IlsaDerron

"The Russian judge of reviewers." I apologize for being harsh, I only mean to provide an honest opinion for the benefit of either the writer or the (potential) reader.

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A hollow beauty

The writing style of the author has a flair that is captivating. The structure of the sentences and the use of words make for a very pleasant and swift read; it all appears very deliberate and well-though-out. The short, one-sentence paragraphs create a nice rhythm to the reading experience. As is to be expected with such careful writing: it is grammatically impeccable.

However, in my opinion, a talented way with words is wasted on an empty story. In such a way that I, as a reader, feel cheated. The symbolism of the story packs no punch and 'the plot' has nothing to offer to compensate for this. Nothing of significance happens, because the author coyly refuses to give any significance to any moment or concept in favor of the mystery. Unfortunately, the mystery is a suffocating cloak under which nothing can thrive. This is either a purposeful stylistic choice that has failed to deliver, or it is a cheat: the author sells us mystery because she has nothing else to offer.

Why do (only) girls walk The Way? Who made The Way? What kind of world is this? What are dark-wights? What is this society of humans (?) like? What is in the egg? Having none of these questions answered feels like lazy storytelling as opposed to thought-provoking mysteries. It feels like the author doesn't even know the answers and hopes the readers will fill in the blanks for her, relying on the reader to project meaning and gravity into an ampty shell.

I realize that this story is a 'Work In Progress', but since the prologue is submitted to a writing contest and the closing date of the contest is near, it is reasonably safe to assume the prologue will have to stand on it's own as a contest entry and I have to judge the available material. To compensate for the fact that the story is incomplete and might still be expanded on in time, I gave two stars for the plot, where I would have given one, based on the (as of yet unfulfilled) promise and I gave three stars for the overall rating where I would have done only two: one for style, one for grammar, one for promise.

I hope to be proven wrong and that the story will be completed before October 7th, because on it's own the prologue is a weak entry.

One thing I noticed in the story, which might be an error (it feels like an error): The way the suit works is explained as: "The farther she went from [the markers], however, the harder the [push and pull] would become to resist". Yet, near the end, where a large part of The Way is destroyed, it is said that she is far away from the nearest marker and the pull is implied to be weak, while it should be exceptionally strong if she is "too far" away from the nearest marker.

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Memorable message is undermined by author’s need for a happy/hopeful ending

Firstly, I must point out to you that the title itself contains a grammatical error, it should be: “Other Peoples’ Heartbreak”. Some authors avoid the apostrophe in titles because it doesn’t ‘look good’, but it is necessary.

The concept of the clock is flawed. People have their soulmates' lifespan on their forearm but it doesn’t take into account things like car accidents? Not until after they’ve happened, then all of a sudden the time shortens on the forearm? Does the clock only consider TOD if the death is ‘natural’? What is natural? Old age, cancer, an infection? These are widely considered natural, but even these three things are influenced by behavior (just like a car crash). If we don ‘t exercise and become obese, we could die younger. If we smoke we could get lung cancer. If we cut our leg and don’t clean it properly it could get infected. Does the time on the clock change constantly in accordance with the soulmate’s behavior? (Oh, Jenny quit smoking, now she’ll live ten years longer! ...Well darn, she fell off the wagon, now she’ll die sooner). If the clock only measure time until death caused by old age and fails to take accidents and behavior into account, than the entire world would know this, it would have been broadcasted on the news (Don’t get cocky! The time can change at a moment’s notice!). It is a cheat in the narrative.

The snippets are disjointed. The ‘main character’ is supposed to be the connective fiber, but this person remains completely faceless and unrelatable until the very last chapter and by then you cannot undo the disconnect that has been felt throughout the previous chapters.

A flaw in her story is that she never looks at her clock, right? She always keeps it covered up? So when the friend dies and she finally looks at the clock and sees that it is all zeroes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he was the soulmate. The clock could have stopped years ago, without her noticing. If she does look at her own clock from time to time, this isn’t made clear.

The idea of not knowing who your soulmate is until they die is hauntingly beautiful. Unfortunately you unraveled everything and stripped this notion of its power when you introduced that the clock could reset for those who get to have a second soulmate.

In spite of all this, I can still genuinely say that I liked the story. Emotions are rational and are not affected by my analysis. But for my rating I want to be as rational as possible.

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I don't care.

