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Extra Dark Roast

By Shaeor, author of Chosen Shackles

Jun 18, 2018: This review was done as part of a swap.

The first thing I would say is that Existential Terror and Breakfast is a strong departure from the YA tropes that generally pervade web fiction.

Malcolm Steadman is absolutely front and center of a small cast, here. Punctuations are counted down over the course of the story to add ambient pressure and a sense of direction. But this story may lack the urgency of typical heroic plots, you may guess. I think things pick up around chapter nine when Malcolm first tastes false hope and motivation, and they really find their footing in the last sequence. Editing needs are dismissable, I can imagine no better way to structure or pace, and the end is very fitting. If you can get into them, the repeating structure of the chapters can be engrossing.

SPOILER! It’s a tragedy. I almost wish this had been stated outright.

Malcolm Steadman’s tragedy brings good to the world, however. Throughout the story, he is inadvertently benefitting people by his struggle and is perhaps transcended by this. But it’d be easy to say he lacks redemption. I considered whether the catharsis of a proper tragedy is found here, and I believe it is.

The ending follows logically from the main theme of the story, which is a sort of illustration of what philosophy can do to a person. There is sometimes an undercurrent of real contempt in the writing, I think, which is slightly indulgent. With definite themes of capitalism’s oppressive nature, social expectation, and repression, there is a good bit to chew on in Existential Terror and Breakfast.

That will be my last point. This story requires reflection to be truly great, in my opinion. I enjoyed the read, but it was not always easy to. I would not have written this book, personally, and I would disagree with the Author on some of its implications. But it is a genuine and artistically sound work. I give it the Mystical five on that basis alone. Respect.

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My Breakfast With Descartes

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Mar 8, 2018: The title of this work says it all, really. Over breakfast, a character named Malcolm grapples with all the classic existentialist quandaries. Do we have free will? Has everything in the history of the universe been leading to this moment? Is our awareness a curse? Does how we conceive of things form a prison around us? Can I trust my perceptions? And so on and so on.

There’s a tight style here, reminiscent of Hitchhiker’s Guide or The Stanley Parable. It felt, however, slightly imitative. I found the simple tension of the various countdowns wonderfully effective, especially when combined with Malcolm’s state of mind. The writing is technically strong, but a repeated use of ‘it’s’ instead of the correct ‘its’ stuck out to me. I never had to find myself fighting the prose or doubling back to see if I had missed anything, however.

It’s an interesting, different concept. However, by Part 20, I was finding it harder and harder to continue, feeling that the concept may have overstayed its welcome and mined out just about all the entertainment it could get. As wonderful as the concept is, it is somewhat limiting.

The strangest feeling that ETaB gave me was that it might be better suited as some kind of webcomic. I feel a more visual medium could be wonderfully evocative.

With that said, however, I’d still recommend checking it out.

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The best thing I ever hated.

By Rhythm, author of Touch

Jan 22, 2018: Full disclosure, this review was written as part of a swap.

Existential Terror and Breakfast is perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever had to review, and my reason for saying this is very simple: it affected me. Whether this is a good thing in terms of my own enjoyment remains to be seen, but it speaks volumes of Rev.Fitz’s skill as a writer.

The story follows the life and continued mental degradation of Malcolm Steadman, a somewhat philosophically inclined man with heavy depression and what appears at a glance to be a chronic case of severe anxiety. Throughout the titular breakfasts, along with a myriad of other scenes, we see different aspects of Malcolm’s character and the way that said character affects his interactions with those around him during his ongoing descent into genuine madness with some bouts of philosophy thrown in. As a premise, this is very interesting, and the writer manages to insert a number of little side bits such as a countdown to the next big plot event that help maintain interest.

The writing itself reminds me strongly of the ‘Hitchikers Guide’ books in tone. They share the whimsical style of narration, albeit while dealing with an altogether more melancholy subject matter. There are a number of lesser spelling errors, or more accurately, points where it seems that words have been auto-corrected to the incorrect word, but they are lesser concerns, and do not particularly impede the flow of the story. Another lesser concern is that the story focuses perhaps too much on its exploration of Malcolm as a character and, in the initial chapters, at the very least, could have benefited hugely from a greater variety of alternate character viewpoints.

Most of the above are positive traits, and I state them first because I want to make it clear that I consider the story well worth your time before I start going into why I personally did not enjoy it.

How do I put this? If anything, Rev.Fitz has constructed his central character too well. Malcolm is a man in quicksand, suffering a massive depression fueled in large part by the lack of change in his life, and his compounding psychological issues mean that he almost never takes any action to pull himself out of his situation. This is very true to life, as many people who have suffered such problems will tell you, proactivity is one of the hardest things to build in these cases, and the story it tells of a man drowning in his own mind is deeply compelling. But as someone who has suffered similar issues in the past, I found reading about someone succumbing to them deeply frustrating as I found myself almost violently disagreeing with every decision and choice that Malcolm makes, and the brief glimpses of light during which he actually does something to better himself only make it all the more agonizing when he relapses back into his default state. I will make no bones of saying that I genuinely dislike the main character here, but the fact that my dislike is so genuine speaks to a level of engagement with the story that I had not even noticed.

Essentially, it takes a lot of work and skill to make me hate something -or someone- this much. To be perfectly frank, since reading this story, I took up a daily regime of pushups just to prove wrong Malcolm’s unspoken belief that self improvement is an impossibilty. The writing is so good that I STARTED WORKING OUT TO SPITE A FICTIONAL CHARACTER.

The end question is whether I recommend it, and that is a hard one to answer. It is certainly good, despite its flaws, and both the structure and prose are solid, despite a slight lack of editing finesse. That being said, I struggle to recommend it, because I have a sneaking feeling that its impact will vary depending on the reader’s mental state. If you are sad, it may make it worse. If you are happy, you may find it funny. If you are like me, it may motivate you to do better in your life. Now, I have to go do pushups.

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