Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #42

GENRE: MG Science Fiction

It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it (and there was very little he didn't put a number on), he'd give it a 9.7. The 9.8 and 9.9 scores were reserved for something epic he hadn't thought of yet, and 10.0 was for the day he would finally reprogram how his robotic body looked.

Still, assuming he didn't get caught, his skills today would land him on a totally different planet. Maybe that deserved the 9.8 slot after all. If Tamika would hurry and get here, he could ask for her opinion.

Kade straightened against a metal door embedded in a burnt orange mountainside and flicked his left wing. A line of glowing text scrolled across his view: 5:03:34pm. He'd checked the time fifty-three seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds. Healthy people sounded boring. Besides, the numbers comforted him. Nobody got weirded out by seeing their own hands all the time, did they? His numbers were just that -- an extra set of hands. Or wings. Or whatever.

Kade froze. His sensors detected a deep clunking sound that echoed across Venus's stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. It can't be an adult, can it? They're already off Venus for the night. He tensed and scanned the rocky pillars around him.


  1. I love that numbers bring this guy comfort. It creates a strong character and I look forward to seeing the world and story through his eyes.

    I don't know if you need the aside (I love asides myself), because him listing all the numbers says it pretty well already.

    Second paragraph I would cut the last sentence. The one before that is a stronger (in my opinion).

    In the third paragraph I think you do too much explaining. Let his interactions with the world tell the story. Exposition slows things down.

    That final paragraph has me excited to read on. Nice work. Unique and engaging like any good hook!

  2. I liked the opening very much. then when you said wing, I jerked back. I thought this was a robotic boy, not a bird. Then you said his numbers were his hand or wings. This was very confusing. I'd like a better sense of grounding not only in the setting but who the mc is in this 250 words.

  3. I find this opening intriguing, and I really like the voice.

    The one problem you may have is making sure readers can relate to the MC. He's a robot, apparently, which is cool, and he's got this obsession with numbers, which is also cool, but is he human-kid enough that we (and your MG audience) can relate to him? If he's literally going to another planet, why does he want to? Almost any reason is fine (curious, bored, running away from home), but if we know, we'll understand and relate to him a bit better.

    He's worried about grown-ups catching him, which helps, but maybe if we knew what would happen if he gets caught it would make for a stronger connection too. Will he get grounded? Lose access to his computer? Kids can relate to those kinds of punishments.

    Good job introducing the world and the character, though. I would keep reading.

  4. I am definitely intrigued, but am not yet immersed in the story. You drop so many new clues about the MC and the setting, etc. that right now it's a constant game of catch-up-and-stay-confused.

    It does sound like you've got a lot of cool things that need introduction quickly, so that's difficult, but things are not yet going smoothly.

  5. I found this very interesting and was hooked.

    I'd be curious to see how it would read if it were re-structured a bit.

    Rather than introducing Kade's love of numbers and then injecting us into the scene/ setting, I'd like to see the two married together.

    The way it stands, I don't know how Kade is hacking (via thought/ typing on a keypad?) or why he is doing it, or where the maintenance system resides. Is hacking it allowing him passage to fly into Venus?

    I'd like to see it begin with Kade straightening against the metal door. Really paint a picture of where we are and what EXACTLY he is doing, both internally with his mind and physically in space. Then, when we know where he is and what he is doing, interject his scoring system.

    Just an idea. I might try it both ways and see which reads better.

  6. I really like the character development you've put into this. I can already get a feel for Kade.

    The only suggestion I have is to move the "healthy people" to a bit later. I like the concept, but at this paragraph, I'm looking for more action to push me into reading more.

  7. I really like the voice in this story, and it is definitely original. But as a reader, I would like to picture Kade a little more. There's mention of a wing and a robotic body. So is Kade a robot who is also a kid? What about the people around him? At the end you've thrown in some tension, but it's hard to know the stakes when I'm unsure of the world Kade lives in. I would like to know a little more about the world Kade lives in and just who (or what) Kade is. That being said, your voice is excellent for middle-grade, and you have done a fantastic job of giving the reader a sense of Kade's personality. I also love your title. This sounds like an original, interesting story, I just want to know a little more about the world and Kade. Good job!

  8. I enjoyed this! It's not my usual genre, but if I were to pick up this book from a shelf and read this excerpt, I would definitely be compelled to read on. I love when a book gives me the opportunity to hop into a completely different perspective for a while, and it's clear that your manuscript will have that in spades! I also appreciate how we already have the seeds of both plot tension and internal tension.

    I agree with the commenter above who said they were "playing catch-up" with some of the details and terminology. I had to reread this more than once to be sure I was picturing everything correctly. I wonder if you could stretch some of these details into the rest of your first chapter, to be sure that the reader is fully grounded in the world. I do think it's important to keep the MC's interiority about "healthy people" versus his comfort with numbers -- I suspect that's going to be a key theme going forward.

    Good luck with this!

  9. I don't usually like SciFi, but I liked it. I liked the voice and I found the set-up interesting. Lots of questions waiting to be answered.I would keep reading for a while at least.

    However, if you don't explain Kade's wings and sensors soon, I wouldn't continue. Is he the only one in this world? Do all kids have wings and sensors? Or only 'unhealthy' ones? Or is he one of a kind? Also, why do the adults leave at night? Sounds like every Middle graders dream. :-)

    Good start.

  10. I am so not a numbers person. But I can relate to the line about not reading data making him feel out of sorts. Just change data to something else for me.

    I find the character fascinating. And that is what typically hooks me as a reader.

  11. I really enjoyed this! It started in a familiar place – a boastful voice, describing his latest and greatest caper yet, but pretty quickly went someplace I wasn’t expecting: this is a robot, who wants to change the way he looks (I assumed he’d want to change his functionality in some way). I was most intrigued by the idea that he can’t stop checking numbers, that this is soothing to him in some way, though adults suggest that it’s unnecessary. I’m very curious about this character and his ability to be reflective. Definitely intrigued!