The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day five of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.
Today’s serial is titled The Strange and is written by Patrick Lewis.
The very first thing I saw on The Strange’s website is a splash of red framing a drawing of a screaming candle. It made me smile. A little disclaimer: I draw a lot of very odd things, so this picture seems extra suited to my tastes. I cannot say what someone with a more normal disposition would think of it, but I found it to be very charming. I am glad that the author of this site did not use any other colors, as the red alone is enough and more than that would be overwhelming. The site itself navigates easily and I was surprised to see that it has a navigation layout that was more popular in the 90’s with the menu on the left column instead of at the top. What was once the norm then breaks conformity now and that simple choice made it stand out. Overall the site left a good impression on me.
“Frank looked upon this view of his hometown and could only see the end of the world. Hogstown State University rose up a shallow incline. Strings of pathway lights led up to the soft orange glow of streetlights from Hogstown’s small down town on the horizon. The old man knew it would never be the same again.”- The Strange, Episode 1.
I love the first sentence to this hook, especially the last part of it. I already have a strong sense of this character’s disposition and it sets a grim mood with a lot of history to the setting that the author then describes. This hook is oddly urgent, and I found myself immediately interested in the rest of the chapter.
The chapter switches between three sets of characters in the midst of their lives and moves on to the next before I had a real grasp on what is happening. This is not a bad thing, as it added an air of mystery and properly portrayed that there was much business happening in the university town that this story takes place, and much of it is nefarious. The author gave me just enough of a taste on the lives of his characters that it left me wanting more. If this keeps up in this fashion I can easily see myself reading more just to get a good foothold on this tale, which, as a strategy to keep me hooked, is a very good one.
The author spends some time establishing the setting of the town in a very poetic fashion, and it comes alive with the clashing culture that resides there, as well as the history that is literally visible to its citizens. With creative visuals like referring to a a main road as the town’s spine, the author is able to keep an otherwise sleepy town interesting.
Though the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter is not one that is pressing, I found the characters it revolved around very charming and wanted to know how they get along.
Patrick Lewis has a strong sense of character building that is not just seen in his protagonist, but also his setting. Though I did come across a couple of grammar mistakes, he comes off as a very strong writer with a very good sense of story. I would definitely delve deeper into his serial and I would have immediately read more if I did not have to do this write-up first.
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Dary’s serial Orphic Phantasia, or check out my own serial: