Friday, August 29, 2008

Random House feedback

Here's what the Random House reader (Gary) said about The Shattered Mirror (did I mention the new working title?) after it finished in the top ten on You Write On in July:

The Shattered Mirror is voyage into Surreality...

Following the story of a deformed pirate, a fairy, an near-immortal witch, two characters of fictional legend and the mysterious Mr Bliss placed in a grim Victorian historic novel.

Very bizarre and yet very readable!

Every character is well conceived and voiced. Thomas Grimes is one of the most interesting characters I have read about in a while. A monster of a man who wears his bitterness on his sleeve; tortured, lonely, yet strong and compelling. It reminded me of a dark, David Gemmell style hero in the making! Also, at one point he is referred to as Tommy Grimes, while also discussing the slave trade to the Americas, and this reminded me of writing “The Death of Tommy Grimes” (A most disturbing piece of writing about Tommy killing his first Negro) and wondered if you were infusing another past fictional character in to the story, or if it was coincidence.

Mr Ebenezer Bliss is also a fantastic and well visualised character. I noticed that the author is good at helping the reader picture the character in great detail, not in huge lumps of descriptive text, but subtle through out the narrative.

There are also some very strong sections of dialogue all the way through, especially between Mr Grimes and Mr Bliss, until the meeting with the Sibyl. The prophecy section, with the supposedly cryptic riddle, were a little uncomfortable for me. I think it was a little forced and did not flow with the same quality as the rest of the piece. When done well this can be a powerful tool (Tolkien was the grand master) but I don’t think it is the author’s strength. I would have preferred more of that great dialog like we see everywhere else in the piece.

My last comment is on the section with Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes and Watson were well voiced, I thought the way the legendary characters were introduced to the piece reminded me of a children’s novel, (the repeated use of 221b Baker Street, for example) as if you were grandly announcing them, which was disappointing. Done with more subtlety, so that the reader slowly realises that it is THE Holmes, would be better in my opinion. You have to be careful when using such established characters for accuracy and placement in that characters timeline. (For example, you set the story in 1888, but I believe Watson was married the year before and left Sherlock’s company for a couple of years before his wife’s death – though I could be wrong)

Still, overall, a very imaginative, bold and surreal story that I found very enjoyable to read. I wish the author luck in developing these characters, and Thomas Grimes adventures further.

Phew! Thanks Gary.

I think he's wrong about Sherlock Holmes timeline, but he's very right about not fanfaring him. Let the reader work it out. He's also right about the duff "prophecy" but I thought I'd rewrite that when the plot is fully worked out.

I love this writing malarkey, sometimes.