Friday, November 29, 2013

(47) MG Science Fiction: SAVAGE JUNGLE

TITLE: Savage Jungle
GENRE: Middle-grade Science Fiction

Stranded during a wildlife safari in the most lethal jungle in the universe, twelve-year-old techie Kreith struggles to escape by battling not only his insecurities, but electrocats, giant land squids, and the other treacherous creatures that prowl the jungle.

My heart rate doubles as Uncle Tonas hands me what I’ve been waiting for all day. Heck, all year— a present about the size of my fist. He always gets me the coolest gifts, like that fluorescent slug from planet Zambor last year for my eleventh birthday.

I rip the wrapping paper off the present without removing the bow, lift the lid off the cardboard box, and peer inside. A small electronic chip rests on the bottom.

“What’s—?” I ask.

“It’s a book,” Uncle Tonas says, eyes wide in his huge, muscular face. “Go on, download it.” He leans forward with those monstrous shoulders of his, a cigar between his pointer and middle finger. The total opposite of me. Sure, I’m only twelve years old, but my overly large black sweatshirt and baggy jeans hide the fact I’m as skinny as Uncle Tonas’s pinky finger.

“Uh…okay.” A book? That’s what he got me—a book? I try not to show my disappointment as I pick up the tiny chip and insert it into my Multipurpose Bracelet, my parents and Uncle Tonas looking on from the couch. I should really try to be grateful. It’s the thought that counts, after all.

“Would you like to download the book The Top 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe?” the MB asks in a voice as gruff as Uncle Tonas’s. I set the MB’s voice to that because it sounds like his and he’s the man, though I’m starting to doubt that after this sorry present…


  1. The writing is crisp and vivid, and I like how the MC looks up to his uncle. I'm a bit concerned at the uncle having a cigar (future or not it's still not a good message for kids), and the boy's disappointment at getting a book makes him a touch unlikable, which I'm sure you'll be addressing as the story goes along. I'd keep reading.

  2. I think the writing here is pretty solid, and we definitely get to know some things about this character. He has the tact to hide his disappointment, which makes me like him (i.e., he has awareness of other people's feelings).

    I'm somewhat in the middle on the basic survival premise though. Beyond his own survival (which is not without merit, of course), I get no sense of a larger story or higher stakes. Granted, not every story needs those. I guess the question I'm left with is, other than mere survival itself (which again, is not insignificant), why is it this kid wants to get back? Family? Friends? Something more? Or put another way, what separates this particular survival story from all the other survival stories out there. It just feels like maybe a small detail is missing to completely hook me in.

    Love the title of the book his uncle gives him "The Top 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe."

    Best of luck with it!

  3. I LOVE your logline. While I understand the above commenter's point about additional stakes--I think he's looking for an emotional pull or internal conflict besides death, if I understand aright--some of the best books of all time focus almost exclusively on external conflict. Hatchet and every Jack London book ever come to mind. And I think the mention of insecurities in your logline lets me know that we'll see the internal conflict exacerbated and illustrated by the external, so I'm not worried. I'm so psyched. Real, world-rich MG scifi is a rare bird, yo!

    (Dunno why the yo, just...)

    Anyway. The writing. Do you need to say PLANET Zambor? A kid who's grown up in a "globalized" universe already thinks bigger than countries. He'd just think Zambor, right? After all, I don't say "a kimono from country Japan." We'll figure out that Zambor's a planet soon enough if we really need to--by maybe watching Kreith fly there--and we've already figured out this is some other-worldly situation when you mention the flourescent slug.

    I think maybe, from this sample, there's a little tendency to use extra words and phrases you don't really need. "Lift the lid off the cardboard box" doesn't really add to the story, for example. "Ripping the wrapping paper without removing the bow" matters because it tells us how excited he is, but then he just kind of lifts the lid. Eh? Maybe he just rips the paper off and peers inside the cardboard box.

    It's similar with your first "I ask." I can figure out that the kid's asking the question, because I'm in his head and asking the same question. Up to this point you've only mentioned one other dude in the room--Uncle Tonas--and I highly doubt he's going to be "what's" about a gift he bought himself. = P

    Also, why is Uncle Tonas wide-eyed? Is he scared or something? Can we wait to describe his fantastically-buff face until after he finishes talking? Again, I think we're getting extra wordage--your descriptions of him AFTER he finishes talking really salt the snail to perfection, and we just don't need this extra interruption in reading Uncle Tonas's words.

    Kay I'll leave you alone now, but you know what I mean. The next few paragraphs also have a few places where you can trim words off. I dunno, but I say trust your writing--I get the picture without the extra words, and I find them distracting and a little funny. But that's not really a big deal if the story's awesome, which is really looks like it will be. I really already like the character, even though he sounds a lil bratty, just because I'm as curious as he is about what's coming next. So good job! Maybe tighten and chop a little.

    the hypocrite who left you probably the longest, most unnecessarily-worded critique you'll get on here = P

  4. Hi

    Sounds like a great adventure.

    I'd omit 'during a wildlife safari ' from the logline. I think it's stronger without it.

