Military Sci-Fi opening critique please (1100 words)

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The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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Hi people, I'm preparing for (what I hope is) a final attack on my book so I can try publishing it. That said, I'm putting this up here to try and get some fresh eyes and perspective on what I've written and whether it's any good. I only posted part of the first chapter as I didn't want to make people plough through the whole 3k. Uhm... thank you for any feedback!

---

It was long past midnight, and Mariner Station’s Entertainment District was in full party mode. Sam Gibson was one of the few exceptions. Instead of sampling the delights of the district and having a good time, the burly veteran of Mars’ war with the UN was walking at the back of a patrol from Mariner Security Detail, his bright blue eyes constantly ranging over the crowd. He’d only recently started his tour as Executive Officer for Mariner’s garrison company, but he’d already learned this was when the trouble started. Something flickered in the corner of his eye, and he looked up to see a garish neon holograph proclaiming “FUN! FUN! FUN!” as though it was some kind of warning.

Sam’s broad, open face split into a grin. It never failed to amuse him how, for all of humanity’s progress in the 22nd century, for all they’d colonised the Solar System and the nearer stars, people still reached back to the most horrific things. Like neon signs. The wilfully strange and out of place had always amused him, a useful survival trait in a peacetime military officer. If you couldn’t laugh, you cried. Then the thought vanished as Corporal Rossi signalled for them to halt. That meant orders, and based on how Rossi looked even more hangdog than usual, Sam could guess what they were.

Everyone would have been just as happy if there'd been no orders all night. Normally, most of the marines enjoyed the active side of the security detail, as it was the closest they got to using their training. That was before they’d all heard the rumours about the Triplanetary Fleet’s latest adventures, the discovery of lost human colonies out in the deep dark. Tasering belligerent drunks just didn’t stack up well against that. Tonight, everyone wanted to be swapping rumours and secretly plotting their transfer, Sam Gibson included.

“There’s been a complaint about disruptive behaviour at Heaven and Hell.”
Rossi’s voice reminded them that they weren’t free to daydream of possible glory. He turned the patrol around and led them back the way they came without another word, Sam waiting for everyone else to move past him. He couldn’t blame Rossi for maybe feeling a little short about the current situation. Most corporals would have been pretty unhappy if an officer had attached themselves at short notice, as Sam had. Still, he was new and needed to find out how things worked here somehow. When Lance-Corporal Lightfoot had come down with a twisted ankle, it had seemed the ideal opportunity to advance his education.

Major Bielski had been a little surprised when he'd first requested to join the patrol, but had agreed. He liked Dan Bielski, had always rated him as a good officer, but he seemed a little disinterested these days. Based on what he’d seen so far, Sam couldn’t blame him. This was a dull posting, and worse, the men realised that. Maybe he'd decide that days sat behind his desk and in the Operations room watching the sports channels would be better after all, just like Bielski had. Just another officer slowly fading away, watching his pension mount up and his waist spread out. He’d seen it before, but only now was understanding the appeal.

It certainly felt like a better idea than the patrol. Half the squad seemed to be resenting his presence, while the other half seemed to be in awe of him, or at least of the ribbons on his uniform. He'd tried to think of words to defuse the situation but couldn’t find any. At least he wasn’t wearing the ribbons now, in the comfort of combat fatigues, but that didn’t make him one of them. Sam knew that in his bones, knew he didn’t have the magic touch to fit in with the others. So he kept silent, and watched.

Heaven and Hell loomed above them, faux opulence with bronze-orange neon lettering running up and down the building. The doormen, shaven heads and cheap suits gleaming in the fluorescent haze, managed barely civil nods.

"What's happening in there?" Corporal Rossi asked.
Sam half-tuned out, preferring to read the intelligence logged about the venue on his wrist tactical display. If he'd had his way, they'd be doing this in full armour, so it came up on the helmet visor instead, but the brass insisted on standard uniform. Didn’t want to scare the locals.
"Bunch of guys in a private booth don’t wanna. Boss wants them out."
"Why aren't you handling this?"
"That’s what our taxes pay you for," the doorman shrugged, happy to be unhelpful.

Sam looked up, eyebrows nearly merging with his hair. It was unbelievable, and the doorman seemed to both know it and not care. His brief read of the file said this was not a place that welcomed the authorities. Yet here they were, stepping back to let the Security Detail in. Rossi's hangdog face looked nonplussed.
"Okay. How many?"
"About six. You can handle that, right?" The doorman’s sneer grew wider.
"Are they armed?" Rossi ignored the sarcasm.
"Probably not,” he replied.
Corporal Rossi just stood there staring at the man and Sam could practically hear him thinking. If they were armed, he'd need the whole squad, maybe back up. If they weren't, maybe he
could do it with just four men – and avoid involving Gibson.

