I write because I love to explore the hypothetical consequences of situations people could be in. If doing this happens to pay for the necessities of staying alive to write some more, so much the better, but if even one person is left happier because of something I wrote (provided no one else is miserable by the same cause), that's all I can ask for. Besides engaging in this willing psychosis we call fiction writing, I enjoy attempting (keyword) to play the saxophone, helping out with organizations to make the world more awesome (mostly at school), learning the natural and social sciences, doodling, fanboying over my favorite show/book at the time, and guffawing like a hyena at the Internet.
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by Anthony DiGiovanni
After hunting down a robotics engineer he believes to be a sexual predator, a destitute man in southern Nevada finds that he's the only conscious person on a planet of suddenly comatose humans -- until his victim appears to be commanding the world's androids. Marked public enemy #1 in the eyes of a moon colony that'll do anything to sustain the human race, can he prove he isn't better off dead?
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Smashwords book reviews by Anthony DiGiovanni
- Hep Z: Outbreak
on Feb. 16, 2014
This story shows hints of potential as a sci-fi tale, but having found the writing style, characterization, and plot threads lacking, I'd say "The Stand" is a superior choice if you're looking for an epidemic apocalypse story of survivors who swear like sailors.
The first chapter shows early on how skilled the author is at description of background elements -- something I'm admittedly an amateur at -- but from there the story falters quite a bit. The repetition of unnecessary thought/dialogue attribution phrases like "he thought to himself" and "she replied" can get somewhat grating, and the introduction of the disease's outbreak follows a fairly bland formula: protagonist feels under the weather, protagonist overhears strangers' shallow conversation about epidemic rumors, and protagonist dismisses this information nonchalantly. Using the "horrifying disease that looks innocent from the beginning" motif can be effective (I cited "The Stand" positively, after all, and it does this), provided there are interesting character interactions into which the author sprinkles these hints. "Hep Z: Outbreak" sticks to the bare minimum in this regard.
Lest the reader suppose I despised this book, let me refer to the counterexamples. The scene showing the protagonist's work environment kept my attention, and chapter 3 was brimming with possibility. I don't want to give much away, but this chapter sparked the question of what life would be like for people rendered mentally juvenile by an unprecedented disease. Unfortunately, reading further and even halfway into the sequel, the rest of the story shifted away from the direction chapter 3 seemed to promise.
The descriptions in and soon after this scene of the new, ravaged setting were intriguing, but they never seemed to reach their full potential. Ditto for the briefly mentioned detail of children in the post apocalyptic world with telepathic powers -- I would've loved more conflict and elaboration built upon this.
Considering these shortcomings, the density of the paragraphs focusing too much on setting compared to character for my taste, the overload of technical details (which are fine and even enriching in science fiction, when they blend into a character-driven story), and the general flatness of the characters, "Hep Z: Outbreak" was not my cup of tea. If you're a reader who doesn't mind consistently large paragraphs, and who appreciates a significant dose of factual emphasis that isn't very pertinent to the characters' emotional lives, then I'd recommend you give this first part of the series a try.
- Hep Z: Resistance
on Feb. 17, 2014
Please refer to my review of part 1 of this series ("Hep Z: Outbreak") for some context to this part, as there I explain elements of the author's writing style (and my response to them) that largely remain consistent in this sequel.
"Hep Z: Resistance" mildly improves on the precedent set by the series's first part, even if the numerical ratings I've given the two are identical. The author's portrayal of the struggles of the central character, Jerry, seizes one's attention fairly well -- although more so in the latter parts of this book than the somewhat slow beginning. Jerry gets a moderately more well-rounded characterization than the protagonist of "Outbreak" did, and the author develops the psychological horror of the focal disease more. This horror component isn't as intense as it could be, but provided the story's purpose isn't primarily to rely on fear in the first place, the reader can forgive this. Jerry's inner life was the highlight of this story, in my opinion.
As a world-builder with technical detail, "Resistance" is mostly successful. Though we don't get much of a vivid picture of the primary setting's aesthetics, those intrigued by the elaboration of a technology-dependent community's logistics will be pleased. The story world plays a moderate role in the story's later conflicts, but we don't see enough of the characters' idiosyncrasies and relationships for these conflicts to faze the reader much.
While readers can leave the author's style and particular attention to impersonal details to the judgment of individual taste, fiction requires certain elements of near-universal appeal to fulfill what stories implicitly promise the reader. Science fiction is no exception; it promises technical motifs and a form of plausible fantasy, yes, but all great sci-fi delivers these as the vessels of the dramatic lifeblood readers thrive on -- conflict among, and within, three-dimensional people they can empathize with. Again, Jerry's internal tension serves its purpose fairly well, but we don't learn enough of Jerry's individuality and how he relates to the other characters (especially Kristen and Davis) to flip the pages anxiously, to grow invested in the society Jerry inhabits.
I could be wrong, of course. Readers have a wide range of interests, so "Resistance" may stick with those for whom setting and factual nuances are a treat. The imagination is there. If the author took more time to probe each character's mind and heart, putting these survivors into situations ripe for psychological warfare, he would likely succeed at getting readers attached to this world.
- Hep Z: Communion
on Feb. 22, 2014
Most of my gripes with, and praises of, this novella are identical to those I explained in my reviews of the first two parts. It certainly has its virtues, not the least of which is creative potential, but the execution of the author's vision simply doesn't make for an exceptional read.
"Show, don't tell" may be a cliché (as is the practice of defending clichés), but it's an invaluable principle for a fiction writer, and one that RCE neglects. Much of the first half of the tale consists of direct descriptions of technologically intricate features of the story's environment, and the testing of this equipment run by the characters. Reading about these processes might be enthralling if only the characters and their dialogue were bolder, more unique, and more human.
What makes reading "Communion" frustrating at times is that it's clear that this story world has a lot to work with. A combination of the central disease's side effects and bioengineering results in a breed of "Meatheads" (defined by their abnormal strength), new heights of empathy, and manipulation of the senses themselves. This is the stuff of promising sci-fi.
But the author gives us little more than a surface-scratching of these dramatic catalysts. Without spoiling the conclusion, this flaw shows up to the nth degree in the story's interesting nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The characters are barely pushed to their limits by their circumstances, and when they are, the pages detailing this tension are too few to punch the reader's emotional gut.
The last quarter of this story was delightfully bizarre, to be fair. Sadly, violations of the "show, don't tell" rule tarnish what could have been something truly awe-inspiring.