This review is going to seem unfairly harsh, but at the top of the review page it states: "We write reviews in order to help others find good stories". I'm sure there will be people who enjoy this kind of story and at least there were only minor errors in grammar and spelling, but, in my opinion, this is not a good story.

The author dismissing the science behind their take on the end of the world as unimportant ("why bother?") and uninteresting ("who cares?") comes across as incredibly lazy, like the author can't be bothered and the author doesn't care. So why should I, the reader, care?

While the cold and distant personality of the character is understandable at this point, there is nothing for the reader to latch onto to, to relate to or to care about. The author has failed to make me care about the character's inevitable demise and all the death and destruction that occurred prior (the character doesn't even seem to care, life was meaningless to her before anyway). If she doesn't miss anyone or anyone, neither do I.

The philosophical insight that is attempted is inconsequential, uninventive and bland, incapable of supporting the narrative which leans so heavily on it (there is nothing else for it to lean on).

Finally, the story is very repetitive and wastes words in the absence of depth and development. A recurring element is a positive factor in a story, but it shouldn't feel as needlessly repetitive as this does.

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(some of the content in this review may be considered a spoiler)

Interesting though heavy-handed commentary on the increasingly soulless and meaningless pursuits of modern day youths (and adults to a somewhat lesser extent). With complacency and laziness already abound it is imaginable that the old written arts will be lost unless they translate to videogames or blockbusters, because they don't speak to modern interests and are otherwise too complicated for the everyday man to comprehend.

The impersonal contact between people and these "avatars" is also a realistic take, because the benefits are easily understandable (an instant visit to the doctor), but ultimately a very bleak outlook.
The twist ending was a successful element of surprise. Remembering the start of the story where Isaac states he has had many "dreams" like that prompts the chilling realization that he has killed many people before, during his absences.

My main gripe with the story is a simple question: Why hasn't he been caught in a world where privacy has clearly been sacrificed in favor of security, so much so that even Isaac has access to the camera in Jones' private quarters and can direct its movement? This feels like a plothole. If I may further nitpick: The Edgar Allen Poe quote I find bothersome because it ultimately turns out that the story is a very literal interpretation of his words, and it doesn't add anything. Isaac's many 'anachronisms' rub me the wrong way also, very 'hipster' and don't have any impact on the plot (aside from repeatedly hitting you over the head with: 'Isaac feels out of place in his era') nor make the character more likeable or relatable. Grammar and spelling are perfect, as far as I can tell, with the exception of the all-caps title, which is an incorrect and obnoxious cry for attention and I have to deduct points for that.

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Science fiction? Anyone?

Top marks on grammar and punctuation flew out the window when you made the classic it’s/its mistake in the second paragraph. Normally, such an error so early on in the story would have me clicking away, but your overall writing style did manage to hook me, so I read on.

Your writing style is your saving grace, because the story lacks the necessary depth and development of both the character(s) and the plot. This undersells the dark ending and the bitter promise for revenge at the end, which was quite interesting.

Unfortunately your story suffers from a recurring problem among the submissions for this science fiction writing contest, that I have read. What about your story qualifies it for the scifi genre? “The people” that are referred to aren’t identified as people from a different planet, futuristic time, or parallel world. As far as the reader knows, they are regular humans and the story could take place in the present or in the past, in many parts of our known world. This story had no clearly defined genre, it doesn’t get any more specific than ‘drama’ and could be applied to a contest for historical fiction just as ‘easily’. It is a cheat that the ‘genre’ is so interchangeable that it is utterly unimportant. Either bother to develop the world in this narrative to have it qualify as science fiction, or accept that it has no place in a scifi contest.

I enjoyed the story as a short quite a bit (accepting that things are going to be underdeveloped in a short story), but I did deduct points from the overall rating based on the fact that it was submitted to a scifi contest when it doesn't dare to stick its neck out and actually identify itself as scifi.

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Silly character name throws everything off balance

The problem with a story with a character who is a sherrif named “Justice Law” is that it is difficult to take anything that follows the introduction of this character seriously. For “The Timeless Sands” this means that taking this story seriously becomes a challenge three words into the story. Worse still, he is your main protagonist!

The story confuses me because I get the sense that you want the reader to experience suspense, dread and drama, but in a story where the name of the main character is a derivative joke and we’ve met a talking lizard (who brushes off his ability to talk with the cliché: “too difficult to understand”, which oftentimes betrays the author could not come up with a sensible explanation or simply couldn’t be bothered to try. This hardly ever flies in science fiction). What this story evokes is an uncomfortable chuckle and a deep frown.

