|Reviews for The Feast of the Iron Whale|
| Dragon made me do it 11/9/11 . chapter 1
Ha ha, I loved that surprise when it finally clicked what the 'iron whale' meant, and what the shark was hoping for as the ship 'dropped a spreading trail of jetsam' as you say.
You really go to great lengths to try to put this from a shark's point of view - the iron whale, sensing living things by their electric currents, nothing unshelled meaning nothing living (although I suppose this could also mean living things that were encased in something protective), and seeing this whole scene from an emotional perspective of frenzied excitement rather than horror.
And then also onto the way the sharks interact with each other, 'the congregating predators danced around each other, edgy at their unnatural proximity' ... while this is characteristic of sharks are
not at all resulting to anthropomorphism, you can also see this kind of interaction happening between humans, for example men competing over a woman.
I hate to admit it but you wrote so well that I started to take the sharks side over the people.
...ahh cattle? Okay didn't see that one coming either! Brilliant!
There is a bit of a switch in perspective of who you are made to feel sympathy for towards the cows, particularly with the line: 'Was it worse to lock eyes with the doomed, or have their imagined eyes watch you forever?'
'An archipelago of bloated meat.' oh dear me, this image is quite horrific but quite brilliant.
'The shark bathed her senses in a heady marinade of blood.' - look up Mikelangelo and the Black Sea gentlemen's song 'a formidable marinade' if you haven't already heard it. reminds me of that.
And then another perspective change, and we are happy to see the humans saved. Although they do seem a little alien after having only recently been a shark and then a cow. and I loved that last line 'and they stared. And they stared.'
It feels a little disorienting to have to switch perspective to each of the three key players in the story, but it works, and makes the story all the more clever for it. kind of like a trip-tych that isn't a trip-tych because it is a well rounded whole story.
| Palantean Writer 7/6/10 . chapter 1
Feast of the iron whale, then! Let's go...
"...had flattened to a slatey shade" 'Slatey shade' doesn't quite roll of the tongue right. I think it needs jiggling a bit.
Your opening paragraph is very forbidding. Well-written.
"...edgy at their unnatural proximity. " Brilliant observation.
I notice that you're using quite a few 'electrical' sounding descriptions for what the shark is feeling. As they use an electrical or perhaps magnetic sense, this is gratifying.
"...sweet, warm, mammals." I think that last comma needs to go.
P.s.: Ooh, tension!
"On its heels, a thunderous crash..." That comma needs to go, too.
"Panicked limbs thrashing the water like egg beaters." The simile 'egg beaters' feels anachronistic.
"...like water rushing to a plughole." And this one semi-so, but it still feels well chosen.
"...their senses overwhelmed by the bounty." I like this. We tend to get the impression from nature programmes that feeding is pretty much a druglike experience in its intensity for sharks, and this sentence fragment hones in on this.
"White of eyes flashed." 'Whites'?
"White wave tops crashed." As this comes straight after the flashing eyes sentence, 'white' again feels like a repetition. I think it should just be taken out; 'Wave tops crashed' seems fine to me.
How come there are cows on the boat? I don't understand that one...
"But the countless voices raised in endless terror around them forced their hearts to acknowledge the truth." Well yeah, that's going to be a sound that fuels a few nightmares, n'est pas?
"...the fetid brown soup." Lovely.
I wonder whether this story needs to be divided into two? The first half is the POV of a shark while the second half is of the human survivors, and once I'd read a fair bit of the humans' POV and realised we were sticking with it, the junction became obvious and began to feel clumsy.
A very grim, but well-written, short story!
- From We Return Reviews.
| eiyuang999 5/23/10 . chapter 1
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| Tawny Owl 4/24/10 . chapter 1
I loved the language in this. It was so poetical, and the image of the water, especially the way you mentioned the light slanting through it, was spot on. On the flip side I did feel that sometimes the language detracted from the actual story. It was fast paced, which added to the tension, but the language made it easier to get lost becasue we flipped from the sharks' perspective to the human's in the boat for a bit.
the first mention of cattle made me think that the humans were the 'cattle' becasue that's waht they were goig to be devoured like. It took me a while to realise they were actually cows. That was a nice twist though - and the idea of the humans avoiding their eyes was almost funny, but not quite because it was true.
Another thin is that you start of with the one girl shark, and then suddenly lots appear. Maybe make the gathering of them slowe, something more ominous like shadows slinking through the water or something. Them all congreagting beneath the cows and then all the sharks start thinking/moving as one beast.
