Top critical review
Plot-driven, page-turning short story
2 June 2013
I came across this story via a Twitter conversation. It is by an American author. This is the first piece by him I have read.
The protagonist is a young man called Sammy who is an "in extremis persona". He clearly has a problem, which many readers will surmise near the beginning. One of the main things that engages the reader's interest is to see whether this surmise is correct.
The character of Sammy is fairly well-developed. I did not find that Sammy generated much sympathy, which is fine. Having a somewhat unsympathetic, self-conflicted protagonist gave the story a contemporary feel of a kind which I often strive for in my own writing.
Sammy meets a woman. I won't mention what she is called, because that is a part of the story. The female character does move the story along, and she is part of the resolution, but she is not as well-developed as Sammy.
CREATIVE WRITING TECHNICAL STUFF KLAXON -- The narrative mode I would describe as "third person with limited omniscience" (the same as, say, 'Catch-22'). There is a bit about two-thirds of the way through when the focus of the narration moves from Sammy to the woman - arguably an inconsistency. This is technically one of the most difficult narrative modes to use.
The narrative arc is well-executed. This is a story which knows whose story it is. It has a strong, engaging beginning, and a surprisingly tidy resolution. Some of what happens in the middle seems incoherent, but this is explained in the ending, which I think most readers will find satisfying.
I am giving this three stars because, while the story is structurally strong and the main character is good, there were a few features of the prose style that did not appeal to me: there are too many similes, which tend to detract from the otherwise contemporary feel of the piece. The show/tell balance could be more towards showing in a few places. But it certainly held my attention right to the end.
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Author website: www.troyblackford.com