Drabble: Ahead of Time

Prompt: Ahead of Time

I can always tell when I’ve arrived too late. There’s a shift in the atmosphere that I can feel in my gut. In an ideal world, I could just leave and travel back again to an earlier time, but it isn’t that easy.

You would think that time travel would give you bucketloads of time, but it turns out it’s just the opposite. Let me assure you just how painfully aware you become of the time you’re losing. Every moment you take hyperventilating in an archway means seconds tick by, losing your nerve and wanting to run away adds a few more, and talking yourself back into this crazy profession gives a grand total of fifteen seconds.

Fifteen whole seconds.

When you steal from divine beings for a living, you really can’t afford to lose so much time. It turns out that the wrath of the gods is nothing to joke about. You see, they’re a greedy bunch, greedier than thieves like me by a long shot. They’re also real keen on keeping the enormous pile of gold and ancient artifacts in their possession. I swear when my fingers grip around the rim of some chalice, I can feel their wrath weigh down on me.

That’s why I always follow three golden rules: always arrive early, never chicken out on a job, and above all else, always trust your gut. They can mess with your mind and throw off your senses, hell they can even sick their pooches on you, but they can’t fool your instincts. If you start ignoring those, you’re as good as dead.
 

Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less.
Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.

Parasites and a Moral Dilemma

Friday I got an announcement email reminding bloggers not only about the fact that NaNoWriMo was coming up at the beginning of November, but also a really neat idea about how to gear up for it. I wrote on my first NaNo last year, and simply fell in love with it. It not only gave me an excuse to devote time each day to writing, but also forced me to quite being so darn nit-picky about my word choices and simply get the ideas down on paper. Evidently that was really the impetus that forced me to action. I had written on a few Big Bangs last year, and being able to devote an entire month to writing original work simply seemed marvelous.

So naturally I’m planning on writing again this November. I’m settling in to do some outlining in just a few moments actually. But the part of the notice that really seemed clever was the idea to join Post a Day during the month of October to gear up for writing everyday in November. Well, I thought, I’ll be sure to do that! I post on my WordPress blog almost every day anyway!

Well… to make a long story short, that just didn’t happen yesterday. The first day and already my best intentions were fouled. Oh well, I’ve got to start somewhere, I suppose. So in true writer fashion I’ll begin this the second day of the month instead of the first, and try to give some updates as to my planning for next month. Maybe with a few ideas as well behind them. By the way, here is what prevented me from making said blog update yesterday.

When I woke up I was in the mood to bake. Now this is not in fact that strange for me. My fondness for baking is rather renowned among my friends and family (not that they’re complaining), and so I started in immediately. I made some orange rolls that had to rise twice before I could actually cook them. And I also volunteered to make pizza crusts for our D20 Future tabletop campaign we started last night. The bread machine made that so very easy too! (Between that and my mixer, it’s no wonder I bake so much!) Include the icing I made for the orange rolls and the marinara sauce for the pizza, and whoosh – time seemed to fly by. Then we piled all the goodies into my car to head over. As usual, the pizza was delish – not to mention so much more filling than your regular delivery pizza. Then it was on to the gaming.

Our campaign has a pretty fun setup. My character is a jazz lounge singer that’s taking her gig to Mars to try her hand at entertainment on another planet. She’s not exactly a fighter, but instead I’m turning her into an empath similar to Deanna Troi. Anyway one of the head leaders on the 1000+ passenger ship got a strange virus a week into the voyage. Upon further investigation of this passenger and five others, we learn that actually the infection is a parasite that turns into a huge black leech thing that pumps its dozens of babies into the host of the body and uses it as an incubator. To make matters worse, the leeches turn out to get loose on one of the decks and now we’re trying to decide if it’s salvageable. Do we kill the entire deck of people and parasites and write them off as a lost cause? Do we go through a slow and steady sweep and clean – risking the possible infection of our staff and crew? Do we notify the captain even though he could disconnect the passenger section of his ship and leave us all floating in space? Dang I love science fiction!

Anyway, that’s what was preoccupying my time yesterday. Don’t you love moral dilemmas?

Embedded by Dan Abnett

Military Science Fiction was the first genre I categorized this book when I read over the summary and signed up for the giveaway. I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting since I’ve never really read much on the genre. But I’m always willing to try new books, even if I’m a bit uncertain at first. And in retrospect, I’m incredibly glad I gave this book a shot!

I. The Pros

Lex Falk Plucked from Film Noir

The genre isn’t wide enough for this flexible storyline. When it starts out you’re following Lex Falk, an award-winning journalist known for finding a story regardless of the trouble. A rugged, take-no-crap attitude and a penchant for young women, Falk feels as though he was picked up from a film noir and dropped onto another planet. He’s grumpy at bars, has problems trusting anyone, and ends up referring to an upstart new reporter (who he inevitably has sex with) as “green hiker girl”. In short, he’s incredibly entertaining, sympathetic, and mostly likable. You see where he’s coming from, understand how perceptive he is at spotting the truth beneath the bullshit, and understand why he ultimately makes the choice he does to get “embedded”. I’ve always been a fan of film noir, so seeing these traits dropped into a science fiction piece was an amazing spark of genius that transfers over quite well.

