Rating: 2 stars
Overview: I came across this short story in my search for recent cyberpunk writing.
First Sentence: Liam died six months ago. This one was a little too short to convey much impact. Who cares who Liam is? Maybe ‘my fiancee Liam’ or ‘the love of my life’ could have set a better tone. 2 stars for the opener.
Plot: A woman comes to understand that her murdered fiancee’s consciousness has been wrongfully uploaded into a computer box.
The Bad: This story is very short at just over seven pages on my PDF copy. There is a lot of empty space on the remaining 5 or so pages. This was a minor peeve at first because I saw 13 pages on my PDF reader, then I got to page 10 and it was over, with 3 pages of nothing relevant still left. I’ll tell you why this became a major peeve shortly.
Okay, so this chick’s fiancee gets killed accidentally, or so it seems. She starts getting clues leading her to a black box holding her fiancee’s consciousness. The bad guys are coming, she has to make a quick escape, and then... the story is over. I’m on page 9, right, and the build-up has so far been fairly slow, fairly expository so I’m getting to know this chick and potentially starting to care about the situation. This is the first time this chick is getting in trouble. Now I’m going to see how she can handle herself in a moment of crisis. That’s the moment when the axe comes down and cuts this story off at the neck. After lumbering along in first gear, the story goes to second and third, and then the author shut off the engine on me. I thought, what, is this like an excerpt of a longer story? No. That’s it. That’s all I get and I have to come up with the rest in my head, just when I was starting to like it! That’s when the minor peeve of 5 nothing pages became an irritation.
On page 11, we read: If you enjoyed this short story, I’d bet you’d like blah, blah, blah. So, I’m supposed to read this story, get hooked on the writer’s style, and then go take a look at this other book he wrote. No, sorry. I’ve written cliffhangers before in my novels, but a short story is different. A short story gives the author a chance to throw a bunch of curveballs without the exposition needed in a longer project. I was not wowed by the truncated ending. I didn’t get to really care about the main protagonist. What if I get a similar cut-off in the novel? I’m not willing to take that chance based on this short piece that was written to impress me, not when there are other authors I can check out that do complete their stories.
You can go on Youtube, for example, and watch short films based on cyberpunk stories. They go from five to ten minutes long, and most if not all of them have endings. Even bad endings are endings. If I were this author, I would add another 3 to 4 pages to this story, getting the heroine out of harm’s way, and give the reader some incentive at the end to make the story sizzle and pop. Something that will make me want to go look at this other novel he wrote.
Also, at times it didn’t seem clear that the protagonist was a woman. You can write that she was the fiancee of a dead guy, but I didn’t really feel that. Maybe if she had to tie her long hair back, or maybe the guard stared at her butt a little too much. There was no description of the heroine at the start, and the bits that I got as the story went on were so bland and generic that it could have just as easily been a male instead of a female. Oh, but we have a ‘misogynistic bugger’ making aggressive advances. Wait, a man who hates women is hitting on our heroine? Either the wrong word was used here, or we need more informational details to justify why the heroine set him up later. Also, another guy named Rodrick works across from the heroine and is ‘weird but harmless.’ So, our heroine has psychological issues about men except for the one she was about to marry. Anyway, the protagonist could have been a 14 year-old hacker or a 40 year-old programmer by changing only a handful of minor cues. If you want your characters to stick out, you have to make them stick out.
The Good: The author showed a good grasp of the situation and detailed that very well. The cyberpunk aspects were fine for the genre, about middle of the road from what I’ve read so far. Formatting and grammar were above average, except for one error that jarred my pace because the writing before and after was smooth. I know errors happen, so for an independent writer these aspects of the short story overall were good.
(reviewed 43 days after purchase)