got serious. A little torture, but he’s out. His friends and family never felt any danger. Then he gets the job of his dreams working for the Perfect Politician. A guy so caring and insightful as to be mythical. At first I hated it. I don’t want to read overtly political fiction, but then I came to see this figure as an ideal blueprint of what a textbook politician should be. A golem built of clay with a mind and heart pure enough to follow. Meh. The fantasy was nice. I guess I’m left with Bernie Trump or Hillary Cruz. (Note to writers: This is how you date an otherwise timeless blog post.)

The protagonist was led by other characters the entire way. There was a good supporting cast, friends with the same or better skills that helped throughout the novel. Some of them might’ve made better main characters, though the protagonist was the hero of the last book. There were enough call backs to infer motivations, or lack thereof, but I still wanted a more active hero.

One thing that really put me off the protagonist came from an unusual place. At first it was a little funny, kind of playful, and totally relatable, but the girlfriend continuously berated him. Even to the point where the main character repeatedly called himself an idiot. They loved each other, but the interaction felt uneven and degrading. Even in the interpersonal interaction the main character was led. And led to poor conditions. A little more banter, a little more equality in the relationship would’ve done wonders as far as me liking the protagonist. Seriously, at some point capitulation loses its charm.

I felt as though the author was holding back. He could’ve cut loose exquisite prose, yet refrained to maintain the young adult voice of the novel. I also felt that he followed the handbook on novel writing checking off every box that made the protagonist likable. We got to hear about the main character’s sad, out of work parents, the dire conditions of society and overwhelming powers crushing everyone into serfs. It added texture and tension, but it didn’t come close to nailing the suffering that it could’ve. Almost like the throwaway line “they were lucky,” was used to get out of the hard work of writing really painful stuff.

Things are moving along, right? The situation is getting perilous. Down to the darkest moment. The bad guys are after him, the FBI is interested in him and he loses his dream job. Oh no, what’s he going to do? Where’s he going to run? How’s he going to escape to win the day?

Well, an old friend shows up, negotiates with the bad guys. The main character is free of them. His old boss, Perfect Politician, talks to the FBI, gets them off his tail. Then he’s paid a month’s salary out of Perfect Politician’s own pocket because that’s how great of a guy he is. What happened to the consequences? What happened to the tension?

After being led for several hundred pages, with that very squishy notion hanging over his head as a plot point, the protagonist makes the one and only decision, one bland action that defines who he is for the rest of his life. And then the book ends.

What? That was it?

I didn’t check to see where the story ended. There was still half a centimeter of pages to go, so the end snuck up on me. Damn. That was disappointing. The epilog picked up a year later at the same festival doing the same stuff. Another admission of idiocy and everything wound up happily.

Rrrrrrr. It was too easy.

And what was in the last half centimeter of pages? Three chapters of the first book. Not the next book. Not another of the publisher’s books. Three chapters of a book I’ve already purchased.

That’s a lot of negativity. So what did I like?

The techno babble info dumps kept me reading. Those I found entertaining. There was technology I’m curious about that is just outside my skills. With a few more pieces of hardware I can… well, at minimum I’ll have a few more pieces of hardware.

For all of the story’s detractions, this techno dump info babble would be as dry asHomer Studying microwave instructions without the protagonist being led through the marvelous exposition. Like the statistically magnificent majority of technology consumers I wouldn’t have the least inclination to look up, follow up, or dream up uses for the tech all around me. With that in mind, the book changed from a mediocre story to an amazing textbook blending purposely obscured civil rights with technological freedom and independence. There is much more to the virtual world than my ISP lets me see. As a child raised with George Orwell’s 1984 always floating near grown-up conversation (mostly as simple agreement or acknowledgments, nothing deeper) the idea of a space actively denied to me for my own safety by the powers that be is intriguing.