As far as grammar and spelling goes, no errors caught my eye. The writing style and plot are simple but serviceable. I just don't see the point of such a silly, on-the-nose, character name, it feels out of place. I'm confused by this story, by what it wants to be and what it wants me to feel. Everything cancels each other out, leaving a flatline of thoughts and emotions.

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Disqualified

Your writing style is rather captivating and made the story an enjoyable read.

I get the sense that you have a good understanding of Native American culture and the nuances between tribes. Knowing nothing of the subject matter myself, the details you provided were very interesting and engaging and added a wealth of realism to the story (even when I don’t really know if it checks out factually). That being said, sometimes I felt the insight into the culture overpowered the story. In the beginning especially, when everything done, said, or seen seemed to warrant an explanation of what it was or what it meant according to Native American tradition.

Unfortunately the dialogue later on when you stop using quotation marks to indicate ‘spoken’ words, is confusing, because nothing distinguishes the lines of dialogue from the thoughts of the narrator. I understand it to be a stylistic choice, but it doesn’t benefit the story. I suggest finding a way to separate the 'spoken' words from the rest of the text in some way.

I enjoyed “The Chermasu”, but as an entry to a science fiction writing contest it cannot be taken seriously. It would be more at place in the supernatural/fantasy genre. This story does not include science or any of the subthemes of science fiction, instead the fantastical element of it (the transformation into a wolf) relies on a ceremony that has no scientific merit, and doesn’t pretend it does. It is fully spiritual and close to magic. Interestingly, as a more cynical reader, I would even argue that her wolf-transformation was nothing but a hallucination she had whilst in a trance-like state induced by the ceremony. In which case this story is about a young Hopi woman, living in our everyday world, serving an old man lunch and undergoing a traditional ritual that causes her to have a strange dream which is only of significance in terms of its thematics and symbolism.

You must realize this is not a scifi story, you yourself labeled it as 'Fantasy/Drama'. If uploaded to a contest of the appropriate genre I would give higher marks, but since it is uploaded as a scifi story, my rating has to take into consideration that it fails as a scifi story. I was actually looking forward to seeing you incorporate the Native American culture into a science fiction narrative, so as a scifi-fan, looking for/expecting a scifi story, I'm very disappointed.

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Don't

Inexcusably sick and twisted. The sensitive material was handled without grace or respect. Hurried, juvenile story-telling. Not to mention you (the author) wrote and posted this story before obtaining permission from the author of the original work to use the characters and the premise, that crosses the line into plagiarism.

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Illegible until corrected. Make an effort, author!

All paragraphs are screwed up. The paragraphs are broken up in all the wrong places and the second half in one giant, incomprehensible word-vomit paragraph. Reread your story and correct the obvious mistakes.

Personally, I don't feel the story has any promise, but atleast make it legible.

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A joke

Too short to be taken seriously as a contest entry. As to be expected with a story of such a small word count, nothing is developed to satisfaction, not even the ‘punchline’. I wasn't amused by the humor. I wasn't transported into the world. I wasn't impressed by the writing.

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Not perfect. Still liked it.

The story has a nice, slow dribble of information that gradually makes the picture become clear. I have no gripes with this story, it was a swift and easy read. The spelling and grammar was flawless, as far as I could tell.

I predicted Rathe would double cross her, but it was satisfying as a twist regardless. I don’t need a story to shock me. What would have upped the ante for me personally, was to have Rathe be a redeemable character and for his decision to betray her and be granted governership over the planet to be a valid solution for the problem of their people’s oppression, or at least that he genuinely believed so, without being persuaded by hubris and greed. Then the conclusion becomes a moral debate: is it okay to betray a friend if it means you’ll save others? But that is a personal note, which I do not take into consideration for my rating.

However, I cannot prevent myself from nitpicking, so I will say this: For starters, it feels like a small sample of something bigger, like a feature-length movie being cut apart into a short, with a lot of crucial elements and developments left on the cuttingroom floor. Secondly, a futuristic hatch door that works the same as our current-day safes with gears and tumblers and mechanical locks? Not very realistic, even as you tried to sell it as more difficult for her to crack than a lock controlled by a modern keypad. Also, the people’s oppression feels crowbarred into the ending of the story, it could have been a regular heist story before then, too slow of a dribble on that account.

