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SHADOW

Three Episodes In…

By Maarkean, author of The Awesome Adventures of Max Power

Oct 22, 2018: I like to give a serial three episodes before I decide if I want to continue. First impressions can be deceiving, both for good and bad. Excluding stories that have been recommended to me, those usually turn out good, this is the first where I want to read episode 4.

The prose is strong and the main character is intriguing. Vai is a kid out of time preparing to go onto an unknown future of life aboard a research vessel. Its revealed over the first few episodes that he went into stasis 80years before, when the galaxy was embroiled in a massive war. Now that aliens, K’thaktra, are free from their psychotic war drug and living peacefully among the rest of the Gathering. And Vai has become friends with one. Sort of.

There’s a bit of a backstory overload at points but it serves the present action. As Vai attempts to rescue his friend, Thrissko, from a gang, before he departs, we learn about the war, his past and his time in stasis, though not yet how he was put in.

The rest of the cast so far is also intriguing. Warpaint a Mechatronic (don’t call him a robot) is snarky and overly protective, thinking he’s protecting a 97-year-old, given that’s Vai’s technical age. We don’t learn much about Thrissko yet, only that he made some deal with this gang out of desperation when he learned Vai was leaving. It remains to be seen if he’ll stick around in the story but I hope so.

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UNUSUAL FLORIDA

Editor’s First Look – Mystery/Slice of Life/YA

By Palladian, editor, author of Super

Oct 21, 2018: The author of Unusual Florida does a good job of setting her scene and place. Readers are treated to possible memory-inducing descriptions of long, sweaty car rides to get to a vacation destination, and scenes where a number of teen or pre-teen kids awkwardly try to get to know one another and explore the somewhat mysterious resort they’re vacationing in. The mystery begins to be built on the fact that about half of the kids seem to be there with (or because) of their wealthy families, and about half through some sweepstakes or something that they won, and the fact that there seem to be some parts of the resort marked out as forbidden for no discernable reason.

The website is well-designed for reading through the story and paging quickly to the next chapter, and the story was edited well throughout, so that I could avoid being dropped out of the story as I noticed an error.

One thing that I’d like to see is a little more story progression; thirteen chapters in and we’re still seeing new characters be introduced into the mix. There was a brief dig into something that seemed to deepen the mystery, but that was a couple chapters back and the author hasn’t returned to it.

All in all, I’d recommend this piece to people who like slice-of-life stories mixed with mystery in a YA scenario. I think you’ll enjoy what’s there so far, but I do encourage the author to start unraveling more of the mystery soon.

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THE LAST SCIENCE

No title

By Elephant, member

Sep 29, 2018: The Last Science is a bit of a genre-mixer that defies ready classification. Despite the fantasy tag and the magical elements, the story immediately shrugs off the expectations of a stereotypical "teenager gains magical powers" story. Instead, The Last Science is a rich drama/mystery story which uses magic as the foundation for a compelling plot and characters and provides far more than simply a story "about" magic.

In fact, to some extent the magical elements of the story contrast starkly with the grittiness of the plot and the normalcy and relatability of the characters. The focus of the story is not on exploring the magic itself but rather the implications of such power when injected into a quiet college town and the lives of its inhabitants. In this sense the story reflects many of the themes typically found in technology-based or science fiction stories (justifying the sci-fi tag), which is reinforced by the way the story’s magic is shown to have its own consistent mechanisms and limitations which the characters are continually attempting to explore and understand.

When I say the characters are "normal" I mean that they are not superheroes or stereotypes, but real people with their own hopes, concerns, and intermixing relationships and all of the complications that ensue. It is not to mean that they are mundane or boring. Quite the opposite, each character in The Last Science seems to carry their fair share of mystery and intrigue which leaves no doubt that each one has a story of their own to be revealed in time. The Last Science manages an excellent balance of weaving rich layers of mystery and intrigue through each character and location the reader encounters, while also revealing enough information as the story progresses to let you know that it isn’t just a tease. The plot incorporates and expands on each mystery it establishes and makes clear that there’s real substance to everything it hints at.

I hadn’t originally meant for this review to be quite so glowing and I would include criticism if I had any at the moment, but the truth is that I’m hooked and frankly I have a hard time thinking of reasons why others wouldn’t be as well. I strongly encourage anyone interested to give it a try.

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