Well written structurally. Important issues raised through allegory. Dry subjects enlivened by sympathetic characters. I liked this book well enough to want a little more. It’s the first book I’ve read where I thought about rewriting it as a favor to the author. I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Sure, while he’s got several published books, thousands of published articles, fame and fortune to last a lifetime, I’ve got a blog. Which obviously qualifies me to rewrite all the world’s literature.

Have you ever almost liked a book to the point you wanted to rewrite it? Share and we’ll discuss.

Anonymous Book Review 13—Consistency.

At points I really liked this anonymous book, but at other points I disliked it. And while trying to put my finger on an overriding feature to categorically explain how I feel about this book, I discovered everything that moved me, good and bad, did so in

So much time spent at the local liquor store playing 1942.

So much time spent at the local liquor store playing 1942.

technical ways. Again, even this is difficult to state without qualifiers.

The book was written well. The story progressed nicely except for the sections that didn’t. The main character was sympathetic, except for the points when I didn’t care. The plot was a fun race for the MacGuffin, when it was a race.

Mrs. Pacman got me through so many hours at the Laundromat.

Mrs. Pacman got me through so many hours at the Laundromat.

This story required a lot of world building and exposition. I can get into both when they’re done right, and for the most part they were. Except for when they weren’t. There was an entire section devoted to the daily routine of a shut-in. It set up details for later scenes, but at the time seemed long and boring.

Without the bouts of exposition, however, I doubt I would’ve been immersed in the incredible virtual universe where the best parts of the story took place. I mean, this is the only book ever written that could combine all the coolest aspects of science fiction, fantasy, gaming and pop culture into an environment that mattered to the story. That made it a lot of fun to read.

I noticed something throughout this book that made me recognize consistency issues in other areas. The problem was super small, but repeated. And the consistency issue touched a very personal, very specific thread of my only genuine popular culture

Ahhh, the days spent playing all the NeoGeo games at the Pizza/Burge/Chinesse restaurant.

Ahhh, the days spent playing all the NeoGeo games at the Pizza/Burger/Chinesse restaurant.


The precise problem was that the author frequently switched between metric and U.S. Customary units. This is sad to say, but I probably would’ve given this book five stars if the author chose one system and stuck with it. It read as if the author wrote the story one way, then decided to switch to metric to sound smarter, lost focus through the rewrite process, then remembered, then forgot again.

So the author forgot. Okay, there are editors. But the editors dropped the ball on this one.

Every switch jarred me out of the story, but that’s my own OCD.

This laps continued when the author mentioned my favorite story of all time by its Japanese title. Later he called it by its American title. They’re slightly different stories, but it happens. Then he left it off of the list of the most popular cartoons of its day. Then he made all of the giant robots bad. Then he wiped them all out in half a sentence. Gurge! They deserved better. I’m personally, bitterly offended that this author’s sense of fictional robotic propriety is slightly different that mine.

There were social messages at the begging and end that drew a different focus. It’s basically another dystopian YA novel where evil corporations, backed by one specific political party,

Did you play your favorite character from the cartoons, or the character you played best?

Did you choose your favorite character from the cartoons, or the character you played best?

have destroyed the Earth through their greed. This consequence sets up this story nicely. But to be honest, I’m kind of over the dystopia thing. It seems decadent to me that Western authors write so much about the collapse of their own civilization. I guess people write what they wish for.

… and then a million dollars miraculously appeared in Benjamin’s bank account….

Whoa. I’ll save that for another story.

The real social message seemed to be stuffed into the story at the end. The entire scene could’ve been handled so much better. Two characters finally met after a long and virtual relationship. The second character, looking nothing like the main character expects, suddenly feels the need to admit why she misled the main charter about her ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Then the main character piously dismisses those concerns. First of all the second character didn’t need to admit anything. After that the second character’s tone seemed diminished which made the exchange read very awkwardly. If the author had maintained the character’s typical tone and let the character own her traits through the witty banter she’d displayed everywhere else in the book, the same message

Double Dragon. How many thugs did my brother and I beat up with this game?

