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Don’t Read The Tags

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Mar 24, 2018: Advent is quite good. Unfortunately, I think the story kind of spoils itself. If you’ve read this far, do not look at the tags for this story. I did not look at them and found Advent a good read, but I feel I would’ve been less intrigued had I been ‘armed’ with that knowledge.

Advent is a complete work. It a short web serial with the lean feel of a short story, and I suppose you could call it ‘diaryfic’. It uses some images and hyperlink ‘footnotes’ to develop the story (more on those later) and take advantage of the web serial format. Ultimately, without spoilers (although, really, it is all there in the tags) Advent is the story of a boy—Luke—in foster care who finds his biological mother at his window one evening, and the pair set off on a journey.

I think it’s fair to say that, technically, the quality of writing in Advent stands above a lot of serials on this site. It is quite well written and the author absolutely nails the ‘voice’ of a ten-year-old boy with Luke’s particular history and resulting issues. Initially, I found myself surprised by the sheer depth of Luke’s cynicisms and dour nature—but it is, as mentioned, a result of his particular history. Once you realize what’s happening, you just feel pity for him.

Advent is a fairly simple story. It deals with some pretty grim subject matter and does it in a way that feels accurate, honest and sympathetic. However, Advent’s simplicity feels a mark against it in some ways. While I went into it completely blind, I had the story pegged pretty early. This is not a bad thing: if a story is written well, and you’re paying close attention, being able to predict it to a certain degree is normal. But my problem with Advent is it never felt it quite deviated enough in certain directions to surprise me.

But, at the same time, it really is just 25 days out of Luke’s life, where it ends only because Dec 25 is the cut-off date. This is not a story with an ending as much as that it ends. And, at that end, while Luke has changed, there’s the definite sense that it isn’t a final resolution—life goes on. He’s changing, but it’s a slow process, and he might relapse. As much as I can respect that artistic choice, I came away from Advent feeling not quite satisfied.

Despite that, what Advent does quite well is create this omnipresent feeling of suspense, tension, and anxiety. You know something is going to go wrong, but you don’t know what or when. It could come from any angle and it could be anything. This is probably what held my interest the most throughout Advent. You are seeing through Luke’s eyes and he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong. But even when the reader has figured it out, the story can still create this marvelous sensation of dread. And I say that’s a strong credit, especially with what I said about having the story pegged.

So, all that said, onto the things I didn’t personally like. And it’s a credit to Advent that my criticisms are pretty minor.

Essentially, I’m not sure the images added anything to the story. They didn’t detract, but they didn’t enhance it. They were nice to have, but they probably could’ve been struck from it and nothing would be lost.

I found the hyperlinks distracting. Admittedly, I like to click to a chapter, scroll down, and click next. Rinse and repeat. I called them footnotes but sometimes they border more on tangents, or just covering certain things in more depth. They’re not extraneous, and they’re a neat way of utilizing the online format, but being aware of links to click on took me out of the story just a little bit.

Those two and that, really, and while I understand and appreciate thorough tags, I absolutely think removing two of them would make the story more engaging.

All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend Advent. It’s a short, sharp read with a well-executed mood about it. But I can’t quite shake the feeling that it is too easily figured out and for all the wonderfully evocative tension, that other shoe never quite drops in a way that left me feeling satisfied. I came away from the story respecting the author’s craft, but not necessarily feeling content with what I’d just read. While I read it all in one sitting, and was engaged by it (even if just for that wonderful tone), I’m not sure if I can say I enjoyed it.

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