Thursday, July 17, 2008

#80 SECRET AGENT Are You Hooked?

Title: Between the Shadows
Genre: Science Fiction

Two trains and fifteen minutes ago, Daniel Evans' life was perfect.

The door slid closed, cutting off the emerging daylight. The train
felt hollow and utterly devoid of any life or personality. He pushed
past several men dressed in identical black suits – dirty carbon
copies of himself. The suits were a staple of their position as
Prefects. At least that's what he used to be. The Seekers were after
him now.

Metal seats lined the sides of the main compartment. Cheap red
cushioning put on the seats to make the ride more comfortable left
most passengers opting to stand. Passengers clung to the metal poles
erected at the end of each seat. The slight rocking of the car on the
tracks left a rumble growing and faltering with each new track
crossed. Thin fluorescent lights mounted to the roof of the
compartment left little light to expel any shadow trying to invade.
Daniel would remember this train for the rest of his life.

If he survived through the rest of the day.

He slid the door to the final compartment open. Greeted with
scattered faces – uncaring and bland, he sighed. Nothing new. A light
at the back of the car flickered slightly. Shadows played on each
person's face, obscuring their features and transforming them into
something else.

Something less than human.

He shivered slightly and averted his eyes.


  1. Maybe you hooked me. Prefects and Seekers had me automatically thinking of HP, but I can get over that if they're explained differently. I loved the "dirty carbon copies of himself." That was a brilliant line.

    I wasn't sure about "Daniel would remember this train for the rest of his life." That sort of seems like a sentence that would come AFTER something actually happened on the train. If you're trying to set me up for something that's going to happen, don't. Just get to it. I mean, I'm assuming something's going to happen on that train, otherwise why would the story be starting there? So, yeah. Sorry, that's a little harsh.

    Everything after that was gold. Good job. :)

  2. I liked this, especially the first line. I might not read on, just because I have a hard time getting immersed in science fiction. But good job!

  3. The first line was great.

    The rest kept me reading, and I definitely think I'd read further if I had this book in front of me.

  4. The first line hooked me. I got an image of a scene from the Matrix. Not sure why though.

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  6. I loved the part about the shadows transforming features into something else.

    I agree about placing the line "Daniel would remember this train for the rest of his life" later. It feels a little out of place here, particularly because your character goes on to see scattered, uncaring faces and thinks "Nothing new". It gives a sense of the train ride being ordinary and mundane--in stark contrast to the train ride being memorable.

    Otherwise, I'm hooked--this has lots going for it--and I would definitely read on!

  7. A definte yes, I'd be hooked by this if I was browsing in a store, and want to keep reading. the only line I was unsure of was the remembering the train for the rest of his life. It seemed fairly unremarkable a train to be etched so into his memory.

  8. Too much of this brought HP to mind: the train, Prefects, Seekers, "creatures" in black that looked less than human (the Dementors). Just for those, I could not read on.

  9. I agree: Harry Potter did immediately come to mind.

    Also, I like "Daniel would remember this train for the rest of his life... if he survived through the rest of the day." as an opening better. Less description.

    Overall, not really hooked. Sorry :(

  10. Um... yes.

    I wobbled slightly about the scifi label (not into reading scifi). But this is fascinating. I would keep reading.

  11. I would not have thought of Harry Potter if it hadn't been for Prefects, and then the Seekers just cemented that in my mind. I would definitely change those two to something else. Other then that, I was interested. Not hooked in a strong way, but I might read a second page to see if the hook got stronger.

  12. Not quite yet. There's too many heavy-handed descriptons slowing down the pacing and dissipating the tension that your opening lines had built. Everything feels too vague and it's hard grasping the world that your MC inhabits.

    Ditto on what Captain Hook said about there being too many similarities to Harry Potter, too. I know JKR didn't invent trains, or the words "seeker," "prefect," or "creatures in the dark," but because of her popularity, those words will be associated with HP for many, many years and it will be hard to put your own spin on them at this moment in time.

  13. This isn't grabbing. I did think of Harry Potter when I saw Prefects and Seekers but I won't hold that against you. What bothered me was a page that was, in essence, a tired man getting on the train to come home from work. This doesn't yet have the urgency and intensity of a person on the run for their life that I'd want to see for the situation you're describing. Right now it's a little to dry, a little to slow, and a little to "looking at belly button lint" for me to keep reading.

  14. Well, I know this won't affect the ranking in the contest, but I have changed the Seekers to the Wretched, taken out the "remember the train for the rest of his life" and am further revising the chapter.

    Thanks guys for your helpful critiques. I'm looking forward to even more, even if they are prefaced by "Isn't this HP?"

  15. Not without some reworking.

    Be careful using Prefects and Seekers together, because the first thought that came to mind for me was Harry Potter. Nothing else about the opening feels like HP, so it was an odd combination of a darker adult book and the lighter parts of HP.

    You included a lot of wonderful details, but most of them could be tightened. For example, I feel the description of the train takes too long. I understand you're building a mood and showing Daniel's weariness with life, but I need a little more to hook me. Right now, it's just a tired man on a bland train. If I knew more about the plot beforehand, I might read more. I do like some SF, depending on the content.

  16. If you cut "Daniel would remember this train for the rest of his life." (which I hated, because it suggests he WILL survive, and this it kills all tension you have built up) I will give you a wholehearted Yes because I did like it (save for the one line) and would read on.

    Good luck,


  17. Mildly hooked.

    Great imagery, nice tension, but the line about remembering the train seemed to be a way of justifying describing the train in such detail. Guy on the run in a futuristic society...kinda feels too familiar. Otherwise, good stuff. I'm always relieved to read a sci-fi that doesn't dump a bunch of terms and titles on me in one fell swoop.

  18. I liked the first line but probably wouldn't read on. It seemed to be quite well-paced, though it did seem like there was a tad too much description. It just doesn't sound like my kind of story.

  19. Harry Potter and Susan Cooper. This had some stuff going for it, though and I understand if it's set in the British school system you won't get away from Prefects. I'd reconsider "Seekers". Loved the carbon copies. I really wanted this to begin differently. With a more normal reflection on his perfect life, what's going to happen at school, how will everything continue to be perfect and there's something less than human at the back of the train. THAT line hooked me. You write well and I hope to see this out someday. Good luck!

  20. I could've totally gotten into this, but para 3 and 5 really lost me. Lots of passive in 3 and 5 didn't drive the tension as much as I'd hoped. Still, I'm drawn to this, and would probably keep reading because I loved several other lines more than those things bugged me (also they're fixable).

  21. Yes.

    I like the dark imagery and voice. Could be some improvements in length of of sentences, maybe some dialogue, but all of those things are small in comparison. I'd keep reading. Great openner.

  22. Ditto secret agent. The description in para 3 gets repetitious. But otherwise sure, I'd give it a few more pages.

  23. Hooked on the first line.