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THE SMELL COLLECTOR

Makes you stop and smell the roses

By Bequail, author of The Scapegoats

Aug 31, 2016: For someone who barely has a sense of smell due to year-round allergies, The Smell Collector was a fun and intriguing experience.

The story follows Jim Bronson, a man who has trouble grasping social nuances and collects smells like one would take photographs. He goes around sniffing people and things so he can recreate those scents in his basement.

Already, the above line should be an indication to the type of person our protagonist is. He’s a strange fellow, more than a little obsessive, and as noted by a couple of the other characters in the story, downright creepy. Jim Bronson does have hidden depth beneath his unconventional pastime, however. His interesting worldview is enough to pull the reader in despite his eccentricities and sometimes off putting behaviour. I found him charming, endearing even, after the first few entries, and his voice is filled with humour and introspective gold.

On that note, the work is rather character-centric. Characters are complex enough for the length of the work, and the story makes use of their individual idiosyncrasies to play with themes such as loss and purpose. The plot is a little predictable but satisfying, and not without its surprises. The Smell Collector uses this to its advantage, the simple plot serving to better develop its rather limited cast without being muddled with unnecessary complication.

My only large complaint is the lack of consistency in the work. Events are told through different POVs, characters, and mediums, and not always in a linear fashion. Even Jim’s chapters switch occasionally from first-person to third-person. And while this did keep things interesting and make the work more cohesive as a whole, albeit confusing on the outset, it could be jarring when switching to some of the more unique perspectives/styles and at times made the narrated events seem trivial or even slightly cheesy.

It’s a short work, one that I binge read over the course of an hour and a half long train ride. And while it’s not like the action packed epics I’m used to reading, I still found it enjoyable and would definitely recommend it.

All in all, The Smell Collector is an easy, light, and quirky read, that can freshen up a long commute or make evenings smell a little sweeter.

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A BAD IDEA

Popcorn! Gitcher popcorn here!

By Tartra, author of The Other Kind of Roommate

Jul 24, 2016: The tl;dr is that A Bad Idea is a fun, snappy ride. It’s a great way to pass some time without all the ‘commitment’ of other serials, but unlike other serials, it never goes so far to earn that commitment. This is a casual read for the most casual reader; don’t go in thinking Grapes of Wrath of when we’re getting Saturday Morning Funnies.

The characters are damn fun. Each starts with a one-note personality that works exceptionally well at explaining who they are and leaving them room to grow later – which they take! We’ve got Anne, our pseudo-mad genius too focused on her work to figure out if she’s evil; Shade, a teleporting thief armed with ambition and great sass; plus a host of minor characters (insert Hero frat, insert Villain club, insert the best demon you’ll ever enjoy) who widely vary in importance and overall deadness.

It’s easy to read, and you’ll find yourself making unexpected attachments. The best part is, from the smallest bit player to our lead, everyone gets a fully realized introduction. Not only does that throw you if the author axes them (the deaths are great so it’s worth it), it adds so much to the story’s depth. Even if they die a few clicks later, they die as a person, not as a tick on the ol’ body fodder chart. Wait – I lied: the real best part is that when the narrative switches to following someone else’s POV (mostly we see Anne’s take on things), the sole reason is because they have a fun-as-hell sequence going on. That means we only see these new faces at the height of their entertainment value, not only giving us fantastic scenes, but freeing up the author to cut away whenever to keep things fresh.

What I mean about Saturday Morning Funnies is exactly that. These chapters/scenes/tidbits are maybe eight hundred words, so for those of you who have my kind of attention span (on a scale of Ritalin to goldfish, we go glub-glub), this is awesome! But for those who want to sit down and read something that really lets you sink your teeth in, unfortunately, this isn’t your bag. There’s one seriously unexpected subplot down the way where we get that teeth-sunk feel, but unless you’re already on board with the light-hearted, fast-paced, comic-strip, page-flipping mindset, you won’t get the payoff (happy note: its mood shift is a kick-ass change, and neatly peppered in amongst the light-hearted stuff that keeps coming).

So here’s the bad: because each tidbit is such a neat, crisp, self-contained moment, with its own beginning and middle and end, the ones that fall flat – the ones that don’t seem to ‘end’ – stand out like sore thumbs. I’ve pinpointed which ones these are. When the tidbit ends in the middle of a conversation, it’ll end on a joke or a witty line, but the conversation itself is still going. After so many clicks filled with a definite conclusion for how this Part Whatever advances the plot, it’s mildly annoying when there’s a handful that don’t stick to this format, and that’s where the feeling of dragging on comes in. One arc is where Anne gets recruited into a newly formed club of villains(?); I click on the chapter, and they’re talking. I click on the next, they’re still talking. I click on the one after, and inexplicably, the conversation still isn’t done. With a series like this, one that doesn’t have its hand out for heavy investment on the part of its readers, these are the times where the audience can and does drop off. It rarely happens, but for us Goldfish, when it does, it matters.

All in all, if you’re the type to pick up Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Clash of Titans, or – well, maybe not Pokémon Go, because I understand the amount of attention needed to capture those bastard Weedles – any game on your phone, stop, switch to A Bad Idea, and you’ll have more fun for the same amount of work. Solid four stars.

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A BAD IDEA

Reading A Bad Idea is, well, a great idea

By Marn, author of Deep, Blue, Bottomless

Nov 14, 2015: The first thing that you need to know about A Bad Idea is that it’s laugh out loud funny. Unlike a lot of other superhero web serials that are out there, it mixes dark comedy in with genuine moments of tension and gravitas, and it does it well. I never felt like the humor was interfering with my ability to appreciate the less lighthearted moments in the story, or vice versa. I also really, really liked that it was able to joke about the characters’ sexualities and religions without making a joke OF them – instead of being offensive, A Bad Idea uses the diverse nature of its cast to heighten the comedy. A great example of this is vigilante David’s suspicion as to why the villainous Shade, who is Jewish, is at the church next to his team’s base. The narrative flips it so that David’s jump to conclusions is the butt of the joke instead of anyone’s religion, revealing that Shade is actually bartending a wedding at the church and has no evil plan whatsoever. (I also have to say that I found the idea of a vigilante and superhero attending the same synagogue to be really funny, and I would totally read a story with that premise.)

Anne is a great protagonist, and I was hooked on her right from the first chapter. She’s funny, and surprisingly likeable for someone who is dismembering a corpse the moment the audience meets her. I liked that the writing did a lot to humanize her. I didn’t like, however, that I had to wait so long to know more about her backstory, but maybe it’s because I’m a little bit of an impatient reader. I wanted to know more of the details about the conflict between her and David, too! It’s briefly brought up in dialogue early on in the story, but it’s not even addressed when Anne goes to visit the Owls, David’s vigilante team. I wondered if the Owls even knew that David and Anne had a history, and was a little sad that I never got to see more of their reaction to Anne.

Actually, I found myself wishing that Anne interacted with more characters who aren’t Shade in the earlier arcs of the story, just to see more of what she’s like when thrown into situations with people she may not be as comfortable with. The scene with her and David in the Walgreens is a great example of this, and if that scene is anything to go by, there’s a lot of comedy potential in those interactions.

I’m definitely going to stick with A Bad Idea. The tone of the story is so surprisingly different from anything I’ve read lately – I would put it as a cross between Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Soon I Will Be Invincible. The humor gets me right in my funny bone, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what terrible misadventures Anne gets into next.

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