(35 mm) Film Noir by drp

Look it’s where Lex Falk lives! (But in Space)

Sweet Action

From about mid-way through and on, there are back-to-back action scenes that paint the most invigorating and involving world. The characters grow on you, and you can practically smell the battlefield and bodies at every turn. All the while Falk is keeping his little secret and trying to put on his show as successfully as he can. You watch as the troop he goes in with is taken out around him, and Bloom and Falk’s lives suddenly depend on one another. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I found it incredibly difficult to put the book down in the middle of these scenes. Just too much fun!

The Merging of Minds

***WARNING – SPOILERS TO THE PLOT***SKIP***

I have a fascination with cognition and how the mind perceives the world, so it was an unexpected treat to see the process by which Falk gets embedded in Bloom. Abnett does an incredible job in explaining the strange sense of being in another person’s body and looking out through their eyes as a paralyzed onlooker. It reminded me of Roland’s reaction in Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three, but Falk is certainly not even remotely trained for this experience. He has panic attacks which bleed over into Bloom, causing much mirror yelling (which was indeed quite amusing!) and threats to himself. Bloom also has no idea how to handle it, but he’s not allowed to back out now. Perhaps the most fascinating scene as far as cognition was when Bloom was shot in the head. Falk is suddenly remembering someone else’s memories, and yes it’s just as creepy as it sounds. Bloom reverts to the back of his mind and Falk is suddenly left there with a hole in his head and a pile of corpses. That scene is pretty intense not to mention horrific. Abnett carries it along quite expertly.

II. The Cons

Drop Off

The main downfall was the ending in my opinion. Everything wrapped up, but a little too quickly for my tastes. I wanted to find out more about how his group reacted to Falk revealing that he was actually the mind controlling Bloom’s body after Bloom was incapacitated. In a way, I felt like not including this information made the characters in essence written off. Did he ever tell them? Did they believe them? And what about human resources — did they allow the rest of them to survive? And whatever happened to Bigmouse? These things were never really settled, and the empty felt a bit hollow because of it.

And what was the giant item they found embedded in the bedrock of the planet? I assumed it was some type of alien machinery but I would’ve greatly preferred more explanation here. As much details as Falk had on so many other areas, I felt that this final discovery deserved more attention and description.

Silly Plot Points

Kind of a pet peeve of mine here, but I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the impromptu patching Cleesh did at the end to Falk’s translator. Suddenly speaking the language of the enemy and not even realizing it seems like a horrible way to make friends with the allies. In a way it kind of spoke to how unprepared Cleesh and her group had been, but it also made the other military units seem incredibly dumb. I know this is one of the first times they are confronted with true combat and against well trained units, but I was disappointed with how relatively easy they believed him. They simply assumed he talked to himself. A lot. After a while they were the ones offering the excuse for him, and Falk didn’t even have to mention it after a while.

Typos and Grammar Issues

Now this is a topic I’m not sure if I can comment on here, since my copy was printed before the final one. However some of the edits and typos and words lacking proper spacing just got on my nerves after a while. Sometimes entire chunks of dialog weren’t separated properly and I really found it distracting to the storyline. Especially when it happened at the end of a chapter on a cliffhanger. I won’t be including this in the final rating I give, but I thought it was worth mentioning. If these problems *are* on the final edition, I’ll definitely be lowering my score. They were mostly simple fixes after all.

III. Final Rating

Sorry for all the spoilers, but it’s quite difficult to discuss this book at length without mentioning them. It’s very difficult making a decision on this piece, and even while writing this review I was straddling the fence between a 4 or 5. But then I have to remind myself of what indeed makes a level 5 book:

  1. Is it a fun read? Yes, very much so! I looked forward to picking up this book and each new plot twist was heart-pounding and attention-grabbing. A regular joy ride.
  2. Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely! I’ve already piqued the interest of a few friends who will be reading this after me. They all read way faster than I do, so no worries there! The detailed machinery alone in this book (which goes right over my head) will have them loving it, I’m sure.
  3. Would you re-read it? Probably not the whole book, I rarely do that. But I’d likely pick up bits and pieces to review later on.
  4. Does it stick with you? Very much. Every time I finished putting a section down, my mind was stuck with Fak and crew trekking through the jungle or fighting to survive.

All in all, I think this book makes up for its flaws and then some. Although the ending isn’t that great, you still have a blast getting there. And some scenes I think will always be stuck with me, like Lex Falk sitting in a bar with large glass windows overlooking outer space. At least, that’s how I imagined it. The genre for this piece kept growing as I read. I think in the end I was referring to it as a: Military Noir Horror Science Fiction. A lone journalist fighting to find the truth in an unappreciative and sickly world. Do yourself a favor and give this book a try!