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Both Feet Out Of The Grave

By tkjarrah, author of blacklight

Aug 8, 2016: Short version:

Graves is a cyberpunk-ish fantasy thriller with a tight plot, engaging characters and deep lore, and it feels like it’s gonna be big. Read it.

Long version:

In the world of Graves, humanity live in (a?) floating city (/ies?), with most of the landmass covered by necropolises that house the dead, and . . . other things. The city’s elite live in the glossy upper levels of the city, while the poor slum below. LM4s, those with the ability to channel the power of ghosts, the residual energy left behind by a death, are rounded up and forced into servitude by the government, collared and controlled.

Daria Novotsky is an unregistered LM4, living in the lower levels of the city and hiding her powers, stealing to support her family. But when that brings her into contact with the criminal gang known as the Graves, she finds herself embroiled in their revolutionary plans, and the conspiracies of the city’s rulers.

Graves treats its world-building carefully, never giving the reader anything more than they need to understand what’s going on. Personally, I think it does it well, and found it interesting and engaging, but I can easily understand how some might instead view it as opaque and frustrating. I’m of the opinion that it works, and it kept me invested in the world and eager to discover more. Nevertheless, it does mean that a lot of details about the setting are still unknown, so some of the stuff I wrote up there may not be 100% accurate. For example, there’s a state religion involving broadcasts and the kept (government-owned LM4s) that’s barely been elaborated on, just tantalizingly hanging in the background. If you don’t like that sort of thing, Graves may not be the story for you.

The plot, fittingly for a thriller, really races along. Presumably, the complete aversion to getting even slightly bogged down in exposition or world-building is a big aid to that. It’s got good mystery and suspense, the prose is fantastic, and it twists and turns back and forth in a pleasingly unpredictable manner. The characters are varied and interesting, and while there are quite a few of them, they’re introduced just far enough apart to not be confusing. At the current point in the story (6.11), it’s practically an ensemble cast, but I have no trouble telling them apart.

The writing and editing is top-notch. I didn’t notice a single typo in my entire readthrough, and the presentation of the story is equally slick. In a field where shoddy grammar and formatting can be considered an expected possible hazard, it really stands out to have something this technically flawless.

The story is told in first person, and initially this brought up a concern for me. See, Daria has a boyfriend, named Ric. And Ric is just objectively awful. Due to the narration, though, I couldn’t quite tell if this was deliberate, or if it was a Twilight-esque complete misunderstanding of how characters come off. Minor spoilers, it is eventually proved to be the former, which actually enhanced the experience for me. It was a really good use of first-person perspective.

So overall, I give Graves top marks in all categories, and an overall score of 4 stars, with a possible upgrade to 4.5 or 5 depending on where it goes from here. Go read it.

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Cyberpunk meets Fantasy.

By Eren Reverie, author of Et Alia

Aug 28, 2015: Alright: I’m going to start by saying that "Graves" is really well written. I didn’t find any gramatical or spelling errors in the entire archive while I was reading, and the descriptions are nicely vivid. On the other hand, the chapters felt a little short and some of the ‘cliffhanger’ hooks at the end of the first couple felt a little abrupt. However, as the story progresses past the ‘getting to know the cast’ stage those seemed to smooth out more.

The story itself seems pretty interesting, but more of the archive needs to develop yet to show it off. The world seems concretely realized, even though at the point I’m writing this review the readers have only gotten to see snippets of most of it. There are elements of paranormal fantasy and some sort of inhuman threat intermingled with the cyberpunk dystopia, which provides an interesting shift from the Urban Fantasy genre I’m more familiar with.

The main character, unfortunately, is ‘not the strong one’ of her family and it shows a bit in how she lets herself be pulled along in the begening. She is dedicated to her family and does show agency in choosing the work she initially does, but when plans are being made on how to execute that work (at least in these first parts) she doesn’t seem to be getting to make much input. It leaves me hoping that she starts taking charge in the upcoming chapters, heh.

So, to wrap up: If you are a fan of Shadowrun but want a story in a new, unique setting then add a star to my review and start reading now.

If you like cyberpunk and fantasy and want to see them get along with each other, then check this one out: It’s solid.

If you like one or the other, but you’re not sure about both at the same time . . . well, knock a star off this review and then decide if you want to give it a try anyway.

If you want a heftier archive to binge through, maybe tag this as ‘to be read’ and come back in a little bit. (Note – this review is from 8/28/2015, so totally ignore this bit if it’s already been a while.)

And, on the other hand, if you find the juxtaposition of fantasy and science fiction to be just too contradictory to allow you to suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy a work of fiction, then this particular one might not be for you.

I’d still give it a look, though, personally: the chapters do go by pretty quick, and you might be surprised. (I know every once in a while someone’s style just grabs me, even if it isn’t a genre I usually seek out so it’s always worth trying something new for a chapter or two!)

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The Best Webserial on the web

By TheChivalrousRogue, author of Skyborne

Jan 18, 2014: I have never given five stars in a review before, I did for this one.

It’s certainly one of the best webserials out there, and by far my favorite right now. The characters have strong personalities: quirks, faults, and their own sets of morals. The apocalyptic atmosphere is painted close to perfectly, with good narrative descriptions of the setting, people, good dialogue and a dark overall tone. Technology is believable and fits nicely into the overall motif.

So basically, it’s very well done.

Some other readers found it to be violent, and objected to it solely based on that. And I was very surprised after I started reading it, because I found the violence to be underplayed. Now, understand that I’m not some black hearted bastard that enjoys violent themes, I do not. I DO, however, appreciate gritty realism. And this blog is a reasonably realistic post apocalyptic nightmare.

The writer doesn’t describe the blood and gore in detail, he just lays out events for the reader the see; which I can respect. And it’s true, innocents die, but in honestly fairly ‘sterile’ ways. But aside from that, the writer is largely ignoring the issue of sexual violence. If you’re basing your apocalyptic world off real life, rape is going to be a present factor. That’s just how it is. (Read a history of any war if you disagree.) The "Book of Eli" and the "Road Warrior" movies are similarly apocalyptic worlds that handle the factor very well. Though I can understand how this writer wanted to avoid the hot potato and I can go along with it.

In summary concerning the violence, your average Tom Clancy or George Martin novel is MUCH darker. If you enjoyed their books, you’ll absolutely enjoy Afterlife.

If you enjoy western/steampunk/apocalyptic stories filled with violence, desperation, and survival. Afterlife, is absolutely for you.

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