"Want me to secure the alternate exits?" Sam offered, throwing him a lifeline.
"Good idea, sir. Secure the emergency exit and be ready to offer support. My team, we're going in after them. Let’s move out.”
Sam gestured for the section to fall in as he shuffled through the tactical data to find the blueprints.
"I know where it is sir," one of the grunts volunteered. Lindholm; that was it. tall, dark and pale. Like an extra from a horror movie.
"Lead on."

The fire exit was located in a side alley that had been liberally doused with eau de urine and worse, festooned with huge and overflowing steel bins. It was possibly the least pleasant place Sam had seen in some time – playing policeman, waiting with three bored and silent grunts, situated some ten thousand light-years west of his childhood dreams. He looked down at his wrist, scanning the blueprints of the place and wondered if this was a good call. Maybe they should have called in back-up; he hadn’t liked the doorman’s answer. It wasn’t his call though - he was just the observer. Unless it all went wrong, that was, then all of a sudden he’d be considered the officer commanding and the blame would fall on his own handsome head.
 
Muha-ha-ha, and all that there. Be warned, I come with teeth. :) You'll see my summary comments at the bottom but as you go through, comments are in bold, italicised sections were info that wasn't needed for me.


Hi people, I'm preparing for (what I hope is) a final attack on my book so I can try publishing it. That said, I'm putting this up here to try and get some fresh eyes and perspective on what I've written and whether it's any good. I only posted part of the first chapter as I didn't want to make people plough through the whole 3k. Uhm... thank you for any feedback!

---

It was long past midnight, and Mariner Station’s Entertainment District was in full party mode. Sam Gibson was one of the few exceptions. Instead of sampling the delights of the district and having a good time, the burly veteran If you're going with close point of view then this takes me out of it - he wouldn't think of himself this war, surely? of Mars’ war with the UN was walking at the back of a patrol from Mariner Security Detail, his bright blue eyes my teeth are slightly on edge - we're already had it dropped in that he's burly, now we're getting his blue eyes. Do we need this? How important are either, at this stage? constantly ranging over the crowd.can you show this crowd? Some noise? Pushing past one of the them? Make it come alive? He’d only recently started his tour as Executive Officer for Mariner’s garrison company, but he’d already learned this was when the trouble started. Something flickered in the corner of his eye, and he looked up to see a garish neon holograph proclaiming “FUN! FUN! FUN!” as though it was some kind of warning.Despite my pov niggles, I'm happy enough that I know what's going on.

Sam’s - see, this is why the extra description gets in my way - I'd forgotten his name! broad, open(Arrrggghhhh! - also, what is a broad, open face? I can see an open stance, but I'm struggling with a face) face split into a grin. It never failed to amuse him how, for all of humanity’s progress in the 22nd century, for all they’d colonised the Solar System and the nearer stars, people still reached back to the most horrific things. Like neon signs. The wilfully strange and out of place had always amused him, a useful survival trait in a peacetime military officer. If you couldn’t laugh, you cried. Then do you need then? It slows things. the thought vanished as Corporal Rossi signalled for them to halt. That meant orders, and based on how Rossi looked even more hangdog than usual, Sam could guess what they were. you're about to show this...

Everyone would have been just as happy if there'd been no orders all night. Around about here, I'm feeling there is a lot of information and not a lot happening.... Normally, most of the marines enjoyed the active side of the security detail, as it was the closest they got to using their training. That was before they’d all heard the rumours about the Triplanetary Fleet’s latest adventures, the discovery of lost human colonies out in the deep dark. Tasering belligerent drunks just didn’t stack up well against that. Tonight, everyone wanted to be swapping rumours and secretly plotting their transfer, Sam Gibson included. I'm on the edge with this one - I don't need it at this point, unless it's significant to what's about to happen.

“There’s been a complaint about disruptive behaviour at Heaven and Hell.”
no new paragraph Rossi’s voice reminded why did his voice remind them of that - was it serious, or worried? What is it about the way he's speaking. If it's not the way he's speaking, it should be his words that reminded him. them that they weren’t free to daydream of possible glory. He turned the patrol around and led them back the way they came without another word, why? weren't they already at the nightclub?Sam waiting for everyone else to move past him. He couldn’t blame Rossi for maybe feeling a little short about the current situation. Most corporals would have been pretty unhappy if an officer had attached themselves at short notice, as Sam had. Here, I'm getting a bit confused as to what's going on. Still, he was new and needed to find out how things worked here somehow. When Lance-Corporal Lightfoot had come down with a twisted ankle, it had seemed the ideal opportunity to advance his education. Okay, here it makes sense, but it pulled me out a little at first - but it feels like too much info here and something we could learn later. Just being new might be enough.

