Reviews for Life, underwater
Dragon made me do it chapter 1 . 6/6/2011
This story is absolutely wonderful! My favourites of your shorter ones so far. The sting in the tail at the end definitely reminded me of personal experiences and was spot on - and it made it real that you can have that kind of level of intensity from such a small amount of interaction. I am glad you didn't add in more time in their relationship because the point of it is a brief but intense flame. I really love the fish metaphors and the endless threads you weave into this. Genius!

If I read this as a published piece, I still would have considered it very highly.

Typos and suggestions:

I would have liked just a tiny bit of back story for the man - maybe just another five words to describe his job? And maybe a sentence or two about why she is so unhappy in her work, it is clear that her work relationships are not good, and this alone is sufficient to tarnish the whole job, but I would also like to know what drew her into this area in the first place, what she would have loved about the work had she been more respected. Why she stuck it out until they gave her a chance. Again, I have personal experience here and I thought it rang true.

'Sinewy' - given that she seems to be quite attractive and have womanly powers, I would choose a more positive word to describe her figure, like gossamer-like, slender, svelte, you can probably find something better than me.

'I'd follow her to her the moon.' - Take out the second her.

'Perkin's sigh' - in another place you see Perkins, so it should be Perkins' I assume.

I was a bit confused about the following: 'Now, now I'm a woman' - does this mean that the female changed from a girl to a woman because she had matured, or that the male character actually changed into a woman in the sense of fish changing gender? This could be made clearer.

Personally I liked the complex descriptions and I think it would have been a lesser story without them. I can see that in some stories it would clog it up, but I think because this is a fairly philosophical story, it makes sense to go into depth of the subtle semantics.

There are parts where it does get confusing because of the constant movement between who is the character whose voice we are in, where are we, when are we ... but I think that this is perfect for this piece, because this movement echoes the movement of fish in the water, swirling around chaotically. The movement of the story makes you feel like you are scuba-diving. It made me open YouTube and watch videos of people scuba-diving and miss it! I disagree about the other reviewer's comments about needing more structure and driven plot. This is just not that kind of story, and it doesn't have to belong in every story. This story has its own rhythm and should not be hacked away at!

I also liked the fact that in the ending, they didn't see each other again. This is reality. When people get scared of relationships, they disappear, they don't phone you up and workshops their emotions or run into you at the pub.

And how dare you miss 'I didn't like midnight's children' (one of my favourite books) quote Salman Rushdie! :p I did love that reference though ;-)

Favourite lines - there are so many! [And incidentally if you stuck these together it would make a good poem]:

Her crossed legs dangled high heels from her toes like fishhooks.

I liked fish.

"We're men aren't we? And God damn it, we're British." Shackleton [incidentally my favourite Shackleton quote is 'after this, nothing will be hard.' - I should use that in something].

From four glass walls, and the mercurial underbelly of the water's surface, silver-shimmer beauty reflects back at him.

Loneliness seeps from him, filling up the tank water with sadness...Literally, you see, because fish leak pheromones [though I would consider joining this into the same paragraph].

Though each person sits in their own anhydrous bubble, the air hangs soggy with our unspoken lives.

Her eyes were open oysters stolen from me with a turn of her head. She lifted a glass of bourbon to her lips. The air grew so thick and muddy with pheromones I could taste them.

Her skirt swirled around her re-crossing legs, stingrays encircling her calves. The ocean locked in the salty currents of my blood surged. Jealousy. Desire. Waves lapping at my heart.

If I'd had a tail I'd have wrapped it round her seahorse-tight.

My body itched to move like liquid, to twist, to coil, to breathe to a beat. She grabbed my hand and ran down the street. A peal of laughter drifts in her wake.

Like cells in a jellyfish we bathe in the gushing soup of our messages to each other. Caught up in the flow or abandoned in the circular twirl of an eddy [don't forget, jellyfish are eeeeevil!]

Gritty city air eases into my lungs. The bus rumbles into gear with a miasma of diesel fumes and the view from the window dissolves.

A red light chases a space on the road and flocks of people snatch across, a school of fish channelled through a concrete reef.

the narcosis

Catch and release. Never again would I think it a humane method of fishing. [Gets cookie points because of what it means in the context of the story]

if she swam my way again, I'd have clung to her like a suckerfish.

more substantial than the ephemeral vlei lakes of solitude

a bus as big as a whale cruises past, a belly full of sad eyed city folk, staring through the glass at life's wares displayed. Framed as I am by the aquarium of the pub windows
Narq chapter 1 . 2/20/2011
Okay, this for the WCC review?

