Memory Hacks and AIs: A Review of Onica Transcending Vol. 1

I haven’t gotten as much reading done this past week as I would’ve liked, so I’m sharing a review for the short story Onica Transcending by Lisa Kjaer, which I downloaded from the Kindle Store. Like Beacon 23, this is supposed to be a series of shorts, but only the first volume is up so far. I found this story when I searched for cyberpunk works. As I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of the sub-genre. Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of this story.

First and foremost the thing that kept me from really getting into this story was poor editing. There were several typos, grammatical mistakes, and strange phrasings. I understand that things like that slip through occasionally (even in traditionally published books), but I felt that having so many in a story that was so short conveyed to me that the author was either lazy or in a huge rush to publish this story. It was clear the author needed to hire a proofreader or at least have some friends perform that task.

Story-wise, there were elements of the plot that I liked, but I still think much of it could have been handled better. There’s a rather large reveal about our main character, and I wanted that to be foreshadowed more earlier on. The foreshadowing that was there felt forced. I think the author could have made this story a little longer and provided just a bit more depth to the events leading up to the story’s reveal.

This first installment also ends on a cliffhanger, which I am not a fan of, especially since further volumes have yet to be released, and this first story has been on the market for about a month. I think the best way to approach the serial format is to present a closed story in the first volume, or at least present a story that resolves all of the protagonist’s immediate problems so that the reader feels a sense of completion at finishing it. Perhaps, as a writer, this is just my bias in terms of approach rather than a universal opinion. Still, I do think that at the very least if you’re going to have a cliffhanger that you need the follow up volume to be available to take advantage of impulse buys from those who want to continue the story. With too much lag time readers will likely forget about your work.

I did like some of the ideas presented in this story. The setting is solidly cyberpunk, and it does incorporate some cool ideas that feature emerging technologies like augmented reality (as opposed to the more traditional virtual reality). At the end of the day I just wish the author had taken more time with this piece. I think work with a good writing group and some proofreaders would have made a big difference here and let some of these ideas come out more strongly.

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