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Superpowered children and emotional abuse

By Rhythm, author of Touch

Nov 13, 2017: The first thing I will say, that I need you all to be aware of before you hear my not insignificant criticisms, is that this is an excellent story, and one that carries my recommendations. That being said, it is far from perfect.

The premise is, at a glance, a deconstruction of the silver age comic tropes of old. And while this is certainly present, it is by no means the point of the New Humans. If I were to ascribe a genre to it, I would likely choose to label it conceptual sci-fi in the vein of the old, genuinely imaginative episodes of doctor who. It seems less focused on the plot than the exploration of a new, densely intriguing concept every thousand words or so, and while there certainly is an overarching plot line, the writer seems to be in no hurry to get there. It kicks off about nine chapters in, and while the eight chapters before it are interesting in their own right, it’s a bit of a slog to get there.

Reading this story feels like peeking into the mind of a genius with ADHD. It regularly deviates from the main thrust of a given chapter with little tangents, side notes, and anecdotes, but every one of them that is explored is complex and fascinating enough in its own right to base an entire story on. This is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it means that the reader is likely never to be bored on a moment to moment basis reading The New Humans. On the other hand, however, it also means that the very act of reading it is debilitating; a fact that is in no way helped by the individual lengths of each chapter. The New Humans is, at present, comprised of thirteen chapters, and that may seem rather short, until one realizes that each chapter is roughly two to five times the length of a standard format chapter. I say this without even a shred of hyperbole. Chapter six is over twelve thousand words long. When I copied that chapter into Microsoft word for the purposes of an accurate word count, I discovered that it was forty two pages on its own. While I can say wholeheartedly that it is worth the effort, it is worth noting that an effort is quite definitively what it requires.

This is not a story for binge-reading, and I caution that any attempt to do so may well be unpleasant for anyone who tries it. This is very much a story for people to subscribe to and enjoy update to update. Said updates occur about once every two weeks, and that is more than enough. Individual chapters, consumed on their own, are highly enjoyable, but any density greater than a chapter or two in a single day will likely be highly fatiguing.

All the above aside, there are a few things a prospective reader may be well advised of if they have any curiosity towards this story. The author is possessed of a very dry wit, and demonstrates it in spades with mid-story cut-aways to interesting little factoids at the bottom of every chapter, a narrative tool very reminiscent of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. The vast majority of these are rather amusing, and well worth a look, some are layered with redundancy. Secondly, while the story is very well written from a technical standpoint, it is glaringly obvious that several drafts were made, and the editing run failed to pick up on all of the formatting errors. This seems to be a largely temporary flaw, however, as the writer seems to be currently going through and fixing these errors in large part. Thirdly, if you are perceptive, you will likely find that a few of the aspects of this story don’t sit well with you, and may be inclined to stop reading because of it. I advise you to stay the course, as I found the majority of these aspects to be intentional, and eventually integral to the story. Fourth, trigger warnings. This story gets darker than you’d expect.

Plus sides: An excellently written, darkly compelling narrative that only becomes more layered as you progress. An abundance of new ideas that never fail to arouse a conceptual interest. A number of well thought out characters, the majority of whom are remarkably well characterised. A capacity to change tones evenly enough that it never feels exclusively dark or lighthearted.

Down sides: Longwinded, with overly slow pacing in the initial chapters, although that improves with time. It is worth noting that almost every flaw I can find with this work could be remedied by subdivision of chapters. This is a thirty chapter story, in a thirteen chapter format.

Conclusion: It is an exceptional work of speculative and thriller fiction, and is well worth a look, but don’t be fooled into trying to read it in a single sitting, and be prepared for one or two road bumps as the writer comes into his own.

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Deep In The Exposition Mines, There Might Be A Gem…

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Mar 21, 2018: (Up to Chapter 19)

The concept of The New Humans intrigued me from the synopsis. A story about superheroes in 1960s Australia, a setting that’s certainly a unique one for the genre. It’s what led me to check the story out off and on over the past several months, even if the rest of the initial synopsis felt somewhat typical for the genre.

Having finally caught up, I decided to compose my thoughts from a rough collection of notes to a long-form review.

I did not think it would be so critical.

