The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert


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Post July 24, 2005, 04:26:07 PM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

I'm glad that this story was held over from last month because it received no reviews.<br><br>I know I've seen the author's name as logged in periodically, and he's probably been out of his mind with concern. Alas, Real Life and distasteful things such as Day Jobs can get in the way of higher callings such as helping one's fellow man.<br><br><br>I really enjoyed this story--with some caveats.<br><br>First off, I couldn't help but be reminded of Douglas Adams in the beginning, which was a good thing. Adams is (or rather, was) one of my favorite authors. The tone of the opener brought to mind Ford Prefect speaking to the barman in Hitchhiker. Both Ford and Nohman knew what was really going on, and had a manner or way of speaking which caused their audiences to listen, in spite of the obvious reasons not to. Likewise, the custom planet angle was so like the planet forges of Magrathea, it was hard not to draw a line between the two.<br><br>I would have liked a tad more description, using all the senses instead of just sight and touch, especially in the reboot cave. I just couldn't picture it, except for the big red button.<br><br>On character, I just didn't go for the name, Nohman. It was too obvious to think of it as No Man, which pretty much telegraphed that Nohman was Phil, losing the surprise at the end. The rest of the characterization I was all for, and quite enjoyed.<br><br>On plot credibility, while I liked the idea of planets starting over for the amusement of others... I had a problem with the actual mechanics of it. I mean, people are alive. They have their own life force, for lack of a better term, keeping them going, existing. How did they all just vanish and quit at the end? Remove the Sun, and we all slowly freeze to death. Blowing up the Earth requires a phenomenal amount of energy, and we'd still get a few moments of recognition as we evaporate into wisps of nothingness. I mean, I could buy it if the oceanic and continental plates were sucked below the mantle of the earth during those 7 hours and "washed" clean with boiling lava. They could then re-emerge to start the whole works over. But just ending I couldn't suspend my disbelief over.<br><br>Good use of voice. The listener clearly spoke and thought in a different voice from Phil Nohman.<br><br>All in all, I quite liked it, but thought that there was some room for improvement.<br><br>Nate
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Post July 27, 2005, 11:22:20 AM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

<br>oh Nate, you're trying to over-realize things again. it doesn't matter within the context of the tale that in our reality every organism has its own life force, for the plot clearly states we do not understand "reality" at all.<br><br>this has to be one of the best stories i've read recently. it started with me sighing at the prospect of another Field of Dreams/piles of Devil's Tower-esque mashed potatos from Encounters, but evolved into a gripping narrative. even though two out of three lead characters kept mumbling "er" like they were Watson trying to figure out something Holmes handed down.<br><br>simple, yes, Travel Agent was also very effective, and i for one had no problem visualizing the locales. it's obvious Eckert either did some research or actually went there, since apparently every place mentioned exists "for real". additionally, the airport lounge, Phil's routine and the details of his journey to NZ all rang true. impressive. <br><br>i'm also impressed that Nate pointed out Nohman as No Man, hence Phil. another clue might actually indicate that The Man (unnamed), or listener, was really "Phil", since both had a thing for vodka tonics. <br><br>and at any rate, the ending was poetic and powerful, despite being able to see it from a couple of paragraphs away.<br><br>a minor question: the mountain was spelled two differnt forms- one ended with an "o", the other with an "h". reason? there were a few parsing issues, so just curious.<br><br>great one!<br><br>Lee

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Post July 28, 2005, 11:09:49 PM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

<br>how come nobody's reading this? it's an excellent story, really. go to it.<br><br>Lee
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Post August 01, 2005, 12:42:31 PM

Re: The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

I thought this was a great concept for a story. The twist at the end was spoiled with the amount of information given at the beginning. For one thing, the use of “Nohman” immediately reminded me of The Odyssey where Odysseus tricks the Cyclops in the cave, so, like Nate, I immediately figured him to be Phil. Another point that diluted the ending was learning of the reset switch at the very onset.<br><br>So knowing what was going to happen, I focused instead on how it was going to happen, and I think a golden opportunity was missed at this point. There is no trickery, no subterfuge that causes Phil to fulfill his destiny. In essence, he’s nagged into performing the deed. So we have an uninteresting guy following (in my heavily biased opinion) an uninteresting path.<br><br>I enjoyed the dialogue and the description of New Zealand. The writing style flowed fairly well. The whole piece had a satirical feel to it, which I just happen to be partial to. I think the potential is there to make it a truly outstanding story instead of an average one.
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Post August 01, 2005, 12:46:00 PM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

<br>either you guys are extremely observant or i'm just an idiot, but i didn't see it all coming in advance and i'm not so sure Nohman was Phil. however, it would be nice if we had the author on hand to comment and provide insights.<br>overall, not an average tale, i believe it took a lot of figuring out and at least basic research, which always wins major points with me.<br><br>Lee

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Post August 01, 2005, 01:14:25 PM

Re: The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. So a couple of clues into where my head was when I wrote this. <br><br>First off, Nate, I was thinking HG2G and most definitely Magrathea when I began to take the story from concept to written word. In fact, there was a whole chunk of elaboration that I took out because, while I was aspiring to write in the style of Douglas Adams, I realized that it didn't move the story forward.<br><br>In terms of Nohman.. no he was not Phil. Think in terms of Slartibartfast. "The man", as Lee alluded to, may have been Phil, but then again, given the first line of the story, perhaps he is one of many incarnations of Phil. <br><br>Lastly, I've never been to new New Zealand but did quite a bit of research, including checking out many images of Mt Ruapehu and its terrain. So, much of what I describe about the terrain is real.<br><br>Jay

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Post August 01, 2005, 10:27:57 PM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

<br>hello Jay. Excellent story. i was actually re-questioning my initial assertion that Nohman was Phil, now not so sure. Can ya drop us another clue?<br><br>Lee

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Post August 01, 2005, 10:48:05 PM

Re: The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

Hi Lee,<br><br>As to who Nohman is: think in terms of the bag he left behind and the title of the story.<br><br>"The man" is as I described earlier in the thread. I envision him as a random creation in memory, if you get my drift.<br><br>The more I think about it, the more I realize that one could construe the ending in a number of ways. All I can say is that I don't believe Phil was present in that final scene.<br><br>Jay

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Post August 05, 2005, 12:04:44 PM

The Travel Agent by Jay B. Eckert

<br>Jay, <br><br>even with the bag in mind it's all rather non-committed, as it leaves much to speculation. but since you wrote the story, it's more your call than ours. naturally, you don't need to elaborate, it was a great read and probably much of its beauty stemmed from being open-ended.<br><br>Lee<br><br>

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