The first review of my debut novel has always been my favorite. This is because the person actually put thought into the review, rather than reacting with emotion saying, “It was the best thing ever!” or “Awful! Just awful!” The opinions I respect and trust the most are the ones that are based on the person taking every possible aspect into consideration.
I wish I could send this person a copy of the second novel, because I’d love to know what their opinion of that is as well.
Now, let’s dive into the review.
“First, as someone who reads four or five books a week, I must say this is a good first attempt. The author presents a gritty, violent, vile, alternative timeline for US history where the country has torn itself apart over the results of political ideology and human nature left unchecked. The people of Portland, Oregon (the setting for the story) are caught in a multi-sided civil war and are forced to make hard choices. The only people that seem to thrive in the in the chaos are the criminal scum of society; bad things happen to good people in this book. By the end of the story, all of the main characters are emotional and physically damaged by the worse experiences imaginable.”
I am glad this person understood AND appreciated the subject matter. It’s not a book for dummies, and it’s not a book for children.
“Second, at the author’s request, the following is intended to help improve his writing. Please keep in mind, the four areas of critique provided are my opinions. If you agree great, if not, that is okay as well. If the following comes across harsh, please accept my apologies. I think you (the author) are a diamond in the rough and I would love to see what a little polishing could do.”
I did not take this review as being too rough. When it comes to constructive criticism, there is no such thing as too harsh. I’d love to do a little polishing on the novel, but editing for a narrative of this size is literally $1-2000. Unless it becomes an international bestseller, I don’t think I should spend that kind of cash on this book.
“1. As with many new/independent authors, please, please, please if you are going to use guns in your stories, consult a firearms expert. At the beginning of the book, you make reference to a shotgun, and then a few lines latter you call it a rifle. A rifle and shotgun are two very different types of firearms. Likewise, at the end of the book the character Seth, takes a single barrel shotgun from Theia. What type of shotgun are you describing? Are you referring to a single shot shotgun, or a pump shotgun? Based upon how Seth used the shotgun, I assume that you meant a pump, however a little clarification and fact checking go a long way in adding to the credibility of the story.”
I have been permitted to correct these, among other errors that I noticed. This in particular is something I fixed because you were correct to point it out.
“2. Maybe this is just me, but you had too many subplots or story lines in the first half of the book. To be honest, initially, it was hard to tell who the main characters were and who were supporting characters. Take the character Adam for example; you did a very nice job developing him just enough to get the readers to care about him, to hope that he was about to rise above the circumstances of his life and then your promptly kill him. For me, that was a big letdown. I would recommend not so many subplots. In addition, I would recommend that when a supporting character is disposable (which in this story all of them were), spend less time in development.”
In the first half? The whole novel is written that way. It was my intention to not make the main character obvious. In fact, I tried to make it possible for different readers to see different characters as the ‘main’ one. I’ve heard some say it’s Theia, and I’ve heard some say it’s Ethan. Truth be told, I was trying to make it Mercy, but I didn’t push the matter too much. As for the rest of what you say, I have to respectfully disagree. I wanted my readers to care about Adam before he died. This was not only to make the story less predictable, but it was also to enhance the realism. I don’t believe any character of any story should be impervious to death or serious injury simply because they are the main character. That has always taken me out of the story, no matter which story I’m reading/watching in a movie. In this novel, the reader is supposed to see the story progress, but not strictly from one point of view. If you focus on the overall direction of the story, instead of trying to obsess over one person in particular, it will be 10x easier to read and understand.
“3. You may want to rethink the timeframe in which the story takes place (the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013). Since the political events described in the book did not happen, it would be beneficial to communicate to the reader in some way that an alternative timeline is being used. As you know, in fictional writing, you are asking the readers to either take things at face value with limited data or to suspend belief at some level. I felt like I was left to my own devices to figure out that the story occurred in an alternative history. A very simple way to address this issue is to set the book in the near future, referring to known political events that “could” lead to the problems addressed. By doing this you encourage the reader to think about the issues presented without having to figure out how the failure to address the issue(s) in the past lead to (in the case of this story) the second US Civil War in 2012.”
Again, I must respectfully disagree. The story was not meant to be a ‘what if’ scenario in the form of a novel. My inspiration for writing this novel, and the series entire, was the characters and the situation they are in. It was not meant to make people think about what it would look like if the United States collapsed. If that’s what readers think about after reading it, then great, but that was not the point. If the reader understands that, then the year the story takes place in shouldn’t even matter to them. No matter when it takes place (say, 2025 for example), at some point in reality, that year will be in the past anyway. It’s like reading 1984 nowadays and being bothered that those events didn’t actually happen in the real 1984. You’d missing the point of the story.
“4. You were just graphic enough in your description of the various means murder, mayhem, sex trafficking, and rape that some readers may become very disturbed. I am in the military, working in the medical field, and have seen things that no human being in their right mind would want to see. Your descriptions brought back some very disturbing memories. As a professional, I would like to think that I am somewhat desensitized; I would hate to see how someone who has been a victim of violence and rape might respond. Now I am not saying to avoid the subjects; rather I recommend that if you address them, provide a warning in the book description as a courtesy to anyone who may not be able to deal with it.”
Thank you for your service, and I am sorry that certain events in the novel triggered such traumatic memories. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. Most people who have spoken to me about the story haven’t had any issue with the violence in it. I didn’t think it would be an issue for most. None of the graphic descriptions, whether violent or sexual, were meant to be for shock value. Even Adam’s death wasn’t meant to be shocking. Everything was as I felt the story should go, and should be described. Cumulatively, I have spent hours thinking about whether I should make any major changes to the novel, whether it’s the POV-style chapters or the graphic violence, etc. I was honestly prepared to rewrite the whole thing, but ultimately concluded that they all serve the novel as they should. Remnant is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I hope you find this feedback useful.
Despite our disagreements, I did find it useful. I appreciated it immensely. If by some miracle you see this article, please tell me how I can send you the second novel, Resurrection, if you don’t have it already.