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REMA

Early Look: Rema

By Wildbow, author of Ward

Dec 7, 2012: I can appreciate an author who not only submits their work to the site but actively participates in the community even as they wait for their work to pop up on the sidebar and start getting ratings or reviews. Too often we’ll see people submit & disappear. Author Amy Kim Kibuishi’s participation on the forums coupled with her bubbly, positive personality were nudge enough for me to go ahead and post a review. I stress that this is relatively early in the story’s life, at a time when only twelve of the proposed forty five chapters have been released.

There’s two major kinds of web serial: those that are written on the fly and those that are pre-written and then parceled out. The former allows for more spontaneous writing and the ability to shape the work in response to the audience’s feedback, while the latter offers something more stable with a bit more reassurance to the audience that the serial will see completion.

Rema is the latter twice over – it’s the novelization of a webcomic, for one thing, and the author notes that the first book is already complete with chapters being submitted as the author completes the accompanying illustrations (which are very good). As such, it comes with an already established fanbase (with a handful of comments accompanying even the earliest chapters) and a storyline that’s more set in stone. The drawback for this type of serial is that sometimes they struggle to find cliffhangers to hook a reader’s attention while they wait for the next chapter or the process of parceling out serial-sized chunks leaves them floundering for ‘break points’ where a segment can naturally end. Rema handles this well, with some decent cliffhangers and some excellent ones. In short, it doesn’t fall prey to the issues that this type of serial can face.

This is a fantasy story that tells of Tabitha ‘Tabby’ Charon, daughter of a research scientist who was investigating an energy source in a wooded area when he died. The energy source appears to be generating mutations in local flora and fauna and is rooted in what they’ve dubbed ‘Yggdrasil’, the name of the tree of life. She continues her father’s work, after a fashion, while attending school and dealing with the fact that her mother is moving on to a new home, new life and new husband.

The core plot is a fairly established one: she ventures too deep into the forest, so to speak, and follows a stranger into the metaphorical rabbit hole, leading her to another ‘planet’ where magic, swords and ominous ‘geists’ are showcased. Still, this discovered world seems to be a developed one (as one might expect: the parent webcomic is titled ‘Reman Mythology’, implying some depth to the serial’s titular setting) and has enough details to invite me to learn more. I like the vaguely oppressive nature and the sense of danger: the possibility that Tabby might be locked up or enslaved for life if she is discovered, the ominous ‘Temple’ and the mention of war with yet another world, Nonak.

If I had to level any complaints at the story, it would be directed at some of the side characters; too many characters in Tabby’s ‘real life’ seem two dimensional, drawn from somewhat overdone storylines (the best friend is dumped because she was a ‘backup pick’ for the boy who asked her to go to the dance, for example, and there’s the vaguely unlikable stepfather). Only the mother seems to deviate from this, with the revelation that she isn’t just an appearance-obsessed blonde bimbo, and the accompanying revelation about exactly why she’s so obsessed with Tabby’s safety. On a level, this works, because (as Tabby notes when describing her own dull, drab clothing in the first chapter) the real world is depicted as dreary and unexciting, in contrast to the other world (or other worlds, plural). The reader is left to look forward to finding out more rather than hope that Tabby finds a way home.

The writing struggles just a bit here and there, which isn’t to say it’s bad – there’s no blatant spelling or grammatical errors, but the first chapter opens with a very solid opening line only to sidestep into a somewhat stiff description of clothing and local weather. I’d urge readers to push through rather than stop there, because the author does find her stride. There’s other incidents, but they’re minor. Here and there, the same adjective does get used twice in quick succession, but it’s more of a distraction than a detraction when it comes to the reading experience.

A part of me hopes that the allusions to darker elements (The dying planet Nonak that is mounting attacks on Rema, a man being twisted/mutated by unknown forces) are going to take root in the story, but that’s largely personal taste. The story’s still in the early stages, and it’s presented much like a book, so it can be forgiven for a somewhat slow start – This hope may be me hoping for a real crisis to take hold of the story and thrust us headlong into this other world

All in all, early stages or no, Rema serves rather well as an ‘Earthling in another world’ fantasy story, and can be recommended as such.

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