Sample Critique 4

Critique of "Thumbalina and Flatfoot" by Joe Lindsay

Story by Roland Hough

The classic SF form of a Man with a Problem. The best features of these stories have always been the science. Yours certainly qualifies in this respect.

* The use of language is sound, at times becoming a little technical and long-winded. You should see if there's anything irrelevant you could cut out. For example --

> It is relatively new technology, even today, this business of setting up inter-spatial threads between known points in the universe. Mankind formed this idea when the ability to sense the existence of threads was first discovered. Every now and then some human comes up with a quantum leap, no pun intended, to mankind’s exo-evolutionary tool set. Using theories centuries old, they proved that two points in space could be connected through inter-dimensional threads. Then someone built the first gate. It went from Earth to Jupiter’s second moon, Europa. They pushed a probe through it, and voila, thread jumping was born.

You can kill a lot of this -- for a start, you can assume that your SF reader is familiar with what a "stargate" does. You can also cut individual clauses in your sentences. See if there are any parts you can rewrite a little shorter, a little punchier.

* My major plot concern:

> The problem is that there is no way to engineer a probe that can find the gate on the other end, once it has passed through.

That I don't buy. Why can't you? What qualities does a human possess that a machine can't? You gloss over this fairly important concern. There a range of possibilities -- perhaps building a probe capable of creating a thread gate would be too expensive. Perhaps the conditions on the unknown side of the thread gate are so variable that it is impossible to efficiently program such a probe.

* The opening paragraphs are confusing. Here's another way of structuring it:

> Something is wrong, very wrong. We aren’t landing. We are just falling into nothingness.

I'd suggest that you now have the narrator look across the cabin (so that we know for sure he's in some type of vehicle) to see how his copilot is doing. Perhaps your description could be a little more visual than "he was unconscious." You could describe Janfir's head lolling, or a nasty bruise. It's in low gravity, so his hair would be floating all over the place as if underwater -- you could make a comparison with a drowned man.

The next thing to do is mention the threat gate, perhaps just in passing: "We are falling away from the thread gate at 350 Km/h , and despite our velocity, are being pushed along north by northwesterly at about 60 Km a minute. Then a description of the planet. Then have the narrator try to take action. Only after this should you start introducing more information about the nature of thread gates and the mission.

* I liked the oddball explicitives, and that final note from Jafir. More lighter or unusual bits & pieces would be welcome. Have your narrator admire the view. Put some life into the cabin interior. A half-empty box of tic tacs, a pet Martian Mouse, some posters, some humourous adage tacked up to the control panel, some appropriately ancient music. A nice contrast with the impending doom.

* Consider introducing the computer as a second character, which communicates verbally, so that you can include some dialogue. It would also be an excellent way of providing technical information in a format not quite so dense and relentless, of adding humour or even creating more dramatic tension, as the narrator struggles to get the tempermental computer to co-operate.

* Your learning curve appears to be a vertical line.

Thanks,
Joe