Major Bielski had been a little surprised when he'd first requested to join the patrol, but had agreed. He liked Dan Bielski, had always rated him as a good officer, but he seemed a little disinterested these days. Based on what he’d seen so far, Sam couldn’t blame him. This was a dull posting, and worse, the men realised that. Maybe he'd decide that days sat behind his desk and in the Operations room watching the sports channels would be better after all, just like Bielski had. Just another officer slowly fading away, watching his pension mount up and his waist spread out. He’d seen it before, but only now was understanding the appeal. I'm really, really hoping something happens very soon.... and I think this whole paragraph could go for pace - and the next.

It certainly felt like a better idea than the patrol. Half the squad seemed to be resenting his presence, while the other half seemed to be in awe of him, or at least of the ribbons on his uniform. He'd tried to think of words to defuse the situation but couldn’t find any. At least he wasn’t wearing the ribbons now, in the comfort of combat fatigues, but that didn’t make him one of them. Sam knew that in his bones, knew he didn’t have the magic touch to fit in with the others. The repeat of knew makes this sentence feel a little odd to me. So he kept silent, and watched.

Heaven and Hell loomed above them, faux opulence with bronze-orange neon lettering running up and down the building. The doormen, shaven heads and cheap suits gleaming in the fluorescent hazeI feel you're missing a trick here (I thought the neon light section earlier was a little forced, actually, and this is reinforced here) - it feels like a modern night club. Where's the cool sf stuff? In the absence of an immediate story hook something cool might pique the interest of readers., managed barely civil nods.

"What's happening in there?" Corporal Rossi asked.
Sam half-tuned out, preferring to read the intelligence logged about the venue on his wrist tactical display. If he'd had his way, they'd be doing this in full armour, so it came up on the helmet visor instead, but the brass insisted on standard uniform. Didn’t want to scare the locals.
"Bunch of guys in a private booth don’t wanna. Boss wants them out."
"Why aren't you handling this?"
"That’s what our taxes pay you for," the doorman shrugged, happy to be unhelpfulNice.

Sam looked up, eyebrows nearly merging with his hairIt is in close point of view, in my opinion. In close you can't see things like this - you can't watch yourself. Each time it happens, it pulls me out - but I am one of the closest writers I know and am often more twitchy about this than others . It was unbelievable, what was? - again the information to explain the thought comes after he's had the thought, and it pulls me out. and the doorman seemed to both know it and not care. His brief read of the file said this was not a place that welcomed the authorities. Yet here they were, stepping back to let the Security Detail in. Rossi's hangdog face looked nonplussed.
"Okay. How many?"
"About six. You can handle that, right?" The doorman’s sneer grew wider.what sneer? he didn't have one earlier?
"Are they armed?" Rossi ignored the sarcasm.
"Probably not,” he replied.
Corporal Rossi just stood there staring at the man and Sam could practically hear him thinking. If they were armed, he'd need the whole squad, maybe back up. If they weren't, maybe he
could do it with just four men – and avoid involving Gibson.

"Want me to secure the alternate exits?" Sam offered, throwing him a lifeline.
"Good idea, sir. Secure the emergency exit and be ready to offer support. My team, we're going in after them. Let’s move out.”
Sam gestured for the section to fall in as he shuffled shuffled seems relaxed for the circumstances. through the tactical data to find the blueprints.
"I know where it is sir," one of the grunts volunteered. Lindholm; that was it. tall, dark and pale. Like an extra from a horror movie.
"Lead on."

The fire exit was located in a side alley that had been liberally doused with eau de urine and worse, festooned with huge and overflowing steel bins. It was possibly the least pleasant place Sam had seen in some time – playing policeman, waiting with three bored and silent grunts, situated some ten thousand light-years west of his childhood dreams. He looked down at his wrist, scanning the blueprints of the place and wondered if this was a good call. Maybe they should have called in back-up; he hadn’t liked the doorman’s answer. It wasn’t his call though - he was just the observer. Unless it all went wrong, that was, then all of a sudden he’d be considered the officer commanding and the blame would fall on his own handsome head.


