Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Secret Agent #14


Thorns spiked from the tips of my twigs, as I scurried along the branch, prepared to drop onto humans to save my little ones, but I stopped, letting water fall to the earth instead of me. My palms flew to my eyes to silence the waste.

Mother said, have patience, watch, learn, and when it hurts, think about something else. “Stone had been known to move and trees to speak,” I whispered Macbeth. The oak, sensing my stress, released calming pheromones.

If he lived today, would William welcome us?

A human enveloped in white from head to roots, plodded from the dull colored cocoon covering my landing pod. He carried my rooting box. He carried my children. Children was their word. Think about something else. The first mutilation I deciphered to learn their language in the dead forest named library. Its words helped when a female worker had asked my name.

“Sam I am,” I said.

She laughed. “Where’s your Mother, Sam?”

I pointed upward.

She touched my limb. “You poor dear.”

I almost forgot. Never reveal Mother orbited Earth.

No, thinking of the genocide called books did not help. I imagined my tiny boxed buds, screaming words from Yertle the Turtle and Gertrude McFuzz. “I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

Leaves crackled underneath. More humans, green like the forest, with turtle shells on their heads, prodded the bushes with stingers. They had my saplings now they wanted me.


  1. I reeeeealllly want to like this, because I can see that there is something interesting there when you quote Macbeth and Seuss in the same page, but the whole thing was a bit confusing and I was having a hard time figuring out what was going on.
    The seed as there (pun intended) but it needs a healthy dose of clarity.

  2. I'm a little confused by this.

    It's considered YA but the narrator is a "mother" and a tree or some sort of plant. But then the narrator's name is Sam.

    Is the narrator male? Female? From a culture/species that doesn't have the same sex/gender concepts we do? (But knows and understands enough about sex/gender to tell which of the humans are male and female.)

    I want to say the narrator is an intelligent plant-like alien. Because of that, the uniqueness and alien-ness of this point of view can be a bit off-putting. Because it is so different from what I'm used to reading, namly human/supernatural. So that can make it harder to connect with the narrator (in addition to not knowing if it's make, female, something else).

    Yet because this is such a different viewpoint, I'm curious to see where it's going. I like the part about not revealing to the humans that the mother is in space above the Earth.

    It hints at conflict to come, maybe conspiracy. Will one of the scientists pick up on the narrator's intelligence? Form an alliance with it?

    I'm curious about what's going on in the rest of the world. Are the scientists collecting the narrator's "children" because there's some type of biological war going on between these two species and they're trying to make a cure. I don't know. With just this page it's hard to tell, but there's room for lots of possibilities.

    The phrase "... I deciphered to learn their language ..." doesn't need both deciphered and to learn. It could be, "I deciphered their language" or "I decided to learn their language."

    The other thing is that I'm not sure if YA is appropriate for this story or not. I'm not sure of the narrator's age or intellectual/perceived age. Same with the human characters introduced on the first page, which I'm pretty sure are adults. Yes, YA can have adult characters, but ultimately it's about the teenage characters.

    Overall, I'd be interested in reading more. I'm not completely hooked yet, but then I have a biology degree so I might be pickier than most readers when it comes to how biology is handles in science fiction.

  3. Author here. To answer CB's and Yttar's questions above. I knew without the benefit of a query or book blurb, there would be questions about this being YA. The story is about a humanlike girl with an affinity to plants who arrives on Earth to protect us from invasion by tree-eating aliens.

    While here, she grows and matures the equivalent of a year each day. On the first page, we see Sam at thirteen days old trying to reach her little ones, cloned clippings, and because she’s the parent plant she uses the human word children at first.

    Yes there are adults, but Sam escapes the soldiers at her landing pod and is hidden by a teenage girl and her older brother who over the next five days try to help Sam complete her mission while being hunted by humans and the tree-eaters.

  4. Like earlier commentors, I'm intrigued by the unusual world/creature that this introduction sets up. I think, though, that the first 250 words should be able to stand independently from the book blurb or the query letter. Readers shouldn't have to have that extra information to figure out some of what's going on.

    For me, I was immediately interested in the first paragraph because it was clear tome that we were getting a non-human point of view. However, because it is such a different viewpoint, I think I might like an opening scene where we see the main character in action--doing something that helps us understand who she is. Here, she's mostly observing, which means I don't quite get enough clues to figure out who/what she is. At the least, I think we need a sense of her as a kind of teenager, rather than a "mother" (or if she uses this word, maybe she can reflect on the differences between how she uses the word and how humans understand it). In the last part of your response, you mention that she has to escape her landing pod--I wonder if this might be a better place to start? Somewhere that lets us see the main character in action--and that shows her figuring out our world in ways that help us figure out who she is and what she's doing here.

    I also think there might be too many mysteries going on here: who is the narrator? What is going on? Who is William? Why was the narrator in the library--and why is she now in the forest? Why does she view books as genocide? Why does Mother orbit the earth? Who/what are her saplings? I think you may want to tighten this opener a little so that there are enough questions to keep the reader reading, but not so many that the reader sets aside the book in frustration. Not all the questions have to be raised immediately.

  5. While this concept seems fascinating, I'm too lost at this point to be hooked.

    I think you have a great idea here, but I'm not sure what is going on in this excerpt. It needs clarification.

  6. I typically don't buy books without first reading the blurb. So having the background information helped to put this 250 words into context for me.

    For this reason, I enjoyed this opening for the for the difference in style and voice. It being atypical from most YA, I found this hooked my attention and made me want to continue reading to find out who and what Sam is.

    I really enjoyed this.

  7. I thought this was weird and strange, and I was totally confused, and yet, by the end, it became less so and I wanted more, at least to figure out what was going on.

    The bit you gave us on what the book was about was helpful, but as someone else said, your words (those first 250) should make it clear, or clear enough to keep the reader interested. We shouldn't need an author's explanation.

    I loved the idea of books being a genocide and a library being a dead forest.

    As for suggestions, I'd say try to make the opening a bit clearer, or maybe start somewhere else where we can easily see who and what your main character is.

  8. Too willfully obscure, seems to me! For all I know, each and every one of the ideas here is totally fascinating (there's an obviously impressive imagination at work here), but since I have no idea what they actually are, I feel practically ignored by the narrator, you know? If EVERYTHING the narrator is saying is a euphemism, a phrase we don't understand replacing a phrase we WOULD understand, then you'll lose us...