    I wonder if you could joke at the end '..and another 198 of the universe's most treacherous creatures.'

    I am curious if the present day particulars are only for the reader to connect more easily. I.e. do you think this future society will still have wrapping paper and card board boxes? I'm not saying not to use them. I just wonder if detracts from 'otherworldly' aspects of the story.

    You might want to set the scene a little more too. I assume he's at home, but I don't know that.

  5. This sounds like something my boys would enjoy reading. I like how the present is a book...and a huge let-down for the boy. It makes me think of the opening from "The Princess Bride."

    I don't mind the cigar. There are people with questionable habits in every child's life. The cigar and the machismo tells us something about the uncle, I think.

  6. I thought this worked pretty well. I did wonder if it was reasonable that he wouldn't know the chip was a book. If he lives in this society, he must have seen these before, right?

    I also thought you could cut the "I'm only 12 years old' sentence, because it's there for the reader, and you've already said earlier 'last year for my eleventh birthday' so we already know he's 12 this year, and you can get in that he's skinny anywhere. Except for that sentence, you stay within the story.

    Good luck!

  7. A totally personal, rather minor point, but the name "Kreith" throws me out of the story even before it begins--is it really necessary to have made up names? I'd be automatically defaulting to Keith throughout the book anyway.

  8. This sounds like a grand adventure, and I can't wait to get to the electrocats and giant land squids.

    The writing moves well, although like some others I paused at Uncle Tonas wide eyes and also felt that I didn't need to be reminded that Kreith was 12. That seemed like a small POV shift for a first person narrator.

    But these are minor quibbles. I think I'll enjoy this story of meeting the 200 Most Treacherous Creatures in the Universe. (Heck, why isn't Kreith as excited as I am?!)

  9. Fun premise, love the sound of electrocats and giant land squids!

    The first page is good too, you set the scene well and I'm dying to know what the present is. But I think you could tidy up the prose in places, to make it read more smoothly. For example, instead of repeating 'present' then 'gift', I'd replace present with 'a square object' or something.

    You also repeat his age, by telling us his eleventh birthday was last year, then saying he's twelve. So I'd just say 'for last year's birthday' then keep the 'twelve' later (I don't think you need 'years old' either).

    I don't think you need 'I ask' after "What's?", it read a bit clunky to me and I can surmise it's the MC talking, but that may just be me.

    I'm not really sure faces can be muscular, or if they can I can't picture it. Maybe square-jawed or something? And when people say 'eyes wide', that usually denotes surprise or shock or excitement, but I don't think that's what you mean here?

    I think the last line is a bit repetitive, we can tell he isn't excited about getting a book, and it's beginning to make him sound a bit brattish.

    One last subjective thing - like Charlotte, I'm not a fan of the name Kreith, and would also keep thinking of him as Keith.

    Overall you've hooked me, and I'd definitely read on. With a bit of polishing it'd be even better. Good luck!

  10. The log line hooked me, and the first page reeled me in. I love all the futuristic techie stuff, the other presents, the devotion to and adoration of a favorite uncle, and the realistic portrayal of disappointment at not getting what you want. Great job and good luck!

  11. Everyone above made the same points I would! The name, the repetition of his age, his slight unlikability, etc. While inside he keeps saying to hide his disappointment, all he ever says to his uncle is "Uh...okay." Sounds like a brat to me lol.

  12. I would definitely agree with pretty much everything Petre said about words you don't need in the book, think 'trim and lean and mean' when you revise in order to cut out the stuff you don't need.

    However, I have to add that you had me absolutely hooked with 'giant land squids.' Just perfect.

    As to the cigar, simply adding the words 'he wasn't allowed to light' between 'cigar' and 'between' would make it work perfectly and add a little something about his character and the world they all inhabit.

    Also, when I read 'eyes wide' I was thinking that was a physical description, as in: his eyes were wide apart on his big huge muscular face. Not that his eyes were wide open in shock or surprise. Due to the confusion, it might be best to change that a little.

    Definitely hooked, despite the minor details!

  13. Tricia Lawrence, EMLADecember 3, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    5 pages

  14. Hi there!

    To echo what others have already mentioned--be careful of wordiness. Try not to use five words when two will do.

    I'm a sucker for MG adventures--which is what it sounds like this is from your excerpt, rather than MG Science Fiction. What, in your mind, makes you want to classify this as science fiction? I'm happy to see it as such, I just didn't see any typical science fiction elements included. This actually felt more contemporary adventure to me. Perhaps another excerpt would illustrate your feelings on how this should be classified, better.

    I can't wait to see how THE TOP 200 MOST TREACHEROUS CREATURES IN THE UNVIERSE helps Kreith. . . because I want to have a better idea of your novel! This strikes me as a combination between JURASSIC PARK and J.K. Rowling's book of Fantastic Beasts--is this correct? Editors often use industry comparisons when pitching to our sales teams--this immediately allow them to position the book properly in the market and list. Help your potential editor to position your project by using descriptive phrases that clearly define how YOU see the book.

    Best of luck!