Double Dragon. How many thugs did my brother and I beat up in this game?

would’ve come out from a much stronger character.

This second character’s origin seemed cliché and simplistic in this day and age while the story takes place in the near future, which should make the melodrama even less relevant. All of this is shoved into a few pages with no bearing on the plot. To me it seemed like the author took a writers group suggestion and inserted it without much revision.

Space Harrier!! My favorite, and probably one of the strangest games ever.

Space Harrier!! My favorite, and probably one of the strangest games ever.

These issues aside, I would recommend this book to most anyone. But not everyone. And if they have a decent grasp on 1980s pop culture, all the better.

Now to get on with writing something I’ve been meaning to deal with for a while.

… and then a million dollars miraculously appeared in Benjamin’s bank account….

Anonymous Book Review 12: The first book I quit.

I’ve quit my first book. That’s right, quit it. Put it down and moved on. I’m glad I didn’t list it on Goodreads. I don’t want to face scorn from the fanatical community who loves this book and the seemingly endless sequels. See, this book is legend. It’s sacrosanct. Hallowed text. My bookstore lady guaranteed (in spirit, not refunds) that I would love it.

But I didn’t. And I pissed-off a friend.

Okay. A few things took me out of the story. First was the POV. Third person omniscient. It was done well. I always knew who thought what, but I could never make a connection with a single character. This book is some fifty years old, written in an earlier time, before hyper-critical (ahem) MFAs ruined literature. (Ahem.) I needed something different than the style of the bygone time.

Second, the pace had me yawning. This anonymous book is big. The author took his time developing the characters and

Question: What does the author and lice have in common? Answer: They both hop between heads.

Question: What does the author and lice have in common?
Answer: They both hop between heads.

plot. Fifty pages, ten percent of the book, not enough to adequately judge the rest of the story, but it was all politics. Tedious politics, not fun or scary or spellbinding. Page over page of speculation and preparation. MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN!!!

Sorry. I lost my comportment.

Where was I…

Yes, third, which had more to do with my expectations than the book itself, was that the plot read like a fantasy novel. I love a good fantasy novel when I’m in the mood for one, but this genre defining sci-fi book started with a feudal hierarchy where a sorceress administered a magic test to see if the main character is “The Chosen One,” or some such. Then this lesser noble family is supposed to—

I’ll stop there to preserve a thread of anonymity.

Yeah, I wasn’t ready for that kind of a book.

From a writer’s perspective the POV stood out most. In third person omniscient justification for choices come abruptly, or the back story (as little as a sentence or two) was fed into spots at exactly the right time. The effect was removing tension from the scene. When two people are glaring at each other, daring the other to flinch, I don’t want an explanation why character bad-guy made her choice, then hopping into good-guy’s head to listen to her reasoning. Set up the conflict with solid, distinct POVs and let the consequences follow smoothly.

Speaking of consequences—there’s my pissed-off friend. I had recently critiqued his novel and I think I now know the problem. His story was really good, but the POV and pacing were my biggest issues, issues my writer friend was unreasonably skeptical to accept. It is, after all, only my opinion, but my critique was totally wrong.

I had known that this anonymous book and its many sequels was one of his all-time favorites. Of course, it’s everybody’s favorite, right? But when I read this first part everything made sense. My friend’s writing style matched the style of this book. My critique wasn’t mere comments on his hard work, but comments inadvertently against his favorite fiction, against his childhood fantasies.

Damn. Well, what’s said is said.

So I paid retail price for the massive paperback. I own it and expect someday to pick it up again, but that probably won’t be for a while.

Have you ever disliked and disregarded a book that was supposed to be spectacular? Share your story because you’re not alone.

Oh, and one last thing. Thank you MFAs for insisting on distinct POVs. Readers do come closer to main characters this way. Maybe you haven’t ruined literature after all.