Metal, you made mention a few pages back of paying particular attention to my feedback as I'm a first time reader. Which made me realise that I've not really been paying attention much to that angle of things. |
I've been absorbed in your story and I've been doing this mental substitution thing where anything that doesn't make perfect sense is ignored so I can carry on in the story. Not useful for your purposes. =)
I've been paying a lot more attention in the last few chapters to what bits of your story I just skip over for ease although I could/should question them.
So here's the "first time reader's feedback".
Assumptions I've built up of your story world that I've since noticed might not be completely right.
Your first chapter start with location "London Constabulary", which in my mind = Police. So Walker is a cop and he goes out to meet someone.
You've later described other locations as 4L Better Living 4U Constabulary S.O. Quarters, 4L Better Living 4U Constabulary Support Quarters, 4L HealthWize Hospital.
So although I initially took it that 4L - police force. I'm starting to realise that 4L is probably some sort of conglomerate or corporation which provides medical services, police services, housing, etc.
Mars / Eden
Mars is mentioned early on but it's significance isn't very clear. It's clear that it's of big significance to your main character but there's not a lot of elaboration. As it keeps coming up, sometimes under the name of Eden. It becomes clear as the story goes on that it's something quite big and important and a lot of people died on Mars somehow and Sway was in the middle of it. Sounds like he was trying to prevent some tragedy but failed and is seen by (parts of) the public opinion to be at fault even.
His character/temperament is established quite quickly.
His back story less so. It becomes clear as the story goes on but that seems to be more incidental as his interaction with various people in his life automatically ads backstory. You do end up building a mental from nothing and then adjusting it as new info becomes available.
Their relation is fairly clear. It's spelled out that they're exes in the scene when Sway asks for the Doc to come to the stacks very early on. I assumed for quite a while that doc just had one leg (or 1.5). Nothing more special than say, if he had brown or blond hair. Although as it's clear that doc was also on Mars, I'm starting to suspect he actually may have lost it during whatever happened there?
A bit less straight forward to follow. I slotted Walker into the role of Sway's superior, then added "and sort of surrogate dad" to it. Or adoptive dad actually?
So Sway can smell really well and some people have special UV eyesight and stuff. I slotted that into "brave new world" attributes. We live in the future. People are biologically enhanced.
As I got further in, it seems this is actually more related to 4L and the role the person has to fulfil there. So the company provides "upgrades" to certain people they make them better equipped at their task? (why doesn't the doc have any then? Surely they could use some).
is it also tied to rank? At what age would one get it? The aunt's story about the budgie in the fridge made it sound like an anecdote from Sway's childhood. "I can smell your dead budgie in the mousse" sounds like something a kid might blurt out at a dinner party. Although I guess with Sway it's also something he would do as an adult.
Not much in terms of a frame of reference here. Sounds like a stimulant used to help people stay alert and better at their jobs. It's clear this is regular and not a one off/ad oc thing. So it's supplied by 4L at regular intervals. Sounds a bit "druggie" as the descriptions of people nearing refresh sound like a druggie craving his next fix. I initially assumed a refresh meant that they popped in at the sick bay, hopped on a stretcher and were put on an IV for their "refresh". After I assumed they inject themselves at some pre-assigned time.
Only in one of the recent chapters where the woman threatens Walker and fiddles around in his armpit where she finds his heppa pump does it become clear it's an inbuilt system with automatic release.
From the context of the story I should've realised sooner probably as the refreshes are mentioned often without anyone mention of anyone ever sticking any needles in themselves or each other.
There is a mention of black heppa somewhere in the first third of the story. That's not really clear. Blue heppa was mentioned in one of the later chapters. There's not much there to help make sense of this though.
How many types are there? What's the "scale" they go by? Is it tied to rank?
I assumed them to be of little consequence. People walk into a place and say "controller, lights at usual levels" or some-such, making it seem to me like the "computer" in Star Trek or something. It's there. It does what you tell it to do.
There were some comments here in this thread about controllers at some point which made me think they may have more significance than that though. If that's the case it hasn't come across.
I don't know much about military/police hierarchy. I assume whatever hierarchy is present mimics that and would be clear to someone familiar with it. I could follow who's above who in rank but all the jargon around that (DI, CI, DCI, Super, sergeant, detective ...) gets substituted by "policemen" as I read them. It's an integral part of the story/setting. So I wouldn't worry about.
Although to be fair. You listed a who's who on the left of your blog page and that seems to be in hierarchical order. So I have no excuse. It also mentions how to pronounce Szwejkowski, wich I only just noticed.
I got a distinct sense of "missing backstory" here. The scene makes it clear that he's a very high up guy who knows Sway and Walker and has an affection for both. Some personal relationship or some prior dealing with each other. But there's not a lot to go on here.
Friends of Eden / Deering
These two elements make it clear that this whole Eden thing is actually a pretty big deal and a large part of Sway's back story. Although how it all fits together ... ?
Presumably Deering's father died on Mars (but so did many others) and Sway isn't keen to see him there for. But he did see family members of lots of other people that died on Mars. So what's different about Deering?
I think that's it. Overall, I've been sucked into the story. As I started reading I just built up a picture of the world the story was set in.
Anything incongruent is then either ignored if it's minor or if it's major I readjust the picture of the world I had built up.
To help facilitate this process, maybe some "Terry Pratchett" style intro section can be used to establish the universe the story takes place in, sketching out some key aspects (4L, heppa) and backstory (Sway/Eden).
Some signposting here and there throughout the story would also help.
That said. It's an enjoyable read and I wouldn't have much issue with it as it is. There's some sense of not seeing the full picture bit it doesn't distract from the current story. Only though some comments in this thread here did I get a real sense of "hey, I really seem to be reading this differently than some other people who know the characters and stuff".
Not something other first time readers would be confronted with.
My apologies for the wall of text everyone who isn't MD. =)