The Agency: Hide and Seek
Posted June 22nd, 2014 by rebecca
A Book Review by Rebec
in Rivendell, the only place in Middle Earth that gets Wi-Fi
There are a few things with this story that I would like to address here. Firstly - the font. It makes it look like there is more writing than there is on the page. At times, the layout isn't overly clear - for instance, a change in location could be better formatted. Secondly - is it supposed to be first or third person? If first, we need to inhabit our narrator's consciousness more, to know who they really are, inside, and what they think of the other characters. If third, we need to know all the characters better.
The story is one of espionage and intrigue, hunting down technology from the second world war, and fighting two organisations, the White Ninjas and the Agents of HOO, the latter of which being an incredibly silly name that I would advise changing, regardless of it's current significance. The only stupider acronym ever to exist is that of the Agents of Secret Stuff (I'll leave you to figure that one out). Seriously. Deal with your acronyms. ROIA isn't so bad, but HOO? What are they, international super spy owls? ISSO isn't such a bad acronym, I'd consider it if I were you.
Anyway, for the Russian sections, write in English, but say 'Boris said in Russian', to indicate the change in language, then, similarly, when swapping back to English, say 'Julia whispered in English'. Less of the "??? ? ?? ? ???????? ???" and [Translation: This font is fun to write in, but doesn't work outside of screenplays, and it's too large], it is an unprofessional way of writing, and presenting a language transition would be much nicer to read.
On the plus side, who doesn't love spies? My favourite TV show, Burn Notice (now concluded), was amazing, incredible in all the twists and turns it made, and I am aware of the writer's fondness for Agents of SHIELD (another ridiculous acronym mind you, Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division seriously?), hence the focus on the WWII. It's an interesting storyline, and one that I'm sure would play out well on screen, however, in writing, something feels off. Maybe it's the narrative style, which jumps from third to first person whenever it sees fit. Maybe it's the way our characters pasts and histories are not explored in depth. Or maybe it's the way we don't inhabit their consciousnesses directly, we are observers from the outside. We do not see their thoughts. This works in television, when one can have voiceovers (i.e., Burn Notice's 'When you're a spy' stuff, the sarcastic comments, all of which are translated to paper in the tie-in novels), or simply let the audience learn about the characters over time, but in literature? One needs to know the characters a lot better than this.
Three stars seems a shame, because it's espionage! I love espionage! Especially when the sarcastic voiceover tells you about making fake C4 from cake icing...sorry, back to my review. I just can't rate it any higher. We have no relationship with the main characters, in fact, we barely know them, the narrative swaps between third and first person erratically, which is a sloppy way to tell a story, and the presentation detracts from the reading. Paragraphs in certain chapters do not have large enough spaces between them. And the damnable font. It will need editing a good deal, certain sections could need wholly rewriting, but it's not a disaster. It's likable. And likable gives us a foundation to work from, no?
For the author:
Deal with your stupid acronyms, describe the characters internal thoughts better, make up your mind which narrative voice you will use (the prologue is fine. I don't understand where the rope on the tree comes from, but otherwise, it's fine), format the story better, use a decent font (this one maybe, probably slightly larger because it is quite small here), the language swaps could be tackled better, perhaps rewrite that Russian section entirely, so it reads better, and definitely tackle the narration. If you go with first person, you will need to rewrite large chunks so you can give your narrator personality. If you go with third person, you can swap between different characters thoughts and feelings. Involve the reader more in the characters. One needs to be invested emotionally. Make your mind up.
Anyway, aside from that, it's decent. Keep going. Spies are fun, right?
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