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Relatively So

By Ryan A. Span, author of Street

Mar 6, 2009: It’s All Relative is a difficult one for me to review. For one, it’s a story from one of the subgenres I most dread—college fantasy. On top of that it’s openly anime-inspired, another thing for which I don’t have much appreciation. However, when you get right down to it, it’s a piece of fiction like any other and needs to follow the same rules and standards of good writing in order to earn a good score.

The story doesn’t start off well. A big infodump may be an acceptable way to begin a TV series but for a written story—especially on the internet—it’s like a motorway warning triangle placed ahead of a big car crash. It’s never a promising thing. As far as hooking new readers goes, the beginning of It’s All Relative will fail for a lot of people.

What’s amazing is that the infodump never actually stops. The writing style is so clunky that it keeps feeling dense and uncomfortable no matter how far you get, full of poorly-used sentence fragments, word repetition, incorrect grammar and relentless use of passive voice. Take these two lines for example:

He stopped himself. He didn't want to enjoy this. 

"Enjoying yourself?" a voice chuckled nearby.

There’s no chance to lose yourself in the story because you’ll be too busy struggling with the stilted writing. It often descends into purple descriptions that take paragraph after paragraph to say things that could be condensed into a single line.

The work isn’t without bright points, however. Something that’s not often done well, the dialogue in It’s All Relative is a definite positive, flowing and filled with character. Characterisation itself isn’t bad either. The cast are easy enough to tell apart even early on by their speech and mannerisms rather than just their race/special power. Plotting and storyline are actually not bad either, it sets things up well and provides enough to catch a reader’s interest as far as I’ve read.

Surprisingly I don’t have any real problems with the content of It’s All Relative, apart from uncomfortable injections of exposition, but I cannot get over the awful prose. The good news is that prose can be improved, and I would consider raising my score after a thorough rewrite.

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