Reviews for All Under Heaven: The Enemy Within
DeepSeaDragon chapter 4 . 1/17/2010
Okay, so now I'm caught up. The battle in the village was pretty long, and while it dragged at points, it had its fair share of exciting bits (Yi's gun ballet in the beginning, Lian shooting through that guy she impaled, everything Roger does). Since this is Pulp and not realistic war fiction, it's good to hit highlights like that to keep the battles exhilirating rather than tiresome. I think this is one story in which you can actually afford to go a little more over the top.

Roger continues to steal the show. The trick with the signal gas was wicked.

I agree that the writing could use more flavor. This is a story that begs to be big and loud and colorful. Keep on writing, and let's see where things go from here!
Michael Panush chapter 4 . 1/4/2010
Okay, that was a little bit better in some ways than your previous efforts, but a little worse in others, so it ends up being about the same. Overall, the story continues to be interesting and the technologies and tactics being used were pretty cool.

The writing though is still a major downside. I noticed only one metaphor being used (something likening the thugs to a storm sweeping through the village), and while that was good, I need more. The description of the fight needs better figurative language and more sensory details to really make it exciting. The kind of matter of fact statements of what happened (he shot him, she stabbed that guy,) got old pretty fast. I want to see the dust, feel the hot blood, and hear the screams of the dead and wounded. The battle just seemed to drag, and I couldn't really see where it reached a real climax. I don't really see how it improves the characters, more than giving them a chance to use their weapons on some mooks. I'd also expect less wisecracking from the villagers. It seemed very out of place in this battle. Finally, there were a lot of gramatical errors and typos in here. There were words missing, words mixed up, and some run-ons and misplaced quoatations too. Another round of editing would have been good.

On the plus side, I liked Roger Stevens's characterization, which sounded unique, and his gambit with the grenade was very cool and clever. I think you can still do better getting inside his head though.

So, try and do better characterization, more sensory details and figurative language, and don't waste so much time on big battles when they don't have much direct impact on the story or the characters. I look forward to the next one and hope you can keep on improving.
Michael Panush chapter 3 . 12/28/2009
This does seem a bit like more of the same, with cool ideas, but the same sorts of problems that have plagued the first two chapters. The quality of the writing, the perspectives and the dialogue are probably the two biggest flaws here.

Overall, I think you should have gone over the writing a few more times, to make sure it really worked and sounded good. There were no horrible errors, but nothing stood out either, and you ended up repeating a lot of words, which is never a good thing. The writing was mostly in a very non-descript, basic manner to describe these amazing ruins. Some more metaphors and similes could have really helped, instead of just basic descriptions. I think you tried a few, and they were pretty good, but I know you can do better. The by-the-book descriptions kind of harmed the fight scene, which could have been muc more visceral and action-packed, instead of the simple 'the robot did this, Bu did that, the robot did this' kind of thing you were doing. The fight scene could have been cool, but I thought it went on for a little too long. You tried a little bit to show me the pain and panic of Kwan, but I still think you could do better.

The perspective bit is a small point, but I noticed you slipping out of Kwan's head and entering Bu's head, which was distracting. If you're going to jump from character to character, at least keep the changes in point of view to chapter or scene changes. It's a little thing, but just watch it. I'd make sure you stick in Kwan's head from now on.

The dialogue and characters also could have used work. Elder Yi in particular seemed to have an almost cowboy-ish kind of accent. I would not expect a Chinese elder to say 'ain't' and call youngsters 'kids.' Maybe you were trying to make him a cool old guy or something, but it got kind of tedieous pretty quickly. Bu seemed to be very annoying, and Kwan still seems flat. The major traits they have so far is that Bu is greedy and Kwan is...Well, I don't really know what Kwan is. Cautious, I guess? Normal? You can do better, and you can make their dialogue and thoughts show that. Also, the weapon fixation seemed to have returned. Their cool new laser sword-things were nice and all, but I'd rather Kwan and Bu have a 'character moment'in the cave, something giving me a little insight to their characters, then a description of some fancy new weapon.

So, keep working at it, and this setting, with its cool ancient civilizations and mix of magic and technology, is very good. Just try and work on those things a bit.
DeepSeaDragon chapter 2 . 12/26/2009
So after reading the first two chapters (both basically serve as a prologue, right?) I'm interested in the world you've created here. Of course with its upcoming wuxia themes it's right up my alley, but at the moment we've only just begun to see where things are going. I'd like to see more of Kwan and the gang- I'm not sure that I really have a feel for them just yet. I like Roger, though- he seems every bit the classic pulp-style hero I imagined. Rocket-packs and zeppelins are always fun. Looking forward to him crossing paths with the main characters.

Well, you did say you'd be introducing the villains in these first two chapters- and we've got 'em by the boatload, it seems. With all these major players introduced already, I'm not sure quite what to make of them all yet. Keep writing and I'll keep reading!
Michael Panush chapter 2 . 12/25/2009
This was pretty good, and I can again see that you took some of my advice, but it still needs work. Most of what I said about the need for more descriptions and better writer (like some similes and metaphors) still applies here. Also, the villains seemed pretty cartoonish and one dimensional. The Russians in particularly seemed to be cackling and nearly twirling their moustaches. Also, the British are reminding me of the Brittanians from Code Geass. I don't know if that's intentional, but their values, mannerisms, and appearance seem extremely similar. The constant changes in perspective, the cartoonish villains, and the simplistic descriptions remind me a lot of the Father of Lights/Mother of Shadows series, so those are things you can work on in the future.

Hopefully, you can work on those in time for the next one. I'll keep on reading, as the intrigue and setting is still interesting.
Michael Panush chapter 1 . 12/25/2009
Well, this story seems interesting, and I can see that you tried to follow some of my advice, but there's still a few things that need work. I'd say your characters, dialogue, and description are the big ones, but the problems with the names, namely that they aren't distinctive and seem too derivative of their real world counterparts, also remain.

You have obviously done some work trying to tell the reader about the motivations of the characters, but that's the problem - you tell the reader, instead of showing them. Don't give me a paragraph saying 'Roger Stevenson was angry because his relatives had betrayed his nation to the British stand-ins.' Put that into Roger's manners, his dialogue, and his attitude, and show me. Furthermore, it can be a little more developed than that, which seemed kind of vague and shoehorned in. What are the details of this betrayal? Did his father or best pal sell him out? Or maybe his commanding officer? He needs more detailed motivations. Also, develop the rest of his character. Is he a maverick or a more by-the-book soldier? Is he a daredevil? You had some nice touches in there, but you could do more, especially showing his concern for his men and the doctor. The same goes for the other characters, particularly the Chinese trio. Remember not to tell, but to show through their actions. Sticking with the viewpoint of one character, and not jumping into the heads and pasts of other characters, will help you do this.

Your dialogue is getting better, but some characters still sound a little same-ish and could use more work. The modern slang used by the Chinese was a little off-putting. I would also expect maybe some less generic responses on the part of Stevens when his zeppilin is attacked, though I can see it is improving.

Other than that, your descriptions certainly need work. I get some idea of what the people and places look like, but you can certainly do better. You really need to spend more time weighing out what deserves paragraphs of description and what doesn't. Here's a hint - the blade-stick thing should get a sentence and nothing more. Haixia's skyline, the saloon and its patrons, and the zeppelin, deserve a lot more than you give them. Also, you should toss in some metaphors and similes, some figurative language, to give me a really good impression of what's going on. Oftentimes likening something to something else, can serve a reader better than a detailed traditional description.

Well, those are my thoughts. I'll read the next chapter and see if you can improve this series. The concept is great, and I hope you can follow through in the execution.