Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Satellite Hearts
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi Thriller

Sunday carries a static silence in our home, punctuated by Mama’s praying; always in the lounge as though it’s a mihrab pointing to God. Praying won’t save me Mama.

At precisely 05:00a.m, in three hours’ time, an Isigijimi messenger is to escort me to a new location. The transport papers indicate there will be a team four people to transfer me. A lot of man power for a sixteen-year-old. The Isigijimi is to disclose nothing, touch me or even stare at me. That’s how they’re designed: sexless, pulseless and programmed.

My heart knocks a marimba beat when I hear Mama shift in the lounge. I squeeze myself through a crack in the corrugated sheeting that forms the wall of our home, making sure that it makes no noise. Outside, I can still hear Mama’s soft voice praying. I stare at the compound of Old Naledi: rusty shacks, unpaved grounds littered with broken glass, fizzy drink cans, plastics and trees. My childhood prison, where Mama will remain alone once I’m gone. A few minutes left to decide my freedom: I choose to leave. I’m sorry Mama, to be another death in the family.

I run four huts down from mine—old, scraggy and made from scrappy sheet iron— along the Old Naledi fence, my hand scraping the diamond wire. I strain my eyes to follow the fence—shaking in the breeze—as it rises towards the deep crimson sky: the time when the sun begins to bleed.


  1. There are some interesting elements here, and I find myself intrigued. Although with SF you have to be careful with figurative language sometimes. The "static silence" in line one--Is is there static in the air? Or is the silence static? Also, is the messenger a part of the team of four or a separate person. You mention manpower needed to transport the girl, but the messenger can't touch her, right? So I'm a bit confused as to why that gets so much emphasis. Maybe you don't mean it to, but since it's in your crucial first couple of paragraphs it gets a lot of attention... Best of luck.

  2. I love the poetic feel to this piece, the simmering tension behind the setting. The decision to leave doesn't carry enough emotional impact - its just given two lines. I feel this could be developed futher.
    The gender of the main character is not made clear, which is important to the YA audience. The term "man power" feels modern, out of place in this foreign world.
    Other than that, this is a riviting, well-written piece, and I would definately read on.

  3. The writing in this piece is beautiful. I love the lines about Mama praying as though the lounge is a mihrab pointing to God, and "the time the sun begins to bleed." I *really* love the African setting--not a location one sees often.

    I agree that it would be helpful to know the main character's sex early on. My only other criticism is that I didn't have a clear picture of the Isigijimi. I assume that's some kind of robot or android, but it would be nice to have a litle clue as to what it looks like.

  4. This is good. Sci-FI isn't really my thing, but YA is, so I had to check it out:) You write beautifully. I did find a type (or more like a missing word) early on.

    The transport papers indicate there will be a team ((of)) four people to transfer me.

    Also, I was wondering if you need to say 05:00 am? It reminded me of military time and, for lack of better wording, regular time in one. If you have a reason behind it, great. If not, it kind of threw me.

    Great job and good luck!

  5. Powerful writing, I enjoyed this. The setting details are excellent, especially how they point back to the character rather than a list of descriptions. "Childhood prison" paints a strong image along with the other details.

    A few suggestions:

    This line feels like it needs another word or two:
    The Isigijimi is to disclose nothing, [not to] touch me or even stare at me.
    (otherwise it reads like the isigijimi is to... touch me, not the case).

    The line "Praying won't save me mama" may have more impact if separated into its own paragraph.

    I also think taking out 5 am will work, to instead just say, in 3 hours time...

    Good like with this entry. The voice is great.

  6. An exciting and original setting.
    The language was a little difficult to read (I am always glad to see and learn a new word like mihrab though).

    One typo and I did have trouble with the sex of the main character and grounding myself in the setting.

    Overall, great start!

  7. I liked this because of the emotional element - a child choosing to leave home. The prose has a nice rhythm. I think I would omit the sentence "I choose to leave." It makes the sentence before and after stronger.

    Good luck! Good start here.

  8. Consider starting with the third paragraph. There are lots of interesting things in it and gets us right into the action. Pick the most important things readers need to know right now from paragraphs one and two and weave them into the last paragraph or the next one after that. For example, when she looks at the crimson sky, she could also be looking for the first glimpse of the Isigijimi.

  9. We learn a lot in a few short paragraphs, and we know there is danger and loss in this world on a daily basis. We feel bad for Mama and the MC for the upcoming heartbreak. We like the idea of a non-western inspired setting, but we can’t picture it clearly.

  10. I thought this was an interesting piece, but it does lack emotion and tenseness. A girl (I'm assuming) is running away from home, and there's no sense of danger to come, intrigue in leaving, or sorrow about having to leave her past behind her. Everything is stated matter-of factly.

    My suggestion would be to work some emotion into this, and perhaps, don't write this as a writer would, but as a teen who is running away from home would.

    Perhaps cut things that explain, which dulls things up. For instance, do we need to know it's Sunday, or that someone is coming at exactly 5am?

    Parg 3 - You could turn the first sentence around - Mama shifts in the lounge and my heart knocks a marimba beat. That way her heart isn't beating before Mama shifts. Put things in the order in which they happen.

    Making sure that it makes no noise - if you show her sneaking out carefully, we know she's trying to be quiet so you don't need that.

    And you might tell us why they're coming to get her. That would clearly add more tension and make her plight seem more dangerous.