more . . .

All Reviews

next »

the_author() rating onrating onrating halfrating offrating off


Three Episodes In…

By Wayne Basta, author of Seraph's Gambit

Jan 2, 2019: "Star Captain Annie" by Will Cereal starts out with a nearly derelict ship. The sentient AI searches for any surviving crew but the only survivor turns out to be the captain’s infant daughter; who is immediately promoted to captain. The next episode jumps to find a nine-year-old Captain Annie the sole crew aboard the Nightingale on her way to a trade deal with an unsavory character called Ashur over a junk planet.

The rest of the next two episodes see Captain Annie’s deal falls apart as Ashur betrays her and then a notorious pirate attacks. The deal goes bad but clever Annie surmises, correctly, that pirate Captain Scarheart is nothing more than a ruse. Turns out, he’s nothing more than a teenager named Nate playing a part, under the guidance of another AI. Meanwhile, the artifact Annie wanted to retrieve tumbles to the planet below, right into the hands of an orphan girl named Kaori, marooned on the planet of junk. 

Of course, the artifact is immediately stolen by the Scrap King as tribute. Kaori meets the trader Ashur, come to retrieve his artifact. She takes him to the King and learns the concept of rebellion, using a French term Viva la Revolucion, spoken by a non-human. Kaori then proceeds to lead the other scrappers in a spontaneous revolt against the scrap king. 

To say "Star Captain Annie" is quirky would be putting it mild. The concept of an infant being raised by an AI to become a starship captain is quite unique. A new twist on the ‘raised by wolves’ trope. The prose in the prologue intrigues and engages you. The opening scenes with Annie are amusing but almost to an extreme. She commands the AI, whose raised her, like a confident captain, who wears spaceship jammies and has a captain hat glued to her spacesuit helmet. It’s almost as if the story is trying to hard to be quirky.

The scenes with Kaori are more engaging, at least at first. When she suddenly discovers the concept of rebellion after a single comment from Ashur, and then is inspired to lead a rebellion of other scrappers, it goes off the rails. Her story goes from interesting to ridiculous in a heartbeat. 

To further complicate things, the stories formatting is just atrocious. Some paragraphs are nicely spaced. Some have two lines between them. POV shifts multiple times, from Annie, to Ashur, to Kaori, to Nate, to a scavenger drone. But you can only tell via context because there is no other indication. It finally becomes untenable in the third episode where, instead of too many spaces between paragraphs, there aren’t enough and the whole thing becomes a giant wall of text. 

Additionally, navigation between episodes is left to the whim of WordPress. There are no links to the next episode built in. Just WordPress’ randomly chosen ‘related’ links. This requires going to the table of contents page between each episode. Just one more minor annoyance. 

Still, despite those complaints, I still give it 2.5 stars, Almost Worth a Look. The prose itself isn’t bad. The concepts are great if unevenly implemented. The formatting could be fixed quite easily. So it’s almost there. I’m curious to see how all this comes together, though not curious enough to decipher the wall of text. Maybe I’ll check back in a few months.

1 of 1 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »

the_author() rating onrating onrating onrating onrating half


The internet’s out and we ate all the Ramen

By Admiralmonkeyman, author of Fuji

Oct 17, 2018: Best read at 4 a.m with a 90¢ cup o’ noodles in hand. Overall score, 4.7/5.

Reading chosen shackles has been a trip for me, starting off with the benign task of finding a running noodle vendor, to slowly building up the suspense and rot lurking beneath the city.

chosen shackles biggest quality is in its aesthetics and characters, the way that the protagonist interacts with the world improves upon its immersion tenfold.

The antagonist’s of this world take their merry time to show, leaving Frode to wander the city in more realistic pursuits, rather than saving the world.

But this story isn’t all about Frode, the supporting characters all feel three dimensional, with their own desires, motives, and emotions without being pulled along by the protagonist, unlike some other serials.

The biggest hurdle to go around is in Chosen shackles pacing. Although the story is top notch in building suspense and tension, Chosen shackles doesn’t force feed you what happened in between chapters like other serials. instead, it leaves you to tie some of the links yourself. I would say that this is neither good nor bad, but could be confusing for some readers.