On a technical level, overall, the serial is well-constructed. Generally, grammar and spelling are fine—beyond a few notable issues with tense. Generally speaking, the prose is functional but perhaps relies too much on the audience understanding certain terms without an attempt to describe or explain it. Semi-related to that, there were times where I found myself scrolling backward to see if I had missed certain details. Sometimes chapters felt disconnected from each other. Some sentences could be clunky or weirdly phrased, but I feel that comes down more to the authorial voice than anything else.

But that authorial voice is something that quickly went from unique and intriguing to overbearing and, frankly, grating. Frequently, the wry sense of humor gets far too caught up in its own jokes and its own references, reveling in things that can often feel self-indulgent. Because of this, the story sometimes feels like someone is telling me about the 1960s as opposed to immersing me in the world.

When it works though, it works. There was a particular comment about legs and sanity in an earlier chapter that I did quite like, enough to make a note of it. But I think it’s telling that I made note of that one in particular. I’m not sure I’d want to estimate my ratio of ‘works’ and ‘not quite’.

(I also think the authorial voice gets more bearable around Chapter 14 or thereabouts, for what it’s worth—but that’s a lot of words by that point. As an additional aside, I felt Chapter 12 was quite good.)

Similarly, the footnotes left me feeling split. Some of them worked and made me smile. Some of the others were, as above, more exposition. Some of them felt like non-sequiturs and the humor fell completely flat.

In general, if I had to rate the humor, it would be that it did not land for me. Sometimes, I’d say that it’s actually at odds with the thematics, tone and world. For example, I appreciate the parallels to Australian history—however, it just makes the omnipresent attempts at humor that much more of an odd choice.

The story has two things that I rate as severe weaknesses, one more subjective than the other. The first, and the more objective of the two in my mind, is the mountains of exposition. Frequently, chapters—already sedate if you want to be kind, longwinded if you don’t—will come to a crashing halt as the narrator relays worldbuilding facts and other details to the reader. The exposition is frequently clumsy, where it will inform the reader about various superhuman theories for a number of paragraphs, before mentioning that the character in question doesn’t know anything about that.

Why spend time on what the character doesn’t know as opposed to what they do? TNH bombards you with information, often at points where the relevance is not immediately clear. It becomes even harder to retain that information when we’re told that the character doesn’t know it. If they don’t know it, and the relevance is unclear, why do I need to?

This issue is exacerbated by the length of some chapters, which is the second issue, one that is more subjective. They are long. There are some that are 8-10k words in length, and some I’m sure are beyond that. Between the length and the consistent exposition, these chapters can be rough to read, and it can be hard to go through multiples at once. Catching up was difficult, as was going back a few chapters to refresh my memory.

Pacing is an issue. There is one particular character we are introduced to in an early chapter who is a bit of a mystery. In the next chapter, the mystery is answered, and a pair of characters talk about it at length, including the implications of it. And, what’s worse, I’m not sure what purpose it all served beyond—you guessed it—worldbuilding exposition. And exposition that drastically blows open the possible scale of the story at that.

Allison, the protagonist, does not feel like a child of eight years old. Admittedly, this may be because of her superpower (which is quite intriguing, if not brought into the narrative perhaps as quickly as it should be), but she definitely feels more like she’s approximately twelve. She is also incredibly passive, to the extent that I spent many chapters wondering why we were following her at all. Similarly, Lawrence—at least initially—also didn’t grab me at all.

The style of narration feels at odds with Allison’s character, too. Sometimes the story feels like we are tied to her, other times that the narrator is more omniscient. Sometimes there are awkward, sudden cuts to other perspectives, sometimes not.

With all that said, the story uses its 1960s setting pretty well and typically feels appropriately Australian. There were definitely points where I could see why the story was set in an alternate time period. There are some interesting ideas here, too, such as The Flying Man, his effect on the Cold War, and some of the more memorable bits of worldbuilding.

The problem is, those interesting ideas are just rather buried.

I wish I could rate this story higher. But when so many of my notes are ‘where is the plot’ and ‘exposition, again’, I just can’t. This was a hard story to read, and one I powered through more because of the initial hook than what resulted from it. This review is very much on the edge between 3 and 2.5, where personal feeling and evidence of improvement in some later chapters led me to round it up. There may be something good here . . . but buried. Very buried.

Be prepared to dig, and be prepared to come out of some of the chapters feeling exhausted.

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