:takes a huge breath and plunges:

He's beautiful, but beauty is a dangerous thing. Beauty can catch you trouble, trap you in the tentacles of another's desire

- beautiful indeed!

My seat on the bus vibrates as I gaze through my window into his.

- Hm, not so sure about the word “vibrates”. I mean, the meaning in itself is fine, it’s just the word that seems to catch me out. Consider: shudders?

She drank like a fish. I liked fish. Instant attraction.

- I like fish and I like that too!

I like fish because my working day is immersed in their world. …Higher into the alpine lakes, faster through the genome, deeper into the oceans' secrets: Science would fulfil our every desire.”

- that’s all really well written, but I’d like some more story in this. (yeah, I’m sorry). I mean, what’s happening? Maybe even weave in another character from work or something? Just to let us understand this woman/man more?

Perhaps because I'm a woman

- you asked me if you should or shouldn’t state the gender. Since you’ve actually woven it in well, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Possibly, even IF it is a lesbian relationship, the feeling/emotion may work, just because she may feel she doesn’t fit in. And so, yes, I am leaning towards the Woman. So, it doesn’t matter for me if it is a woman or not.

Beautiful though they are, the reflections aren't company. He is trapped in solitary.

- very nice!

It would be good if there was a bit of story between this: “Loneliness seeps from him, filling up the tank water with sadness.” And this, “Fish leak pheromones, chemical signals, like people leak facial expressions. …. smell of being alone.” Otherwise it feels a bit lectury.

My bubble burst when she'd smiled.

- AH, FINALLY, the story!I do think either push this up, or (maybe this may be better) don’t move it, and weave another character, perhaps a man, a workmate who helps her, who potentially likes her?

A flush of cuttlefish red bloomed across my cheeks, realising her smile was aimed at me.

- nope, it’s in first person POV, so… she wouldn’t see that it was cuttlefish red, right? Or, you could say that I know that I blush cuttlefish red or something.

Her eyes were open oysters stolen from me with a turn of her head. She lifted a glass of bourbon to anemone-soft lips. The air grew so thick and muddy with pheromones I could taste them.

- um, actually, I think there’s a bit overkill here, sorry, as much as I like it. Too much of the fish metaphor.

YES! The whole bit before the “Love: you feel like you are flying, but all the while you're sinking deeper.” Para, is really STORY, that’s what we want more of!

Like cells in a jellyfish we bathe in the gushing soup of our messages to each other. Caught up in the flow or abandoned in the circular twirl of an eddy, one thing remains inviolate: people can't live without the lubrication of social ties.

- again, I felt that this was overwriting, unless you could have some story to dilute it a bit?

How to strike a balance between drowning and dying of thirst engulfs our waking moments.

-But that being said, I like this.

I do think that before that whole drowning bit, before that Catch and release idea, there should be more story about what our two characters did, SHOW that they really did have a relationship – or maybe was the narrator ‘thinking’ that they had relationship which in actual fact she didn’t?

Catch and release. Never again would I think it a humane method of fishing.

- again wonderful!

it would be good to have some story again around “I had to go”, like a breakup scene or something?

Already my skin began to dry.

-again, maybe some story about this, maybe his/her family calling in saying that they were concerned or something?

Um, Okay, I know that there's a really distinct style in the story, but I think when you're playing around with the metaphors so much, you need to be careful that you don't wring your readers dry. It's certainly good to be consistent, but you need to remember that it's the STORY that draws our reader's attention, and THEN the technique! (of course you know that, I'm merely stating it).

All done?

Robert Shannon chapter 1 . 1/28/2011
I like the richness of your writing, lots of allusions make for lots of images. And it's funny in places too. Your comparison of fish culture with human is surprising yet convincing. The whole thing is convincing, I feel like I need a swim.


I wonder how it would sound all in present tense...

'...the echo of its idling engines.' [buses usually only have one engine, at least where I live]

'Us humans have sealed...' [s/b 'We'?]

'...from behind the safety of the microscope lens.' [wouldn't 'shield' sound good here? or if you really wanted to get fancy: 'aegis']

'circular twirl of an eddy' ['swirl'?]

'serene as a sea cow' [I would consider 'manatee' here]

'Gills wetted to saturation point, I crawled home.' [how does it sound if you remove 'point'?]
Supercell chapter 1 . 1/9/2011
I see that you did your lessons on Fishes. I like how you compared Fishes from humans, both their similarities and differences.

