As you might recall back in March I talked about what it means to review writing and why it’s so important. As part of that, I shared that in April I would be the impartial judge in a writing competition for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Everyone submitted up to 30 pages of anonymous text to be read, critiqued, and ranked with their peers.
I read these stories and ranked them according to Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Each category was worth up to 5 points meaning a story could earn up to 30 points total. Stories have been read, reviewed, and ranked– and now it’s time to talk about the stories!
For my other Empty Pages short story reviews, check out:
Title: One Sentence At A Time Length: 9 pages Genre: Science Fiction
In all honesty, it’s not particularly surprising that One Sentence At A Time came in the last place. With a title like that and being only 9 pages long (this was the only incomplete story), it might have been a giveaway from the entry list. That said, One Sentence At A Time came in 4th place with 19/30 points! This author still did a great job.
Our story is about a man named Jonah who is working a 1500-day shift on an inclement planet to care for a beacon. This beacon is one of six which help a faster-than-light shuttle travel 2055 days in 24 human hours. Once this 1500-day shift is complete, Jonah and his peers will be permitted to full retirement and lifetime access to these faster-than-light flights. However, for each pulse which a beacon fails to omit, you will lose retirement time equal to that of the time lost by the up to 50,000 people on board. If your beacon misses two pulses, you lose all your benefits. This should be easy, after all, the beacons are self-containing and include a robot whose sole purpose is to maintain the beacon. Right? Easy?
I was hooked right away into the action of this story. The external conflict AND internal conflict for Jonah were spot on. Obviously, things immediately go awry and Jonah is left trying to figure out what is wrong with his beacon. We are introduced to an alien race and his peers at the other beacons during this time, and it’s obvious there is some tension there. However, since this story was incomplete we never saw where any of that was going. I also would have loved to learn more about Jonah’s motivations to be at the beacon, his relationship with others, etc. as well.
A very solid science fiction world was quickly established. Again, with the shortness of the text, there was a lot I wanted to know which was missing. For example, I’d love to know more about the planet’s environment and related challenges as well as understand the technology they are using more. Time was also not clearly articulated, which is a shame since it’s so critical to the story. But there is a ton of potential here!
For nine pages of text, there are a ton of characters. That said, I felt they were all well-fleshed out for only nine pages! All the characters had distinct personalities and obvious motivations, even the unnamed aliens. That said, for 9 pages it was overwhelming. I didn’t know why they all had to be there. And, as mentioned before, I wanted to know more of Jonah’s motivations.
Point of View: 4/5
3rd person dramatic– a common PoV for science fiction. I really appreciated how Jonah was written. Jonah’s lack of confidence and insecurities were clear from the start. He had a lot of intriguing things to say which made him very human. Plus, the mystery lied in what was unknown to Jonah. Nailed it.
I struggled the most with this category. It’s hard to look for symbols in an incomplete story. There are potentials, however! The survival theme is obvious, but also about the human condition of always wanting more than they have.
Writing Style: 4/5
I really enjoyed the writing style. I was constantly looking for the next thing and I was hooked immediately! I had to re-read some of the world building passages for clarity, but that’s it. The alignment between the complexity of the writing and reading ease was aligned well (Thanks, Flesch-Kincaid!), which I assume contributed to my overall enjoyment.
Overall Score: 19/30
This might be at the bottom of a pack of 4 stories, but this is still highly ranked at 19/30! As you can see, I would have loved to know more about this world, these characters, and there everything was going. Alas, that was not to be. I hope the author keeps this around as a potential to finish in the future.
What Do You Think?
- Do you think I missed anything in the categories I used for the ranking?
- Are you intrigued by this story?
- How does it feel to read a review for a story you might never be able to read?