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 four 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 The Zone by Zoner.
Author’s note: Zoner is young, and as such their story has a lot of amateur mistakes. They write a lot better than I did at their age but there is still some growing and learning to be done.
Zoner’s site is simple and clean. The photo in the header looks like a default stock photo and has little to do with the content of the story as it is an out-of-the-box word press theme with very little modifications. I don’t think the author needs to do much to spruce things up (maybe just change the header image) as the clean and simple layout is its strongest feature. Overall it was easy to navigate and I did not have any issues finding what I needed while I was on the site. The simplicity of the site’s theme is a wise choice.
“I got up from my chair and picked up my bag that leaned on one of the table’s legs. I pulled the bag on and tightened the straps, until it fit perfectly. I picked up my sandwich from the white ceramic plate and took a bite out of it.”- The Zone, Chapter 1.1
The hook is a list of actions that I am not sure I need to know about. I am not compelled by the second by second actions of someone’s morning (which is ironic because that is most of what I write about) and I do not feel “pulled in” to the story. This is not to say that the author’s writing is not good, a couple of paragraphs later I landed on this:
“There wasn’t any greenery, all of it was concrete, metal, glass, and blue holograms. There wasn’t much sky either, as many buildings too were airborne, blocking much of the view. The rest of the sky that I could see was buzzing with various aircrafts, the traffic of the morning.”-(The Zone)
If I were to give some constructive feedback I would ask the author to do away with the first two paragraphs and start there. It is far more compelling, does a great job establishing the scene, and immediately puts the reader into the world. I found myself much more involved and interested in the story at this point than I did with the author’s first paragraph and honestly think that these other lines are beautifully done.
Like the hook, much of the author’s writing reads like a moment to moment list of actions. Often the main character lists how many lefts and rights he has taken as he walks down a hallway and other very specific actions that do not seem to move the plot forward. Interwoven in these actions is also a lot of very specific world building, and though it is very imaginative, much of it could be condensed or shortened. There are also a couple of simple spelling mistakes (confusing “storys” and “stories”) and some grammatical errors, but given the author’s age these are forgivable. I was often at a loss about the character’s motivations and reactions to things, and it is hard to tell which items that are described are important to the story or are just details. Details of these items are also mercurial, a pencil is described as having a pink eraser in one sentence, and then a white one only a sentence later.
The author of this serial is young, and honestly is writing at a better degree than I was at that age. The world that the author has built is a very imaginative science fiction setting about a society advanced enough to move through walls and control the forces of gravity, with a little bit of time, and more experience it could be very compelling. The author’s “about page” has a very interesting summary of the story and it is one that if I read on the back of a sci-fi novel in a bookstore would warrant a buy. Though I found much of the writing to be amateurish, there are some gem sentences that demonstrate great potential. Would I continue reading this? Not now, but in a few years once the author has more experience, I would be very excited to see their works. With a little knowledge about things like “Chekhov’s Gun” or a “MacGuffin” and maybe someone to proofread their works, I think this author could tell a very good story.
The Zone can be found at https://thezonewebserial.wordpress.com/
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on ScreamingCandle’s The Strange, or check out my own serial: