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SPIRECLAW

Well Written Weird Mystery

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Feb 4, 2010: Within the first paragraph of this novel I knew I was in the hands of a skillful, practised writer. The atmosphere is eerie and evocative as the main character, Kieran, wakes from a disturbing dream and looks out the window into the dark, wind tossed yard.

A tone of tension and foreboding is established, but as the story progresses it’s not quite as scary as I expected it to be. Kieran goes about his mundane day and encounters some odd, but apparently trivial, mysteries, that, although he treats them lightly, he nevertheless seems compelled to investigate. He also receives some upsetting (and coincidental) news about the death of an old friend. He and the friend’s bereaved girlfriend drown their sorrows together and soon she is along for the ride as the pair follow up weird clues on a quest they superficially treat as a lark and a distraction, but they can’t seem to stop! Meanwhile a parallel story of dark events during World War II (with historical basis) is interspersed into the narrative.

The main story takes place in London and surrounding communities and has a vivid sense of place. Real landmarks are used and the details of damp weather, speech patterns, lifestyle details of urban UK lower middle class in (I think) the 80s to 90s – will have you nodding if you have been there or giving you a taste of it if you have not.

At 29 chapters I had expected to divide up this reading over several sessions but I read it all in one evening – it was that enthralling and went quickly.

The first time I got to the ending I was so upset I cried out NO! in protest. Then I realized I had inadvertedly missed a big chunk of the previous chapter. The scroll bar to the left of the text is very thin (at least on my screen) and this sometimes made it tricky to tell when I’d reached the bottom of a chapter – watch out for that! Once I realized what had happened and read the omitted text I felt more satisfied that the end had tied up the plot themes, although I do still have some problem with it. I can’t discuss details without creating a spoiler, but I will just say the phrase "one of these things is not like the others" comes to mind. It may be hard to take, however, don’t worry, you will find out what "Spireclaw" means and more.

If you’d like to read a nicely crafted modern dark (subtly) supernatural mystery set in London, here’s your book.

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STREET

Neo noir Cyberpunk

By Sora, member

Mar 10, 2009: Summary: Gina is a telepath for hire. She gets her "third eye" from a drug called Spice that causes the user to feel emotions of those around them and see into the pasts of the others. She gets entangled up with the mysterious Bomber and a man, Gabriel, who seems to have a connection to the main character. Gina is dragged into an even seedier world than she’s used to and everyone wants to use her for her brain. For most girls this wouldn’t be a problem, but in Gina’s case, it is a matter of life or death.

Likes: This story was like watching a high thrills action movie without all the cheesy fight dialogue and overblown fight sequences. There were twists and turns, but none of these felt artificial or thrown in just for effect. Gina is a likable character. She’s strong, tough, and capable of taking care of herself. She still has a feminine quality that doesn’t seemed overly forced. I’m interested in reading what’s happening to the characters, not just as far as plot is concerned, but the author has given me a reason to care about them. It’s not just about the plot for me, but the characters as well. Stories of this genre don’t really appeal to me because they forget a lot of the characterization. Even though there are a lot of questions about the characters, the story doesn’t dump enough on readers nor does it hold back. Characters are shown through actions which is appreciated in an otherwise "plot" driven story. The characters for the most part, drive the plot, not the other way around.

Dislikes: The writing is a little indulgent at times. Sometimes the metaphors are a little clunky and it breaks the narrative a bit. Sometimes characters are referred to by race which gets a little irritating, but then again we aren’t with these characters for very long. Sometimes I don’t really care about what ethnicity someone is, it doesn’t really seem important and it happens so often that I feel the need to address it. Gina is a little skittish and it’s understandable, but it gets a little exhausting at points.

Overall: A most interesting read. The characters are entertaining and easy to care about. None of these characters are passive as things happen to them. We learn what they learn and they take us on a wild ride filled with twists and turns. I would like a little more backstory, but given the genre, I’m not entirely sure it can be worked in there without breaking the narrative.

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STREET

Good.

By Samazing, author of Dirigible Ditties

Jan 14, 2009: Ryan A. Span’s Street is one of the better bit of webfiction I’ve had the pleasure to read so far. It is about Gina who lives in futuristic China – a China which is completely covered in a massive city, a China where extreme poverty and incredible technology coexist. Gina, however, is a telepath, a power which is possible in Street thanks to a powerful drug called Spice – yes, Spice, the legendary substance in Dune.

The story picks up when Gina is solicited by a strange man with a Lamborghini to use her telepathic powers for a job. Things go wrong, of course, and she is thrown into the middle of an intense conflict.

In other words, it’s a compelling setting and plot. The setting especially – it is fresh and incredibly interesting. The weakest aspect of the story is the characterization of inhabitants who are not the main character. Gina herself is depicted very believably, but Span failed to really expand on the other characters much beyond their role as plot elements. Plotwise, everything is a little obfuscated – you hardly know who the antagonists are half the time – but this is not a detriment. It comes off as very organic and real.

Looking simply at which words are written out and how they’re put together, Span is solid with flashes of sublimity. Starting out, the story immediately engages the reader and draws them in with some superior writing. As Street progresses it tails off, but is never anything short of good. My complaint is that at stretches Span simply relates the characters’ actions, not doing as much as he could have to deepen Street.

Really, though, there is nothing which cripples your enjoyment of the book, only some distractions. It is roundly well-written, moves quickly enough to hold your interest, and at the worst of moments it is quality entertainment. Now go, and enjoy it!

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