I think Chosen shackle’s smaller chapters actually work in its favor. It leaves every entry into small, bite-sized bits of story and aesthetic. Making it perfect for reading between shifts at work or whatever break you may have.

In conclusion, Chosen shackles is one of the best Cyberpunk serials out there, and does its setting perfectly. It well deserves its high ratings, and it’s characters that make the setting feel so like so much more, having these people written in such a realistic and meaningful way, then putting them in this living nightmare of a city brings you so much deeper in.

Shaeor has hooked me once again, good work, man.

4 of 6 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »

the_author() rating onrating onrating onrating onrating half


<Part of the System>

By Kraken Attacken, member

Aug 10, 2018: Atmosphere . . . Adrenaline . . . Amphetamines . . . Augments . . . 

Cerebral-immersion . . . Cyberization . . . Chemical Enhancement . . . 

Downloads . . . Digital Environments . . . Decryption . . . Demons . . . 

Signals . . . Static . . .  . . .  . . . .Spicy Noodles . . . 

As I sat before my darkly-lit screen, drinking in the imaginings of electronic vapour and dystopia, these words played across my mind and consciousness. Cyberpunk, dystopian stories, and Grungy digital futures have always been thrilling to me, especially when they deliver on the core aesthetics. I have to say that Shaeor’s work has delivered on this front, and in a way that feels both foreboding and satisfying.

It has become my tradition to give a bit of metaphor, but I fail to see how I can get any more metaphorical than what this story presents. I’ll try my darnedest nonetheless.

In the end, like a famous bald guy in sun-glasses once said, there’s always that rabbit hole for us to lose ourselves in. In a digital age where friends are pixels away, where we look with as much fascination at effects laden videos as we do at the stars above, where rampant criminality can be pursued from a single device, there is yet still further for us to go.

We usually live our ordinary (and sometimes a bit extra-ordinary) lives from day to day, indulging in various activities while we make ends meet and seek fulfilment. Sometimes however, the corner of the page is peeled back, the tiny door to the murky unknown is left ajar, and for those of us who are unafraid of the dark . . . what do we do?

 . . . we take a step closer, and peek.

I think my favourite thing about many a favourite cyber-punk story that I have read or watched, is that average joe we find ourselves following. Not necessarily a regular joe who turns super joe by happenstance, but a someone who stumbles upon something, something which instigates undeniable change in their life, but for the rest of the world . . . it’s just Monday.

The world is made of uncountable layers, and average joe’s struggle is likely to make some waves, but most of those layers will remain unaffected, or at least the effects on the world won’t be sudden and jarring.

Chosen Shackles is a cyber-punk story you can drool over, with all the right tropes in all the right places. Tech is ubiquitous, it’s hard to make ends meet for most, if you aren’t careful you’ll end up as someone’s test-subject, and big brother is always watching. Yet for all of this, it isn’t just the depths that this story manages to reach with short chapters and evocative, sometimes allegorical words, it’s also how ordinary it all seems from the perspective of those within it.

This is life, this is what we know and who we are. Chosen Shackles uses inference and hints to make the extraordinary ordinary in a fascinating and whimsical manner. Frode isn’t some especially woke individual who’s diving down into the core of "the system", especially since we can infer that everything is known at some level. No, Frode just happens to have been chosen by happenstance, in the right (or wrong) places at the right (you get the idea . . . ) times.

It makes the story feel alive, and well lived to boot. I am not Frode, and I don’t share allot of his characteristics, but in spite of the fact that he belongs in some distant future, where dreamers play games and dance in wondrous digitised worlds, I can see myself in Frode, I can see myself in his world. I can breath it, taste it, touch it, and feel its digital haptic buzz.

Sometimes the prose can become heavy and the nomenclature and metaphor jarring, but the narrative, and the texture and mood of the writing, makes up for such signal interference.

If you, like me, are a lover of the rich street-level lore in a digital dystopian age, then Plug-in, Boot-up, breath deep . . . 

 . . . and listen to the static . . . 

4 of 6 members found this review helpful.
Help us improve!  Request an invite or log in to rate this review.

next »