On the other hand, the first paragraph/sentences of the story were too cheesy for me. I like that you have a large arsenal of words in your vocabulary but I find it better if you use simpler words.

Lastly, this might just be me but you describe things "too much". It's great that you can imagine your thoughts very well and describe it as well, but as a reader I find it a bit overexerting in effort. I mean simpler descriptions are better because your story is on "General" after all. If not most, then some readers might find it tiresome having to read multiple descriptions of single action.
alcibiaquilades chapter 1 . 1/2/2011
Brilliant; I really enjoyed reading this!

Your imaging was beautiful and clever, incorporating just enough of the real-life facts to make the fish metaphor easy to understand. It was realistic as well, in that a fish-scientist would clearly use fish metaphors!

You touched on some deep points here - points which relate to all humans and not just to your character - and I thought that you handled them very well. A nice touch, in my opinion, was leaving the protagonist nameless and writing in first really got the point across that the issues were relevant to all who read this.

Your vocabulary was rich and varied, adding to the beauty of the piece. And the length of the story was just right; enough to get you thinking without being tediously long and drawn out.

The dialogue was also very good. Some authors get too caught up in writing dialogue and others shy away from it to the extent that the little they include is awkward and unnatural...but I thought that the speach you included flowed well with the rest of the story and was short and to the point.

Very well done; I can honestly find nothing to criticise!

Thank you for sharing such a good story,

-Lelegeia x
The Saturday Storytellers chapter 1 . 12/30/2010
"It was beautiful, but beauty is a dangerous thing." I've always liked the idea of beauty as sinister. Some of the scariest things are those that appear beautiful or deliberately harmless (like cute little girls hiding axes behind their backs). It just has a whole new level to it.

Paragraphs one and two seem to have different contexts, and I'm finding them disorientating. Is that deliberate or mistaken? The first seems to be in the ocean and looking up at the surface, and the other is perhaps in a room and looking into a fish tank.

Oh, on a bus, then. What's a fish tank doing on a bus? o.O

With the paragraph, "Fish leak pheromones...", I feel that this story is finding its feet. Your writing is very elegant at its best, and it's just got into its stride here!

Reading through further, I think this is one of those stories that's dreamlike enough that a reviewer can't really say all that much about it. I'm trying, but really it's kind of like an out of body experience: you aren't really able to judge, you can only watch. The thing about stories like that is, they depend on the author to be meticulous in their wordcraft and I think mostly you've got it in this offering.

""Well, Sal-mon Rushdie says there are Plentimaw fish in the sea."" Oh, bless!

"Love: you feel like you are flying, but all the while you're sinking deeper." Yeah, actually... yeah.

"If I'd had a tail I'd have wrapped it round her seahorse-tight." And this is a pleasingly unusual way of looking at the idea of fish and water. And again - the emotion behind the idea of wrapping one's tail around one's lover, that sense of neediness, works perfectly here. Perhaps it's the fact that he's getting drunk so often and perhaps also, can only relate to her when drunk.

"There weren't even any starfish." This paragraph is amazing, up until this starfish comment. I'm not sure what it's relating to. Not being able to see the star-filled sky, perhaps? Or is it a reference to starfish being carrion-eaters of sorts?

"Already my skin began to dry." Yes - again, it makes sense only as a metaphor, but so beautifully so!

Wonderful! And a wonderful conclusion, as well. Perfect timing, perfect insight, and perfect reference to fish.

- From We Return Reviews.
Arcadia Lynch chapter 1 . 12/14/2010
I'm sorry, I have to say I did not finish this piece. The opening is interesting, but not in such a way that it hooked me in. It felt more like reading some depressed poet's live journal rather than a story or poem.

The assumed character isn't really sympathetic in my book. Perhaps it's just the way I read it but it's a little too much like Holden Caufield in catcher in the rye, I was left wondering why I was reading it rather than making a connection.

The writing was too flowery, I guess. The descriptions were beautiful, but it was all disjointed. I couldn't find the structure of a story in the first few paragraphs so it lost me.

I think it's that the concept is more philosophy than narrative. Yes, the angelfish is lonely and fish communicate through chemical transfer in the water, that's nice, and there is a beautiful extended metaphor it that, but what HAPPENS.

I think that this need pacing work, because I couldn't get into it from the beginning. You need to bring the action of the story out first then layer it with everything else that you wish for the story to have.

