Reviews for Ultima Ratio
Michael Panush chapter 3 . 3/22/2010
Well, I don't see too many improvements in this story from the last one, which is too bad, because there were some cool things here. I can see you're trying to add some intrigue into the team with Rico getting demoted and all that, so that's good. Still, you've got to work on your descriptions, your characterization, your plotting and a few other little things to make this all work.

First off, the descriptions in this were severely lacking. You had just two metaphors and one of them - describing them running around like "panthers through a playground full of delicious children" didn't seem to apply to the situation that well. Add more, and spend some time on them. You can make a metaphor work by having more than just hyperbole. Also, try and use them to describe characters, places, or physical things. Your descriptions also are kind of lacking. The opening line, where you literally have two basic words describing each person, is just not enough. I didn't really get a good description of the ice planet, or the cultists or the Triad gangsters either. Naming all the weapons was okay, but didn't matter that much. All the names got kind of mixed up, and I'm not sure who was wielding what. It doesn't really add that much either.

Charachterization also took a hit. Maybe it's because the characters just had more to say, but I think you're making them a bit too melodramatic. You don't have to make Sophie a jerk to show she's disciplined. She doesn't have to call everyone a 'maggot' because she's from the military. Rico doesn't have to be reduced to a sniveling idiot because he's been demoted. You can show emotions in a lot more subtle, and a lot stronger ways. Also, try and make them symaphetic. What I'm getting so far is that Sophie is an arrogant jerk and Rico is a whiny loser. I'm sure that's not what you had in mind, but their over-the-top responses made them seem like that. Also, their insistence that Rico is a glory hog seems kind of unfounded. You should try and have that be a part of his personality. Finally, Jack Wilson's generic dialogue seems to fit his generic personality. He has the possibility to be a very cool character, but he's completely nondescript here. The gangsters and cultists also seemed like generic gangsters and cultists.

The plot also could have used work. It seemed pretty standard, and the tricks they played on the bad guys seemed a little pointless. They could have just won anyway, with ease. The final battle against the Entropian was kind of lacking. The whole thing seemed just too by the numbers, with no twists or troubles for our heroes. Cool setting, but basic plot.

Finally, some of the other details didn't work. I wish you picked one perspective and stuck with it, as jumping around is kind of confusing. This is a criticism I have with Ziegieist too, and it's easy to fix. I know it seems hard to focus on just one character, but trust me when I say it makes a better read and a better story. Also, the way you re-use the monster from that radio show you did is kind of wierd. I know about it, but some of your other readers might not have heard that show. Try and give the Entropian more description or at least more screen time. Finally, why did the Triads have mobster accents? Were they Italian Chinese or something? There were also a few typos and repeitive sentences, like 'The moon was a Europa-like moon' that could have been avoided.

Keep working at trying to fix these errors! Then you will have an awesome story.
Michael Panush chapter 2 . 3/14/2010
Overall, this was pretty good. I can see you've managed to improve a few of your faults, but a lot of them still remain. Because of that, I have to say that while the set-up was entertaining, and a lot of the stuff was very good, the problematic execution means that I didn't enjoy this as much as I should have. I'd say the big issues are descriptions, plot, characterization, and vocabulary.

First off, I can see you're trying to add metaphors and figurative language. I counted a few of them. But like the previous story, there just weren't enough of them and the ones that were there were cliched. You said Rico was 'as hot as if he was at a beach on a warm day' which is one of those metaphors that is done to death. Try making up your own, and try to get ones that'll really make the reader feel the way the characters do. The by-the-blow description of lot of these things is just kind of boring to read, particularly of the action scenes and the fights. They should have been intense, but I felt like I was hearing some gamer talking about the video game he was playing, not description of an actual battle in progress. I guess you spend too much time on the technical details and not enough on the sensory details. I don't really care what kind of tank or gun the Butlerians have. I do care about the stinging sand being kicked into their eyes by machine gun fire, or the sickly smell of burned flesh. That kind of thing will stick in your reader's minds much more than mentioning the make and names of their weapons.

The plot was all right, but the pacing was off. A good two-thirds of the story was just getting to the battle. You could have cut that down a lot, and got right into the action. Starting out with a dull briefing was not a very good opening. You could have had Rico going over to his squad saying 'all right, I just got a mission from Jack Wilson and and here's the situation' and cut that whole thing. You could have even started with the battle, like you did with the last story. I did like how you had real danger, with the Butlerians nearly losing the battle, but the whole thing seemed a little cliched. I kind of rolled my eyes when the hero and villain were swordfighting, trading wisecracks, and the villain got to twiddle his moustache before running away to harass the hero another day. Maybe something involving subterfuge or a more complex plot would have been better than a straight up, simple battle. Overall, I think you need to make more complex stories. Give me a moral dilemina, or a plot twist, or a mystery, something like that. A simple set-up and fight is okay, but the steampunk world was a cool setting and I think you could have done much more with it.

Your characterization is improving, and some parts of this were really good. Rico's crew seemed to all have distinct personalities and ways of talking. Even Sophie Starr, who didn't get many lines, seemed pretty well drawn as a disciplined military woman. But Rico seemed kind of flat. He had a few science-y catchphrases which he didn't repeat that much, but beyond that, his personality seemed like a generic square-jawed hero. Maybe if you made him dark, or quirky, or gave him a past or anything, he'd be more interesting. Jack Wilson also didn't seem to have any real personality or unique way of speaking. The British people were a bit better, but the constant British-ism got a little old. You don't have to make them say 'wanker' or 'proper' all the time for us to know they're English. The villain was lacking though. He could have been a petulant spoiled brat, which is what I think you were going for, but he sounded too 'I'm so evil! hahahah! My henchmen's lives don't matter! hahaha!' to be taken seriously. I'd rather have him throw a temper tantrum or something than do that.

Finally, and this is a problem that infects a lot of your science-fiction work, you used a lot of words and don't explain their meetings. What is the quatnum contraption thing they were talking about? And what's a clade? And who are the soverigns or the overfactors? I can sort of figure it out from context (and from our conversations) but it's still confusing. Try and find some way to make them explain it.

Also, I caught a few typos. Nothing too bad, but it detract from the overall story a little.

So, overall, I can see you're improving, and I hope you work at the problems and keep up the good stuff, and you'll be able to get all the awesome transhuman goodness this story has.
Michael Panush chapter 1 . 2/26/2010
This was cool, and had some major improvements over most of your writing, in two main ways. First off, the plot was very exciting and there were very high stakes. Ratio and his friends were losing most of the time (or at least, it seemed that way until the very end), and it seemed like the bad guy would triumph for a while. I liked how you kept up the tension, and the twist ending was cool too. Also, I could see how you were trying to create expressive and interesting writing that was more than just basic descriptions.

However, I think you still have a ways to go on that writing. Some fo the lines were good. But others (superheated knife through butter) were kind of standard and cliched, or just wierd (the steel clashed with a resounding sound...creating a soundtrack worthy of an epic sword duel) and out of place. Keep working at it though. What's here is good, so try and improve it.

As for the story itself, I think it could have used some more focus. Was this the first story about Sophie Starr's crew? Or was it a Rex Ratio story with them as guest stars? If the former's true, they needed more attention. If the latter's true, they needed less attention. I think you should pick a focus of what you want each story to do before you begin it.

Well, good job, and I look forward to more.
Typing Typhoon chapter 1 . 2/26/2010
This story, from top to bottom, is completely ridiculous.

It was pretty cool though. You do a great job of coloring in the action sequences and such. It's a pity this fic didn't get more traffic. :(