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Readers older than 12: don't bother

(I am a compulsive reviewer, so excuse the wordcount).

I stopped reading early on in chapter six. I forced myself to read as much as I could, otherwise it would be unfair for me to judge the material, but I think I’ve read enough to justify this review.

Based on the story, I’m confident you (the author) are still very young and because of that the story cannot be judged too harshly for being juvenile, it is only natural. Both you as an author and this material as a story, are not ready yet. I know my review will probably sound mean, but if you keep practicing you will look back on this story years from now you will likely agree that this story was premature. I hope you will see that my critique comes with genuine intentions.

These are my observations as I read through chapter 1 through 5:

Because I want to start off on a positive note, I will say this first: I thought the remark about “Reptillian hulks” was very humorous and grounding and this made me see why the story probably appeals to younger readers; it is a teenager's fantasy to suddenly be powerful, unique and important. Also, you have excellent vocabulary and grammar skills.

That being said, the problems, for me, start in the first chapter. Aside from the fact that it is a near impossible stretch for me to accept that dinosaurs were sentient beings, using weapons to wage wars against one another, without evidence of this showing up in the fossil records, the chapter is filled with unnecessary details and dinosaur references that take a person further out of the story. “After an archaeopteryx had done its job”, “Pterus, last of the royal Pteravius family”, “Colors of the flag of the Nithpoda royal family”… These do not add anything to the moment: The destruction of the body is not made more clear by explaining it as having been attacked by an archaeopteryx, because the casual reader does not know what this is. Knowing that Pterus was the last of the ‘royal Pteravius family’ does not make the reader mourn the character’s demise. And knowing that the colors are like those of the ‘Nithpoda royal family’ does not help readers imagine the colors any more vividly.

A similar problem occurs repeatedly in the following chapters. Dinosaur related terms are thrown in when they don’t add anything to the description. Instead, they are distracting at best, confusing at worst. You don't want a reader to stop reading to google terms.

Another problem appears to be an actual plothole. You’ve explained that the dinosaurs died but not before passing on their DNA in syringes for the next sentient species. However, it is never made clear how the DNA in these syringes is actually ever used and applied to the human race to create these semisaurs. The dinosaurs are dead, so who created the semisaurs? If this is something you intend to explain in future chapters, at least have a character acknowledge this gap in the logic, so the reader will wonder about the explanation as opposed to thinking you are trying to sweep it under the rug.

Some more specific points:

- Thought-speak is a jarringly out of place concept as a magical solution to a problem that needn’t have been created in the first place (you could have sold the idea of the characters communicating in dino-form through animal calls, or even have them speak as human). Also, providing a solution to a problem before first acknowledging there is a problem to begin with is really ineffective story-telling.

- One of the teenagers just whips up ‘holographic stunt doubles’? Advanced technology has not been introduced prior, nothing about the story so far has suggested that technology has evolved to the point where a kid can make ‘holographic stunt doubles’ using… using what? Can people do something like that with their smartphones in this universe? Or did he first collect all the necessary equipment (computers, projectors, etc)?

- Everyone accepts Alyssa as their leader after a single paragraph of discussion, while they know that she is hiding information from them? Especially Jamie not asking her any hard-hitting questions makes him a difficult character to take seriously. As the protagonist he should be more involved.

- Grammar and punctuation: Mostly excellent, save for a few typos and missing quotation-marks at the start of some paragraphs to indicate a character is speaking. I gave you full marks because it was nothing I consider 'serious' and didn't negatively influence the story, but I would still advise you to proofread one more time.

I wish you the best.

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"The stuff of trite science fiction plots"

The end is interesting in a creepy and unexpected way, but leaves many questions unanswered and personally I feel the omission of these answers doesn't help the story. Most importantly: Where is the clone going? What is the purpose of the clone? Is there really a colony where the clone of the wife is waiting? Why did he get to see 'his original'? And just a general: Why? The end is clever but with so many things left unanswered it leaves the story leaning too heavily on "the stuff of trite science fiction plots", as you put it.

The dialogue in cursive is a stylistic but pointless choice that actually makes the story harder to read. The text looks cluttered.

These points are me nitpicking, however. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the story and the ending left me a little queasy which is excellent in my opinion.

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