If you're writing a story for others to read the most important part should be plot. I stopped reading because I couldn't find it in the first little bit of the story. Your writing conventions are fine and you can do a beautiful metaphor but I am sorry, I just didn't enjoy the piece.
this wild abyss chapter 1 . 12/13/2010
I loved the extended metaphor you employed in this piece. You kept the references and imagery consistent throughout this, kept bringing it back to the reader's mind, which I thought was great. And it was such an odd idea that it might have seemed kind of out-there, but you managed to tie it all in because the narrator studied fish. The actual content of this was brilliant as well. I liked how it wasn't a classic guy meet girl, they fall in love, sort of romance piece. That aspect of it made it very beautiful and realistic.

All in all, an absolutely wonderful bit of writing.
RedactedNoLongerWriting chapter 1 . 10/10/2010
Cool story. The writing is really interesting, funny and poignant in some parts and very thoughtful. I liked the repeated reference to Salman Rushdie and the Plentimaw fish. The banter between the main character and the woman was cute and believable.

Probably my favorite part of this was the description of the lonely angelfish. I felt really bad for it, and, from that, for the narrator. It was a lovely way to bring in the fish metaphor and develop the character at the same time.

Great job and good luck on the WCC!
lookingwest chapter 1 . 10/9/2010
Ahh! Sophie I am in LOVE with this. I have like, no criticisms at all, so this review is going to sound extremely lacking and twenty different kinds of lame. But starting with character, I absolutely love how everything is just compared to swimming or water or fish-you kept the themes so consistent. The Plentimaw fish thing was hilarious and it made me look twice a bit to get it towards the end, but when I got it I was like: you're so clever O_O

The setting-I liked how you went back and forth between the bartender, and then you started with this image of a fish tank and the angel fish, and then into the moments of the date too. I liked seeing the character develop through playing off this woman that he fell in love with. That whole thing was just wonderful.

And then dialogue, like I said, clever as ever. Writing style with the similes and metaphors was perfect-a huge giant highlight of this piece for sure! I really loved this one Sophie, I think it's definitley one of my favorites from this round so far. The just blatant metaphor of relationships and fish and the sea and the constant fluidity of it all tied nicely together through wonderful character development and dialogue was the best o_o And speaking of bests, best of luck in the WCC!
RavenclawMoose chapter 1 . 10/9/2010
I enjoyed this piece, but I also found it very sad, almost bitter. It had a relate-able message that it's better to be around other people than to try to protect yourself by being alone, but it made me extremely sad that the narrator still felt alone even among all the people. He seemed to have a somewhat hopeless air, to me.

Sercus Kaynine chapter 1 . 10/8/2010
"She drank like a fish. I liked fish. Instant attraction."


I adored the fish metaphor throughout this. It was very, how to say it... unique! A fish scientist and a life lesson. Something you don't see every day. The little details you threw in referring to fish and the ocean and such were really creative.

Good job and good luck in WCC!
silverbluu chapter 1 . 10/5/2010
Hey Sophie, I see you have decided to join WCC October :D.

A very different take on the prompt than I would have expected. This was an interesting mix between story, social commentary, and animal science.

I never thought of dust smelling like coconut husk.

I see an emphasis of water, and dryness. Only suggestion I could come up with is consider a little more when describing the land/ sense of emptiness, oppression of heat, mirages to really show that it's not a fun place and better to escape back into the water.

Good luck to you too.
Michael Howard chapter 1 . 10/5/2010
This was your very best one-shot. The steady stream (blub blub 8-) of aquatic analogies were both amusing and insightful, while the prose was downright poetic at times ("powdered neglect") yet your language never crossed over into pretentiousness. And short as it was, this piece still managed to provide a definite resolution, making it a complete story rather than just a random keyhole glimpse of a lonely man's existence.

Constantine Westwood chapter 1 . 10/5/2010
I like it. I think it's well-seasoned with the aquatic imagery; it's consistently appropriate without seeming overdone or gimmicky. It even sounds a little like the narrator is surrounding himself in his work for lack of anything else to attach to.

We barely hear anything about the woman beyond appearance and the joke at the first meeting; I like that, frankly. It emphasises that we're not talking really about a relationship here, but rather about passion - a brutal, intense emotion that is not about the details.

My only two minor complaints: I'm not really sure what "the surface" is supposed to be. Did the narrator spend time isolating himself? Did he stay in the apartment mainly? Stop going to work? Just a sentence or two to give us some clearer idea of what the "surface" entailed would appease me.

Also, "Without them, we are fish out of water."

Consider the possibility of tying this back to your opening image of a caged fish; "fish out of water" is a little cliche, and it would give us a nice sense of coming full-circle.
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