Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rogue Hunter #1 -- Gaia: Into the Abyss (2009)

     First, let me make it clear that the title of this short story (or ultra short novella) is disproportionately long.  You have your setting (Rogue Hunter), thematic title (Gaia), and story title (Into the Abyss).  Clearly, author Kevis Hendrickson is working towards establishing his setting – he has, to date, three short stories and a novel under the Rogue Hunter aegis – but I don't know how much of that needs to go into the title and cover page of the story.
     On the first page (the Kindle program doesn't give page numbers, instead letting me know how far along I was in the story; so, page one is 14% done), I took note of a writing style that I can do without.  More saturated with needless descriptives – adjectives for the sake of adjectives – than Henry Lopez's short story, "Heavy is the Head" (2004), Hendrickson has taken the concept of evoking a setting and made it into a barrage of words, and strips away any sense of restraint on the part of the author.  Maybe it is my preference for a more focused, less forced style of writing, something closer to minimalism (I would write all of my stories as just dialogue if I could get away with it) when it comes to style.  But by the end of the first paragraph, I braced for a long slog through the twenty four pages of text.  I also started to think that it didn't matter that the other short stories and novel could be added to the Kindle program for free, because if I couldn't get on board with the style, chances are I wouldn't want to do another 300+ pages of it.  Definitely not from a computer screen.
     By the time I finished with chapter one (I occasionally put 'chapters' in my short stories, but most are longer than two pages), I was even more frustrated with the writing.  Hendrickson either has an extremely small vocabulary or doesn't know how to craft mystery without relying on the same descriptives repeatedly.  There is a general rule that writers – though certainly not gamers aspiring to be writers – know, and that is to avoid needless repetition as much as possible.  If there is going to be repetition, if should have some space in between it; one does not want to refer to the robot submarine as a metallic squid in three consecutive sentences, let alone more than once in the same paragraph.
     Fantastic!  Sorry, but Hendrickson opened chapter two by introducing some of the Sci-Fi elements, aliens and galactic empires and such, but those don't get any explanation.  That would be a good place to start investing in the desire to describe things within an inch of their lives.  Not that I am advocating his spending twenty pages giving notes on the general setting – I don't mind finding things out as I go along – but the things that are wholly alien to the reader can use the adjectives.  Describing succeeding characters as having an unsettled tone in their voices may serve the scene, but Hendrickson handles it with the subtly of a grade schooler.
     Horrible may not be the best way to describe Hendrickson's finished product, but that is the appellation I am going to give it.  Consider that he notes it is "not surprising" that someone is wearing an encounter suit on a moon devoid of breathable air.  Seems to me that would be matter of fact, but "not surprising" lets me know that both the author and character are more than a little on the wrong side of the mean when it comes to intelligence.  That is overly harsh, but Hendrickson is crafting a story and has plenty of time to write and rewrite it to ensure that it isn't just a rough draft.  And it comes off like a poorly conceived first draft.
     There isn't anything fresh or rewarding in "Rogue Hunter – Gaia: Into the Abyss".  There isn't much of an explanation as to the title except that there is a substance named Gaia.  I would not recommend this for anyone, except perhaps for those who want to practice their editing skills.  Writing like this is why it is important to not self-publish without outside reviews, which is the lesson I'm taking away from it.  However, if you want to give it a chance, you can find it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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