Nice though, very nice. Enjoy the road trip.
| Punslinger 3/23/10 . chapter 1
Revealing that the victims were cattle was an unexpected surprise. I was picturing humans becoming shark food. It's a vivid word picture, as is the entire story, which holds readers' attention in grim fascination. Your unrelenting grip on objective narration is strenghened by fine metaphors such as "...shafts of sunlight no longer mined the depths." and "...the wind whipped the waves into confetti..."
Just a couple of things made me uncomfortable. "Panicked limbs thrashing the water like egg beaters." seems a human simile rather than something from the sharks' point of view. And "honed in" should be "homed in" as in being guided by radar, heat, etc.
| Mizzuz Spock 1/22/10 . chapter 1
I feel absolutely terrible, because I really can't find anything terribly negative to say about this piece. xD
The prose here is downright beautiful. Maybe a bit too descriptive in some places, such as here:
[Four bright orange eggs floated amidst the carnage. The cattle transporter’s globular lifeboats had weathered the storm without mishap.]
It just seems like there's so much crammed into one sentence and the reader has to stop and focus on one detail before going to another.
However, those moments of over-description are easily forgiven with the overall effect this piece has.
The sharks are wonderfully portrayed. There's a dark tension that you play throughout this piece incredibly well.
And I love the way you ended it, repeating the line "And they stared."
Good job. :]
| xenolith 1/21/10 . chapter 1
omg, I love sharks! Sophie this is great!
First off your language is varied and lush, as always. I noticed the fabulous 'fetid' again, made me smile. I liked the incorporation of colours in this, 'saphire blue' and 'the cobalt world' at the beginning, 'Blossoming red' and 'fetid brown' in the middle for the carnage, 'burgundy' was another one I liked, and at the end, 'orange-tinted gloom' and finally, light. It made for a visual reading experience! I could really see, both above the waves and underneath, and I loved the way you pulled this off.
I liked this line: 'The congregating predators danced around each other, edgy at their unnatural proximity.' True, and brilliant description.
Ooh and this one: 'Every splash landing had been a slap to her senses, electrifying her mind, jolting her heart and stomach.' Woohoo electroreception! The geek in me was jumping up and down in her seat. Sharks are amazing!
So, another fantastic story that I'm glad to have read. Congrats, and good luck for the comp :)
| Vulpine Ninja 1/21/10 . chapter 1
i'm too amazed to point out anything funny (i think taerkitty did most of it)
This is... impressive. There's no definite character in it, so it's really.. something. Wide use of vocabs, flamboyant way of describing things, you gave me a live film in my head (more like, a documentary XD).
| Michael Howard 1/20/10 . chapter 1
Okay, I have NEVER read a P.O.V. story like this one before. Very effective storytelling ability on display here. (And yet another reason to become a vegetarian!)
| Narq 1/19/10 . chapter 1
I think you did this really really well and congrats, you didn't need me at all :P
the music side of this was really well done, as to the bloodlust feel.
| taerkitty 1/19/10 . chapter 1
The opening paragraph is strong on style - it paints with words very well. It toys with them and uses them in novel ways. I'm not sure I like "the sapphire blue ... flattened to a slatey shade", though. The combination of the 'slatey' and the sense that the shade isn't actually being described leaves me feeling a little cheated.
Style can sell many people. It sold me, but I wonder if it's possible to put something in there, a question or a bit of motion so those who need to be yanked into the story have that itch scratched as well.
"Jetsome" should "jetsam".
"Listened toward the boat" doesn't work for me. There are times trying something news works, and times it doesn't. And remember, this is just me. It may work for others.
"A wretched scream... The scream was short lived" Should try to vary the words.
"Island carcasses" also doesn't sound right. Too close to the sin of the mixed metaphor.
"liquid burgundy" doesn't work for me - while burgundy is a colour, it's also a spirit, so that's a liquid. Sorry.
Ah, these are enclosed life capsules. I was imagining orange inflatable rafts. I had to re-re-read the ending to get what was being said.
Speaking of the ending, it's a perspective shift. It makes sense, we need to have someone with whom we can identify. Nature's perfect killing machine is a terrible beauty, but it's not really empathy-material.
If anything, I'd interleave the human POV into the story. We have a bit of shark, a bit of life in the raft. More shark and carnage, and the reaction of those unable to see, but hearing death-bellows all around. That way, the story establishes it has a POV rhythm, a call-and-response, in a way.
Overall, the telling is strong, the language flowing. It was thrilling to read, and had the right feel and pacing - slow, steady waiting for the eventual death of the vessel and the buffet therein, and then the frenzied attacks.