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MOUNTAIN SOUND

Loving Yourself in a Future War

By Thedude3445, author of Rainbow Destructor

Oct 26, 2019: We aren’t given much context for the events of Mountain Sound. Practically the entire story takes place in one secluded farm out in the mountains of some unknown country in some unknown part of the world in some unknown time in the future.

And that’s okay, at least for this ten-chapter web miniseries. The story is about two women— the robot Efa, living a lonely life as a sheep herder and realizing that she is having more wishes than her programming should allow; and Harper, a young girl who has been scarred by the horrors of war, trying to escape after already losing so much. Two women that meet and bond over trying to come to terms with themselves in this respite from the raging battles nearby.

Mountain Sound is almost entirely about these two characters trying to understand themselves while helping each other. For Efa, it’s in literally trying to understand herself and her existence as an individual, despite being a robot programmed for a very simple task. For Harper, it’s in figuring out exactly who she is in a world where nearly everyone she ever loved is gone. Both protagonists have to help each other learn to love themselves, even in the midst of this massive war.

You’d think that this would be a highly internal and emotional story, but it’s actually not. If I would liken it to anything, it’d be more to a sci-fi pulp story; it’s fast-paced, deals with some weighty concepts, but makes sure to keep you entertained more than delving deep into itself. The story takes some event-filled turns later on that have some actual action in them, which I never expected, and while I’m not sure that was my favorite decision, it played out quite well anyway. Mountain Sound here, then, would be kind of like Enemy Mine, but the movie rather than the novella; it’s got your strong duo and emotional bonding, but it makes sure to put an action climax in to keep the appeal wide.

There is a case to be made here that this miniseries has a queer coming-out narrative embedded in the subtext, that the story is something of an allegory for accepting your own identity, even if that’s contrary to everything around you. Aside from allegory, Harper herself is heavily implied to be queer herself, but there isn’t anything overt here.

Mountain Sound is a refreshing sci-fi miniseries, a character drama in a medium that still largely celebrates action-adventure over anything else. And because it’s only ten chapters long, there’s little excuse for you to set aside an hour or two and dig into this little story. I recommend it!

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SLUSH

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By Nova Girl93, author of RU in? Saga

Oct 4, 2019: This one had me hooked with the first sentence. I love it’s charming, sarcastic sense of humor. I love the characters’ personalities. And I love the mystery it builds from the very first sentence. It’s great.

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ASHES OF ETERNITY

First Impressions on Ashes of Eternity

By Thedude3445, author of Rainbow Destructor

Aug 24, 2019: It’s too early in Ashes of Eternity to give a very thorough review; at just 81 pages in length, the story hasn’t even begun to begin, instead continually expanding its scope as some kind of large-scale prologue. I respect that quite a lot, though that means I can’t review it except as the prologue it appears to be.

So far, Ashes of Eternity has all the hallmarks of something that could be great, but it’s on some rocky terrain that could slip into mediocrity or worse, if the story takes a poor turn. Why is that, you ask? Well, for these first eleven or so chapters (I think the "main plot" looks to start around Chapter 15), we’ve gotten FOUR completely independent, self-contained POVs that are almost completely unrelated so far.

The story of this web novel is one of an entire galaxy, a thousand years after its Emperor disappeared. The decay is evident in the pretty crapsack world everyone lives in; aside from the Emperor’s story, every world we’ve been shown so far is far from a fun place to live, and characters are faced with great quandries, whether that be pure survival, or advancing in a harsh aristocratic society. All of these disconnected storylines add up to one truth— the galaxy sucks.

This is incredibly ambitious. Giving us all these completely separate parts of a giant universe and showing us completely unrelated characters is a setup to something that could be a space opera ensemble story on an unparalled level of sheer size. Whatever the main plot of this story is, involving all of these current POV characters is going to be a feat in megaplotting.

However, as a serial web novel, that may have been a mistake. In just eleven chapters, we’ve been given four completely separate storylines, jolted from one tale to the next, and with almost no connective tissue between them because they all take place (literally) worlds apart. That kind of thing is going to be a bit hard to follow in serialization, especially when there are only chapters about once every 2 or 3 weeks, it appears. If executed correctly, this could be a classic, but it is going to be a real tough one for author JP Koenig to pull off.

And because of the disparate nature of all these storylines, so far none of them have jumped out at me, all feeling like . . . well, prologues. The characters are all alright, but none of them have appealed to me in the way that some of my favorite web novel protagonists have, partially because they just never got to stick around long enough to make much of an impression. Once again, this is something solved with more chapters and more time, so this is just my first impression.

However, something that definitely must be improved is the prose, which puts the world and the exposition in first place, well before actually showing us the story at hand. There are often paragraphs upon paragraphs of long exposition, sometimes even in the middle of action scenes, and it’s quite clunky. Instead of showing us the world, the story is more inclined to tell us about the world.

There are also, strangely, some instances where the scenes show us a lot . . . but maybe TOO much; Chapter 5 has the POV character taking a shower, smelling the cinnamon shampoo, and . . . it doesn’t have any relevance to anything else. It may also be that the POV is a bit too distant, even omniscient, for moments like this to really give us a picture of the character’s inner thoughts when we get to these slice-of-life moments. I would recommend the author to try some prose study on authors like Dashiell Hammett who are able to convey an incredible sense of place and action with efficiency and energy, and then to direct some of that study into this story. Some improvements to the prose there could go a long way in making this story something special. Still, once you get past the prose, Ashes of Eternity has a whole lot of potential to be a sci-fi epic like the web fiction world has yet to see. Let’s wish JP Koenig a universe of luck as he embarks on the rest of this story.

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