This is quite good. The prose is a bit bumpy at times, but not in any horrible way, certainly not in a way that impedes understanding. You can communicate and communicate well, and past that it's just questions of wording.
I have to disagree with the pacing, though. I was bored by the second sentence. As a science-fiction reader, I don't need a prologue, and I don't need a history lesson; what I want to be is down on the surface of an alien planet, breathing the air, trodding the soil, meeting inhabitants both alien and familiar, looking at the oddly-red plants. (Why, by the way? Photosynthesis evolved to ignore green light because it's the least energetic. There are biological, scientific reasons why plants are green, and you need biological, scientific reasons why yours are red.)
The rule of pacing I've heard bandied about is that you have five paragraphs to hook The Reader. (You had less with me, but I'm a picky son-of-a-bitch and you shouldn't treat me as an average reader.) What that means is that within the first five paragraphs of the story you need to have made The Reader want to know more. And unfortunately, a dry history lecture is not the way to do it, because that doesn't say anything about what your story is going to be, nor about your strengths as a writer. Instead, the absolute first words of the story should have been, "Where're you goin', Max?", because that's when things start happening
. All that rest can be worked in as exposition as Max goes about her business. Heck, a lot of it could have waited until later chapters: all we need to know to understand this one is that Max is a settler on a foreign planet, one with red plants, and that the dalkreeth are in open conflict with the human invaders.
Punctuation problem. I don't know where people are getting this thing where they use a space and a dash to stand in for the long emdash, but it's just flat wrong. Stop doing it. Most word-processing software will convert double short dashes into a long dash--and if not, just leave the double shorts; people will get the idea. Even worse than being wrong, the dash-space hybrid is confusing, and that
is a cardinal sin.
Factual issues. I'm not sure why Jaril didn't become horribly infected by having a human touch an open wound, unless Max's poultice had serious sterile properties. Humans have several million bacteria living on every square inch of their skin, and there's nothing to say that those bacteria wouldn't be deathly dangerous to the dalkreeth. Shit, European diseases did a number on North American natives, who were the same species
as them! What would they do to an honest-to-goodness raman
? Also, this planet being on the outer edge of the Lunari Galaxy
is a bit much to ask: the nearest galaxy to our own, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy
, is 25,000 light-years away, which is a Long Frakking Way. Entire franchises--Star Trek, Mass Effect, Dune, the remade Battlestar Galactica--have completed themselves without ever once leaving our Milky Way Galaxy, which itself is 100,000 light-years across and has plenty of real estate to explore. Hell, the Milky Way is so large that for the longest time it was believed to be the entire universe
; the reason Edwin Hubble is famous is that he disproved this fact. And finally there's the red-plants thing; we've gone over that.
I know it's annoying to focus on these little details, but the thing about science
-fiction readers is that they will probably know something about science
, and if they see you getting factual details wrong they will hit [BACK]
faster than a Wookiee at a vegetarian buffet. Readers never
trust a writer who has demonstrated that s/he is not as smart or well-educated about something as they are. Yeah, readers are assholes; but them's the breaks, unfortunately. Wanna write about space plumbing? Then you better do the research, because actual space plumbers
will throw your book away if you get it wrong. (And yes, there are actual space plumbers. Not too many, but some--I mean, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station all have functioning facilities. They don't just make the astronauts stick their willies out the airlock or anything. Quick, pop quiz: is space cold?
Finally, I want to know what "Max" is short for. I want to know what she does in the colony that lets her have her own home, particularly since she's unmarried in a war zone where space is liable to be at a premium. It's not the goat-raising, because you said she does that off-property.
These are all pretty small details; they don't really hamper the heart of the story. But as the architect Mies van der Rohe observed, "God is in the details." As slightly more earthy folk have said, "The Devil is in the details." Them details is a fuckin battleground
, in other words... and the battle they're fighting is, well, how good your story is. They decide the difference between a story that's okay versus a story that's great.
Now, your writing shows that you've reached the point where you can start putting the real
polish on, where you can create characters and environments that ring with authenticity and a world that lives and breathes. It's a step that a lot of writers on this site will never reach. While you may be having some problems, the nature of
the problems prove that you are a good writer
, and--even more excitingly--that you can become an even better one.
Don't back down now.