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 Twenty Two 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.
For today’s entry in my challenge, I read bluepencil‘s serial Noli Me Tank in a Mall.
Bluepencil shares a site with thelonewanderer, and as such most of my thoughts about it have been written. You can find them here. I have mentioned before that the strong impression I get on a site weakens the more I visit it, and this became true with this site. As such, the merits of bluepencil’s writing became even more important.
“Cast back to that moment a young man steps off the boarding ramp and winces as his foot takes his first step onto Philippine soil; lightning shooting up from the balls up his feet, up his spine, to set his brain afire in a riot of explosions to rival the celebrations of New Year’s Day.” –Noli Me a Tank in a Mall, Chapter 1.1 Once More, Old Manila.
The opening paragraph in Noli Me a Tank is a quote from Terry Pratchett, so I elected to analyze the second paragraph (the one up above) which is bluepencil’s actual writing. This sentence is intensely interesting to me. I am instantly immersed in the thoughts and feelings of the main character with a language that is at once chaotic and beautiful. I absolutely love this opening.
This serial stands alone in its concept and genere among the others that I have read this month. While most of the serials I have read are either that of the Super Hero genre, Fantasy, or litRPG, Noli Me a Tank in a Mall is an alternate history novel set in the moment that history converged. So, instead of reading a book based in deep world building with the consequences of its alternative timeline, we are met with a historic figure trying to actively change that timeline. It is also set in a time and place that is often ignored, and as a history geek I found myself devouring the sentences offered up to me.
Bluepencil’s prose is striking and unique, the use of metaphors throughout is often brilliant and there are some genuinely amazing gem sentences peppered here and there. Bluepencil’s ability to describe a location and bring it to life is impressive, and though it is the bulk of the chapter, it does not feel burdensome. There was only one technical error that stood out at me in the chapter, but it is a big one. An entire paragraph of dialog is repeated fairly early in the chapter (third paragraph I think) and this kind of error so early on felt like a red flag. I read onward scrutinizing the writing more closely, preparing myself for another mistake. This is fixable, but it can be a deal-breaker for a lot of readers.
Beyond this, the author links off to a site that was very confusing. I clicked a link entitled “Metro Manila” and found myself staring at a cartoon pirate. I have no idea if this was on purpose or not, but if I wasn’t so invested in reading the rest of the chapter I may have been distracted and moved on.
I am mostly forgiving with mistakes if they do not happen often, but I do notice them, and they do sully my reading experience. With that said, I found that my overall enjoyment of reading bluepencil’s writing outweighed the early misstep and I found my appetite for this story to be voracious. I would read on, and I would read on excitedly, I just hope that the next entry is proofread.
Noli Me a tank in a Mall can be found at http://karavanir.com/noli-toc/
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Phineas Clockword’s serial Denham’s Dentifrice, or check out my own serial: