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Smashwords book reviews by tavia
on April 13, 2011
Animals is a self-published short story by Lauren Shain-Raque that I found on smashwords.com by searching for “apocalypse”. The story follows Dania and Gil through some awkward interactions and deep revelations on the military base they and many others must live on to keep themselves safe from “Animals.”
The apocalypse event in this story was definitely unique and interesting. I’m considering if I’d go as far as saying it was refreshing. Unfortunately, the explanation of the event was sequestered off at the end of the story like a big reveal. This was strange because after a while I’d just assumed the author had named the creatures in the story something different to be unique and felt no sense of mystery about it.
What was a mystery to me though, was why the characters were behaving the way they were. There’s this sexual tension between the main characters that’s completely acknowledged but unrelated to the plot. It’s strangeness is exacerbated by the fact that Gil is clearly older than Dania but it’s not clear by how much or how old either of them are. She acts kind of childish and flirtatious making me think she could be anywhere from 12 to twenty-something. Gil is extremely serious and seems to be in charge of everyone on this military base, therefore he can’t be younger than his late twenties.
The story of Dania and Gil and the Animals is interesting as a glimpse of a version of a post-apocalyptic scene. Although, I felt a bit confused as to why I was being shown this particular scene. There was glimpse of this relationship and its complications but no real explanation of why it was so complicated. The conclusion was delivered in a way that made me reread a few parts to see if I’d missed something. Nope. It seems it was just a case of all the wrong details. Details about Dania being an attention whore, about Gil lusting after her, about creatures being drawn to Dania and about the officers on the base not really liking her, none of these things were relevant to the conclusion.
As with all self-published pieces, the quality of not only the storytelling but also the quality of the writing is a factor in rating a story. There were typos. Not advanced grammatical errors that only a professional editor would have caught but simple typos that could have been caught on a read through. There weren’t enough of these to make me put the story down, but there were enough to make me sad about it.
[Originally posted on incaseofsurvival.com]
- Dear Diary
on April 20, 2011
Dear Diary by Michael Mathis is short story about the creep up to “Armageddon“ told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl living in New York City in the year 2023 writing in her brand new diary.
It sounds like a terribly annoying premise. And, honestly, the premise was the main flaw of the story. This story would have been so much more enjoyable for me had it been written in a perspective I felt the author had a connection with.
As it stands, I felt like I was reading about what a grown man believes twelve-year-old girl to be like, not a true representation of an adolescent girl. It was especially strange because this plucky childish farce didn’t fall when the girl was supposed to be feeling real and tragic emotions. I would have had no idea that she was scared, had she not explicitly stated it. Even then, I was thinking, Why? You don’t care about these people you’re just in love with your damned diary.
Also, she talks to her Diary in her Diary and tells her Diary about what she did with her Diary… As you might imagine, sometimes this is confusing, it’s usually pretty odd and annoying.
The voice of the adult author often breaks through and clouds the character of the child. For example, she correctly uses semicolons and other writing conventions a twelve-year-old wouldn't likely but is otherwise kind of an oblivious idiot who makes a point of being unable to spell epidemic…
The sense of immersion was off. Akin to floating in the Dead Sea, where you’re wet and definitely in deep water but there’s no threat of actual submersion much less drowning. I understood it was the diary of a child but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to view it as the thoughts of a child.
I liked the idea of the story and the details but felt another character would have better served them. I actually found myself imagining the story was being told from the perspective of an army mess hall cook, or and inmate, or a hobo accounting his life while the numbers of his camp started to dwindle and occasionally, unintentionally he’d touch back to the education and insightfulness he had once waved like a sword when he charged into the boardroom — back before the coke and the syphilis caught up to him.
I enjoyed the story for the imagination jump off it provided. I could see myself letting my mind wander around in this world exploring different areas and perspectives. I connected with the setting much more easily than I could with the character. The details of the progression and the world building were tragic and easy to visualize.
I would keep reading Mathis’s tales of the end of the world if I could be sure there wouldn’t be so many late in the game typos that didn’t reflect the faltering of the character’s strength so much as the faltering of the authors give-a-s**t.
(originally posted on incaseofsurvival.com)
on April 27, 2011
Preparing for the apocalypse is hard, thankless work. Even when you’re the only one to reap the benefits. Free on smashwords.com, Hole by David Lovato is the account of one man at the end of the world being really bored. … Yeah, that’s about it.
There are pages of details about the survival shelter Guy MainCharacter made and now resides in. We learn about how his friends and and family thought him insane and didn’t want to play with him. Unfortunately, we don’t really learn these things by seeing them or seeing him experience them, we get them recounted anecdotally.
1. Guy prepared for the end.
2. Guy’s friends and family preferred real life over preparing for the end.
3. Guy is super bored and misses people and life because he’s alone in his hidey Hole.
4. Guy decides to leave his Hole and…
It was written well enough; it just wasn’t interesting or engaging. It would have been nice to have felt his pain rather than just understood that he was in a regrettable, sucky situation.
Feeling empathy for MainCharacter was hard because he himself was more anecdote than person. An anecdote that was summed up in a sentence by economist Joseph A. Schumpeter:
“We always plan too much and always think too little.”
(originally posted on incaseofsurvival.com)