Okay, this is smoothly written with all grammar and what not very tight. My quibbles were on the story telling aspects:

1. the jumping out of close pov to describe Sam really distracted me. There may be a place for all this info - it doesn't feel like it's here.
2. info vs hook. This all feels like info-dumping. I could have managed with a quarter of the info I got (In fact, I'll go back up and italicise the bits that I think don't add). With less info, I would have been able to better tell what bits really mattered to this scene.
3. Hook. What is the hook? Is it going into the nightclub - if so make it clearer this is a dangerous thing to do. At the moment, it feels like Sat night in the city centre and no more dangerous than what the average weekend cop faces.
4. SF feel - I think the world could be much cooler. (Note, I'm not good at this myself, and betas pull me up on it.) It's sf - enjoy making it feel a little different. Steel bins, for instance - that could be much cooler.

Hope it helps.... :)
 
There are a few criticisms I'd throw at this piece:

1) POV use - read up about this. Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer gives a concise but comprehensive overview of a ton of technicalities about writing. In this situation, your writing is very distant from the character - it's as though you're providing a written description of something happening in a film, and that is the least effective way to write. It's also rarely done these days.

2) Immediacy - get to the story! What's happening? Keep with it. Danger coming? Then don't have the character grin and digress into a monologue about the use of neon signs

3. Start with the story - where does your story start? It doesn't begin with all this background info. Get straight to something actually happening, and drip in any relevant info into the narrative as you go through the rest of the novel.

This strikes me as an early draft, so don't worry too much - you've clearly got imagination to play with. But you really need to understand the technicalities of writing to bring the best out of what you're doing. If you're rather not read wonderbook, then watch the Brandon Sanderson lactures on writing: Write About Dragons
 
In addition to what has been said above about POV, I think it might be a really handy exercise if you were to rewrite this closer to Sam's thoughts. By the second paragraph I decided I liked him event though you'd not really given much away - or rather given me much reason to like him - but I liked his soft cynicism. When you are in a distant POV and using this to describe things he already knows (and therefore is unlikely to articulate to himself, mentally) it comes across as a little expos-y and inauthentic.

However, having just said that, I found myself finding this really (really) easy to follow, despite all the info. It's clear you've done a great deal of world planning - in your head if not on paper, and obviously you're familiar with the events and situation that this Vet is in. That's where you have to make the decision of POV, I suppose: go full omni (allegedly difficult), or move in closer to Sam (more popular, and I'd say, easier... it also helps you to know your character more deeply, if you need it). The thing is, because I already like Sam, i'd like to know how he feels and experiences this all in a more personal way. Rather than telling me it never fails to amuse him how humanity's progress still focused on the horrid things, I'd probably enjoy hearing his thoughts about the neon holograph. E.G. 'Why do they still insist on using these sh***y things' etc. Further; I love the contradiction of using Fun and danger (warning) together, and I think this would be more compelling if we heard his thoughts on it, too.

I won't go on too much, but I do think you need to let the reader know up front what the tension is. Even if that is Sam thinking 'Not another bloody complaint...couldn't these idiot grunts keep civil for half an hour!' or whatever. But that would be all I need. I know it is popular (and expected) these days to have a tension or hook thrown in right at the get-go and start in medias res as often as possible, but I'm a much less demanding reader in that respect. That said, I still think it'd be more helpful to have this as less of an establishing dolly of Sam walking through the place, like Commander Adama at the opening of Battlestar Galactica.

That's about all I can think to add. You've had good advice above from the others, but I wanted to say that for all the detail and depth, you kept me engaged and interested throughout.

pH
 
Well, it looks like PoV is the biggest theme here, so I shall go away and have a good think about it, and probably rewrite it to be more of a consistent close third (which a lot of the book is in anyway).

3. Hook. What is the hook? Is it going into the nightclub - if so make it clearer this is a dangerous thing to do. At the moment, it feels like Sat night in the city centre and no more dangerous than what the average weekend cop faces.

Ah. Well, that was the feeling I was going for. The idea is that everything is dull and routine until they realise they've underestimated the situation and it's all going south. So I guess yay I achieved what I was shooting for, but the story might require something more.

If possible, I'd like to retain the feeling that the characters believe this is all average weekend police business, while cluing in the reader to the fact that it's not and stuff will go down. Maybe the answer is to have everyone else treating it like Saturday night in the city centre, with Sam worrying about what happens if it's not. If anyone has other ideas, I'm all ears.


Thank you all for your feedback and help, it's been taken to heart :)
 
As usual, I've deliberately avoided reading other people's replies so there may well be some overlap:

It was long past midnight, and Mariner Station’s Entertainment District was in full party mode. Sam Gibson was one of the few exceptions. - I'd amend the second sentence. The unspoken comparison is with other people but the first sentence is about a place. So, I'd change the second sentence to something like "Sam Gibson was not."

the burly veteran of Mars’ war with the UN - infodump. Axe.

was walking at the back of a patrol - marching?

