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ATL: STORIES FROM THE RETROFUTURE

A Retrofuture Worth Visiting

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Dec 6, 2018: It’s not often that I find a story that is both intellectual and thoroughly amusing at the same time. Smart humor is often rare, because it’s so difficult to juggle good jokes with intelligent banter.

Enter case and point: ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture. For now, we’ll refer to it in its current arc, The Social Media Killer.

Think of this story as a sort of sci-fi political pulp story. It fits well into the realm of stories like Transmetropolitian, though far, far less abrasive.

The story in question revolves around 22-year old slacker and layabout Morgan Harding, who works a job they despise and dreams of leaving the town of Atlanta and their old life behind. Morgan’s friends include the bubbly and always energetic Karina, and snarky robot ally R8PR. The setting is pretty interesting; it’s a strange futuristic take on Atlanta that both mocks and embraces the internet-dependent culture that we human beings have grown so accustomed to.

It’s silly, yet smart. Ridiculous yet composed. A real cocktail of ideas that works so well just as it draws you into its zaniness.

The current arc, The Social Media Killer, revolves around a murder mystery that doesn’t actually involve murder. Famous people and other celebrities find themselves being "murdered", i.e their social lives and and careers being maimed as their crimes and past misdeeds are shown for all the world to see on the internet. After Morgan’s apartment gets ransacked by men assuming he has ties to the killer, he goes on his own search for answers and invariably draws Karina and R8PR with him. All the while, we’re reminded of how much he wants to leave Atlanta, and its amusing to think that the only reason he hasn’t left is because of this.

What follows is a sort of grounded piece of detective fiction that neverthless knows how to throw in a good bit of political sci-fi fun. Some pretty amazing reveals follow, and I think one of the author’s greatest strengths is in how easily they’re able to get us invested in the characters. Morgan and Karina are a great duo, and many other characters like Morgan’s sister Marge and especially R8PR become memorable only after their first appearance.

One little thing I noticied, is the ambiguity of Morgan’s gender. I assumed he was a he, but even as a I go back and read the story, it’s not so apparent. I would normally put this as a deteriment, since it’s a part of a character that I can’t quantify, and thus is makes me slightly less invested, but I’ll honestly go back and say it’s a strength to the story. Morgan’s character isn’t necessairly held down by something simple like gender, and I think it makes them stronger because of it.

That could just be a reader’s opinion, of course. Judge for yourself in the end.

To conclude, this is a great story. Phenomenal, possibly. Unique, fun, well-written and bereft with intrigue and well-realized characters. It’s well worth a read and I can only imagine where the writer will take it from here.

Final score: 4.5/5

3 of 3 members found this review helpful.
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SERAPH'S GAMBIT

Some Solid Sci-Fi Shenanigans

By Megajoule, author of The Warlock Ruthless

Dec 3, 2018: A small disclaimer: I have a work hosted by the same site as this serial, but I always try to be honest.

Overall: Seraph’s Gambit is a fun and interesting read, enjoyable if you’re a fan of Firefly’s mashup of rusty western and Star Trek sci-fi. I’ve given Seraph 4/5 stars, which according to Web Fiction Guide is a "solid" serial, and that’s what I find Seraph’s Gambit to be. It’s a solid sci-fi story with some enjoyable characters.

Synopsis: Seraph’s Gambit follows Captain Ariana and her crew as they do a job delivering an alien passenger. She just wants to cash the check, but there may be more than she bargained for as she tries to navigate a harsh and sometimes violent galaxy with a ragtag crew ranging from veterans to inexperienced adventurers.

If I have gripes, they are minor. Sometimes the dialogue tags are a little sparse so it’s occasionally hard to tell which character may be speaking, especially if conversations get a little longer or feature more than one character (and with an ensemble cast that happens often) but this is not an egregious issue, just a nitpick.

The characters themselves are interesting even if a few of them can seem somewhat like stock characters or tropes. Even with that in mind each one still has a lot of screen time and thought put into them, and the author doesn’t simply rely on the tropes that inform the characters but allows them to grow and stretch. Particularly I liked Noah, Olivia, and Squee.

As I said, overall, it’s a solid, enjoyable read, especially for fans of stuff like Firefly. I recommend it if you want an ensemble sci-fi read about a ragtag group of adventurers trying to survive in a harsh ‘verse.

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CHOSEN SHACKLES

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.

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