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Distinctive, Experimental Madness

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Apr 27, 2018: (Review of up to 20)

Chosen Shackles was a strange read. I feel this might be one of the first fictions on WFG where I may have to acknowledge that I’m not the intended audience and that I just don’t ‘get it’.

Let’s start with the things I adored. One, the webpage is just amazing. It’s distinct and memorable and it made me sit up and take notice immediately. More serials should strive to have such a distinctive identity.

Similarly, the initial synopsis on the home page was neat, too. Like the general look, it was a good way of evoking a distinct feel if not exact clarity (which could be the overall criticism of Shackles, really).

There are a lot of lines I like in Shackles, such as the tagline (‘ . . . running static, face your shadow.’) There’s a certain degree of dark technological poetry under this writing, like glimpsing a suffocating nightmare. All in all, I really like that Shaeor is trying things with language and has sequences that aren’t the usual workmanship prose of serial writing. Compared with Dirge, Shaeor’s previous work, Chosen Shackles is obviously more experimental.

It just doesn’t always work. I feel that sometimes the attempts to be especially evocative or poetic erode the meaning and, in some cases, readability. There were a few parts where I’d read a sentence, nod that I could see what Shaeor was going for, but felt that the meaning was off, just a touch too purple to be appropriate. Here, I’d point to an early sentence beginning with ‘I breathlessly laughed . . . ‘ as an example. Similarly, there were a few paragraphs where the various sentences felt disconnected from each other.

But honestly, if you’re not a particularly close reader like me, it might not be too obvious to you. But I feel that my type of mind resists the ‘feel over precision’ style that Shaeor is going for.

Chapters are of a nice, prompt length and I like that. The overall pacing felt a little rough to me, however, and I didn’t really feel ‘grabbed’ until the story hit a sequence where Frode was trying to hunt down a stray cat—and I loved that part. There were some chapters that I felt ended before they could really begin and breathe, however.

Spelling and grammar is fine enough. Nothing stuck out to me beyond a few minor errors (such as gauge being where gouge should’ve).

One of the weaker points of Chosen Shackles, in my opinion, is that of Frode (the protagonist) himself, and dialogue in general. But I get the feeling Shaeor is aping a pair of genres I’m not familiar with, so, perhaps it might be intentionally odd.

Frode feels like he exemplifies my general criticism of Shackles—he, and it, feel a bit murky. But, like the above, it was such a consistent note that it’s obviously a deliberate choice.

While this review may sound critical, I feel a lot of my issues are lessened in the later chapters . . . but not vanished entirely. Had Shackles been posted when I first gathered my notes, I think it would have been lower.

Speaking of the score, my numerical score has bounced around a lot and makes me wish for more granularity in the rating system. I feel 3.75 is what I want to award. So, I’ve rounded up.

Chosen Shackles is absolutely worth a look, even if just for the great production values. This is one of those stories where I feel any perspective on it is hampered by it being incomplete. Like a lot of my reviews, this is one I’ll revisit.

I feel if the story works for you, there’s something great here. There’s absolutely a unique rhythm to it all, this murky, rainy world that Frode inhabits. But it’s hard for me to tell if Chosen Shackles’s nightmare-rhythm is a neon slick evocation of that genre and its themes, or Shaeor not quite reaching what he’s grasping for. But that’s hardly the worst criticism, that a story might be a touch too ambitious, a touch too experimental.

Check it out. Doubly so if you follow cyberpunk, vaporwave, and so on. You might just be better equipped to ride along with Frode than I am.

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