Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #42

GENRE: MG Science Fiction

I know it's rude to stare. I mean, geez, how many times has Mom told me that? A million? But I'd never seen an alien before. Not up close, at least. Sure, we'd all seen the Global Geographic specials that aired on the webs in a constant loop, 24-7. Anyone who hadn't seen pics and videos of the Tunnelers must have been hiding out in a dingy hover garage for the last twenty years.

But there he was. Sitting across from me on the air rail car. Me, Jasper Adams, riding the rails with an alien – a real live Tunneler – on my way home from school.

I had to take it as a sign. I mean, what were the odds I would have a close encounter with an alien the day I shipped out to the space station?

The alien was small. It's not like I was one of the short kids, but I wasn't that big for twelve, either. And I was a lot taller than the alien. He had a long, rodent-like snout. Bristly brown hair sprouted from every patch of skin. He wore dark glasses that curved around on the sides. The light probably bugged him because Tunnelers live underground. He wore the standard officer's uniform – grey jumpsuit with orange lettering, ISF, Intergalactic Space Force.

As soon as I got home, I'd be suiting up in my ISF uniform. And I'd better get home fast. I'd totally spaced after school, and I was running late. Mom was not going to be happy.


  1. This is super cute! I love the voice.
    This is a nitpick but something about the last paragraph took me out of the moment, and really i think it was the last two sentences. Maybe try something like:

    And I'd better get home fast. After school, I totally spaced (about our trip). Mom was not going to be happy when I arrived home late.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  2. Good voice and realistic. However, perhaps if the point of view was changed to present tense it would be more immediate and in the moment-exciting.

    For ex. 2nd paragraph changed to:
    But he's right here! Sitting across from me on the air rail car.

    "Rodent-like snout" is good, but if you turn it into a simile the reader gets a better description. What kind of rodent? "Bristly brown hair" sentence is great. What about his arms, legs,eyes & ears? If the MC is up close, then I need more of a picture of this creature.

    I would read more.

  3. Fun idea. I think you picked a perfect starting point. The only nitpick I have is that it felt like you say "alien" a lot, and it took me from the action at hand. Great job!

  4. I liked it for many of the same reasons the others said. I am definitely hooked. The opening sentences firmly place me where and when. Very good. But when you said at the end..."Totally spaced it," it sounded like you were trying to make a bad pun since it sounds like the kid is about to go out into space (or at least orbit). If the kid isn't one to make such groaning puns, I'd cut or use a different phrase.

  5. Yes - good ideas and story but needs a touch of polish. I think the problem with "And I'd better get home fast," is that it is in the wrong tense. Everything here is in past (and past perfect) while this switches to present.

    I'd read more, but if the grammar and style rouchness continued, it would put me off.

  6. This is a fun read. I love the world building.
    My only comment is a question: I can't picture "air rails." If they're made out of air, aren't they invisible? So how does anyone know they're rails?

  7. I really loved the voice in this, and I wouldn't change the tense either. My only head-scratching moment was in the last bit, where I wondered how he could get home any faster. He's already on the train. So presumably the speed at which he travels is out of his control.

  8. I love the way this starts, but I agree about the present tense-- I think it would have more immediacy that way. I am curious what will happen and about what the ISF is and if Jasper and the alien will meet again.

  9. I am not one for science fiction but after reading the first 250 I have am hooked on your story. When this gets published I will buy it.

  10. I love the voice and the description of the tunneler. This sounds like a really fun MG story and that's not usually my thing.

    Like several others who commented, I felt like the last paragraph didn't quite mesh with the rest of the opening.

    I think it would be awesome if you could reword the sentence, 'As soon as I got home...' to show the MC's excitement about their very own ISF uniform. Up until that last paragraph, your voice is so clear that I can hear the MC speaking as I read. The italic 'my' seems like a cop out to force voice and falls short of the mark anyway, imo.

    Another nitpick with that last paragraph: Why would your MC 'space out' after school when they had something so important and cool going on later that day? I doesn't jibe.

    If the MC is being shot into space for the first time, how could they have anything else on their mind? I'd be too nervous and excited!

    Otherwise this is a really cool opening and I'd definitely read on!

  11. I’m not sure I buy your premise. Why would anyone allow a 12 year old on the ISF, particularly if he’s never even seen an alien in person, can’t seem to get home in time, and doesn’t have the wherewithal not to stare at an alien? Wouldn’t he have had some training, some interaction with aliens, be super smart or maybe have a special talent? He seems just like a regular kid.

    Also, nothing happens here. A kid sees an alien on a train. Instead of chatting with the reader and explaining things, perhaps let the alien react to the MC’s staring, perhaps let them have a conversation, and as they talk, they can reveal in their dialogue the things you want the reader to know. This will give some depth to your characters and build characterization.

  12. I dig the title. Great MG voice and nice world building. Hopefully we'll learn more about Jasper and the ISF in the next 250. I'd read on.

  13. Fun concept and cute , but the voice is trying a bit too hard. Sounds like an adult trying to sound like a kid. Need a new title. Watch tenses – keep it in present or very close past. Try to show more, not just tell. I think that you could omit paragraphs 3 and 4, which break up the pacing, and are all narrative. I’m intrigued by the set-up, though, and, with a little bit of work, I think that you could improve the voice.