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THE EXPERIMENT

Being A Superhero Kind Of Sucks

By JPV1000, author of Warbler

Feb 19, 2016: Like, seriously, how does superintelligence help you pay rent? It does not stop your boss from harassing you, it does not change the fact that you’re going to end up living with your parents again, and it does not change the fact that people keep attacking you in the dead of night.

Such are the challenges faced by our hero in The Experiment, and, to be quite honest, the juxtaposition is brilliant. Dan has amazing powers, and appears to be continuing to gain more, but they really don’t affect the everyday problems he has. That’s the beauty of The Experiment—he is a normal, average human being, doing everyday, relateable things.

The Experiment is beautifully, professionally written. It’s just a joy to read Edwards’s writing, as it’s fast-paced, witty, and often hilarious. Other reviewers have said that the writing lacks a message, it lacks commentary, that it ‘plays it safe’, so to speak. They’re right, that there is no social message at the heart of The Experiment, but there need not be. There is no need for every story to be ‘deep’, and the Superhero genre in webfiction is very deep and dark as of late. The Experiment defies that trend, which makes for a refreshing change of pace.

There are definitely some issues—navigation could be better, and there’s not really a good Table of Contents. In fact, the Table of Contents that is there seems to indicate that it’s maybe ten parts long, when each of those parts is, in reality, about four installments in length. (Which is by no means a bad thing.)

In the end though, the fact that it kept me up till 2:00 AM says it all, doesn’t it?

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THE EXPERIMENT

Lighthearted antihero fun

By TanaNari, author of Price

Feb 13, 2016: The REAL definition of antihero- which is to say a hero, with pretty much no heroic traits. Not the modern "badass jerk who’s on the good side, maybe" version.

The good:

The story starts with a somewhat self-deprecating and witty main character thrust into a crazy new life full of weirdness. Your walk down this well-trodden path will have you smiling and occasionally laughing at the down to earth charming humor of the main character.

The story gets rambly at times, as the narrator goes through tangents in his mind. The author’s good enough to make it work, but not quite good enough to make it pleasant like Douglass Adams did. Still, ‘not as good as Adams’ is hardly an insult, and maybe with time the writer can reach that level of charm in his work. He’s pointed in that direction, at least.

In fact, a LOT of the style reminds me of Adams and Pratchett . . . the blend of silly and serious, the rambling as part of the narrative, and the easy pleasure-reading. This author lacks their refinement and deeper commentary, but has the same comfortable feel for reading and ability to introduce lots of exposition without annoying the reader. Or, at least, not me.

The Bad:

The narrative has a painful habit of switching from past to present tense at times. It’s clearly a design decision,, but it’s a poor one in my opinion. Most of the story is done in first person present . . . only to switch to past in the parts of the story where the narrator talks directly to the reader like the whole thing was a story being told while sitting at an interview. In this way, it’s the opposite of how it should be done.

In addition, there’s basically no navigation on the site. It took me three chapters to figure out I was reading the story in reverse, then scroll all the way down to the bottom and start reading my way up.

A bit wordy at times. The rambling flow works against it in combat sequences- and as a Supers story, it has plenty of combat sequences.

It really doesn’t have Pratchett or Adams’ commentary. The story is straightforward and charming, but there’s no real depth or message in the story. It’s great popcorn material, but it plays it too safe to ever evoke powerful reactions.

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THE EXPERIMENT

If it’s not your genre, you may want to experiment with this one anyway.

By Eren Reverie, author of Et Alia

Feb 12, 2016: Full disclosure: Just a couple of days after I read this, the author posted on the forums looking for Reviewers. That did prompt me to actually write my review (I’ve been awfully negligent in doing those lately) but the possibility of a review swap did not. I’d already finished the first novella, thought I should write a review, and allowed myself to be distracted into not doing so.

With that said, I enjoyed The Experiment. It was a pretty fun pseudo-superhero read. Although it is billed as noir, it was for the most part more light hearted than current trends in dark and despairing superhero worlds go. Aside from how he relates to the experiment itself, the main character didn’t strike me as quite as cynical as I would normally associate with a noir protagonist. The rest of the cast for the first novella was pretty small, but that allowed the author to make those people we did get to know feel more real without having to spend tons of time on side characters.

Because of that, the action in the book was pretty regular and the pace was fairly fast (without hitting that ‘omg everything is constantly ramping up in direness oh no oh no oh no’ level that can be exhausting to read too much of at once.) The powers that came into play varied, and the need to keep those powers secret was reasonable. The side characters were interesting and the sub plot between the main character and his boss was particularly fun. The main character’s development—and his awareness of it as he recounts his story as its narrator—was well measured and felt real.

I read the first novella in a single day, which means it kept me up far later than it should have (and that’s always a good sign.)

It’s written in the present tense, which I usually find to be a bit jarring. In this case, I didn’t even notice until I skimmed the most recent couple chapters (the start of the next novella) before writing this review. The writting has a good flow to it, and I don’t recall any typos that were jarring enough to pull me out of the story when I read it.

I think it’s biggest weakness currently is how many questions arose in the first novella that have been left for future chapters to answer. But despite that, the resolution of the subplots and the snappy flow of the action—plus the promise of those future chapters and the answers they might bring—prevent that from being a flaw. It’s more like the first novella served to grow the small cast of characters and establish the basic premise and greater mysteries, which I hope the series as a whole will address.

I can’t comment on the update schedule much, because I read the whole first novella in one day and that was all that was up when I did it. However, the fact that ‘book 1’ is completely available online and The Experiment is still in the ‘recent works’ sidebar list on The Webfiction Guide as I write this indicates that it has a pretty healthy update rate—or, at the very least, that there’s enough out there for readers to get a solid story out of the archives.

Bottom line? If you like mysteries that arch over multiple books, enjoy fast action, super powers, and a relatively light atmosphere (compared to, say, Price or Worm) then add a star to this review. Reading The Experiment would be a great way to spend some idle relaxation time.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to see all the major questions brought up by a book resolved in that book, you prefer dark and gritty super hero fiction, or you want to read something with a cast of, er, dozens-or-more, then this might not be the best option for you out there. In that case, knock a star off this review and decide if that’s still rated high enough for you to peruse while you’re waiting for something more tailored to your tastes to show up.

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