The Assassin by J. Howard McKay


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Post August 12, 2018, 07:44:02 PM

The Assassin by J. Howard McKay

Okay Howard. Your writing caught the attention-to-detail, very well.

For me, the story flowed well and it was easy to sense your mood as you wrote it. The beginning was definitely solid and well thought out. I could feel the boundaries of the story very well.

In the middle of the story, you let it flow freely and thus my favorite part as you let chaos have a chance.

The ending was a mix of the beginning and middle with a satisfactory ending.

Critiques: Words catch this mind in a way most can't fathom. Words and names have power above what most writers strive for.
1. Kreshenko definitely conjured up mother Russia. Good? Bad? That's up to a reader to decide.
2. Scort Bislortion and 'Scott' appeared along with 'dislocation' and 'abortion'. Good? Bad? That's up to a reader to decide, for me, a distraction
3. Viragana was instantly' vagina', 'virgin' or 'viagra'. Subliminal? For some, definitely. Again, a distraction.

Of course, my assessment is definitely not along the lines of normal as I see/read much differently than others.

Overall. Enjoyed your style of writing and thanks for taking the time to write and submit it to the world. If you had chosen your key wordage a bit more 'less metaphorical' I would have enjoyed it even better. Oh, and Vingolo worked very well for me.
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Post August 19, 2018, 01:48:07 PM

Re: The Assassin by J. Howard McKay

It was a good story and a good read. There were some stylistic sins, but once the tale began to unwind, I hardly noticed them.

Some minor suggestions:

Less exposition and more visual scenes. Information can be passed to the reader in the course of conversation. Don't tell the reader everything about the history of the galaxy, just drop some hints and let him fill in the rest.

Avoid Swifties: "I'll take the prisoner downstairs," said Tom Swift condescendingly.

Avoid adverbial modifiers to "said" unless you can slip them in so smoothly they won't be noticed. Awkward sentences can sometimes be detected by reading your manuscript aloud.

It should be established earlier that Hardwicke is an agent and his name is not used until about a quarter of the way in.

Glad to see some people are still writing Science Fiction.
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Post August 30, 2018, 11:44:18 PM

Re: The Assassin by J. Howard McKay

This wasn't bad overall; dialog, setting, and characterization were pretty good. I found it a little tiring to read though; I kept running out of breath.

This may seem strange, but when I read, I breathe as though I were reading aloud. So, when I encounter a sentence such as
It had now been almost two centuries since the conquest of the last of the twelve planets that formed the Vingalian Holy Republic but the inclusion of Virgana into the Federation—the eventual successor arising out of the ashes of the old empire—was the greatest barrier the Vings had yet faced in their quest to fulfill Germiad's prophesy.

my poor old lungs run dry. I found quite a few other very long sentences in this story.

I was a bit disappointed by the plot, as well. It works; the MC did what he set out to do, but that makes the plot very linear, and I thought it could have been more interesting. This passage caught my attention (emphasis mine):
There was a stone mug sitting on the counter which I filled to near brimming. In the ambient sunlight that filled the room the water had an almost viscous appearance but it slipped effortlessly down my throat as I quaffed it, and tasted exceeding pure in a way I find almost impossible to describe. It must come from an aquifer deep beneath the surface, I thought, where it had pooled pure and clean after filtering through seemingly endless rock, cleansed of outside impurities and corruptions, then brought to the surface for the refreshment of those who had been similarly purified by isolation and communion with the ultimate embodiment of purity and goodness.

I caught myself in the midst of this reverie; where had that come from, I wondered with a grimace. Outside impurities and corruptions? Ultimate embodiment of purity and goodness? It had made sense to immerse myself as much as possible into the persona of Scort Bislortion, but I couldn't let that kind of religious mysticism, something naturally inspired by the isolation of the stark landscape and the atmospherics of this place, to influence me to the point of affecting how I perceived things.

The water probably came from a tank buried just under the floor of this place, I told myself, the pure taste achieved by some combination of chemicals. It would be much easier to do that and bring in the small amount of water needed than drilling all the way down to an aquifer. As for Bislortion, instead of being purified by his lonely sojourn in the wilderness, he had ended up being emptied out and then filled up again with all manner of worldly corruption and malevolent intent.

This passage stood out to me. Here is the promise and possibility of something much more intriguing than just having the MC take a disguise, find his target, and kill him. What if this assignment became more difficult for the MC, in a way that wasn't expected? What if the body Hardwicke got installed in was not quite as empty a vessel as had been expected? I could see him being surprised by other such bits of Bislortion leftovers, perhaps to the point of wavering on or even abandoning his commitment to the assassination. After all, these religious folk are portrayed as being a lot nicer and friendlier than the Federation characters we've seen.

I found the doorknob kerfuffle a little jarring; it doesn't seem to make sense. Opening doors is a part of daily physical routine that should have been left intact, the same as walking; it's motor memory. Hardwicke should have been surprised as Bislortion's body just unthinkingly twisted the knob and stepped through. And here is another place where the narrative could have been more complex and interesting: he steps through the door, pauses to take a deep breath, looks around--at a room he's never seen--and feels at home.

I was a bit disappointed with the assassination itself in that Hardwicke/Bislortion has made himself a weapon and I hadn't been told about it earlier. The act of stealing that wire from the flitter could have been a real nail-biter if someone else had shown up unexpectedly.

I thought this story could be grand as a two-part series; in the first, Hardwicke turns against the Federation, and maybe they fake Vandor's death--that, or he does the assassination but escapes and then turns against the Federation. In the second one, he goes hunting for his old self, plus a few key Federation figures.

Not too bad all in all, but it could have had a lot more interesting substance to it.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?

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