“FUN! FUN! FUN!” as though it was some kind of warning. - nice line.

It never failed to amuse him how, for all of humanity’s progress in the 22nd century, for all they’d colonised the Solar System and the nearer stars, people still reached back to the most horrific things. - first part of this is info-dumpy. Probably axe clauses two and three.

Major Bielski had been a little surprised when he'd first requested to join the patrol, but had agreed. He liked Dan Bielski, had always rated him as a good officer, but he seemed a little disinterested these days. Based on what he’d seen so far, Sam couldn’t blame him. This was a dull posting, and worse, the men realised that. Maybe he'd decide that days sat behind his desk and in the Operations room watching the sports channels would be better after all, just like Bielski had. Just another officer slowly fading away, watching his pension mount up and his waist spread out. He’d seen it before, but only now was understanding the appeal. - I'd consider axing all of that. Takes the reader from the situation. That's sometimes ok but most of it's about boredom. Show, rather than tell, where possible. Yawning, have men trudge, sigh etc.

managed barely civil nods. - style: change 'barely civil' to 'curt'

"Bunch of guys in a private booth don’t wanna. Boss wants them out." - don't wanna what? Feels like a missing word.

"That’s what our taxes pay you for," the doorman shrugged, happy to be unhelpful. - unless this is a trap or the men are armed, this feels a little off.

could do it with just four men – and avoid involving Gibson. - the change from 'Sam' threw me. Stick with the same name (excepting dialogue).

Lindholm; that was it. tall, dark and pale. - capital T

The fire exit was located in a side alley that had been liberally doused with eau de urine and worse, festooned with huge and overflowing steel bins. - are the bins worse than the urine?


Overall I think the plot (in the limited amount I read) is fine but could be sharpened. More smells and tactile description (not reams of it, just a line here or there, trickling sweat, music in the background, the stench of beer etc).
 
If you're wanting that 'this is just another day' vibe, it might work well if you got the reader involved in that. You know, like the heroine walking into the haunted house when we all know what's coming and that's the actual tension...? So have us shouting not to go in there, while your character is merrily thinking everything is okay.

Not entirely sure how to do that, though. Maybe more clues for the reader to pick up that all is not well? Or just more of a sense of ominous. Flickering neon lights - something to make the reader go uh-oh.
 
The idea is that everything is dull and routine

IMO never a good way to start a book - it's simply killing time until the story happens. You can dismiss any such beginning with a later comment "Normally my days were dull and routine". Job done.

Alternatively, you can show the routine of the day - but in a way that shows the character being active, doing things with energy, and - importantly - also allows the seeding of plot elements, foreshadowing, etc (not through telling, but showing).
 
Well, here is redraft one. It's still about 1100 words, but events have been moved forwards and unnecessary words deleted to make it quicker. Not entirely convinced I got a sense of "This is going to go wrong" there and not much in the way of cool sci-fi hooks either alas. The mention of discovering new planets has been kept because it is essential for the rest of the book. There's a couple of things in this that I'm rather unsure about - I'm not highlighting them as I want to see if they jump out at anyone else, but do please advise me if in future I'd be better off highlighting them.

Think that's it, let's see what you make of the changes and thank you all once again

---

Sam Gibson was annoyed.
It wasn’t because it was late and everyone else in Mariner Station’s Entertainment District was in full party mode while he patrolled with the Security Detail. Sam wasn’t a party person and even if he was, it wouldn’t be with the frantically drunk star crew all around. It wouldn’t be here either. He looked up at one building to see a garish neon holograph proclaiming “FUN! FUN! FUN!” as though it was some kind of warning. The sheer tackiness of it always made him grin; the place was always rammed.

It wasn’t because the rest of the patrol were edgy around him either. Well, maybe a little, but he couldn’t blame them and so it was only a little. No one wanted the company’s new Executive Officer staring over their shoulders. The problem was he couldn’t see how else he was meant to learn about his new deployment. Still, half the squad resented him being here and the other half were in awe of him. Another officer would have put them at ease with a good joke or something, but Sam wasn’t that officer. He wasn’t a people person either.

“There has been a complaint about disruptive behaviour at Heaven and Hell,” the comms operator from HQ announced.
“Roger. On our way.”
That was Corporal Rossi, stifling a yawn once he was off the radio. This was their fifth call-out in the last two hours and every single one had been a case of being incredibly patient with the incredibly inebriated. Part of Sam wanted to grab the man and shake him until he understood this was potentially a dangerous situation and should be treated thusly. The other part sympathised entirely. Besides, the brass had made it clear this wasn’t meant to be dangerous. They wore fatigues, not their armour, carried tasers and flashbangs and nothing else. A non-aggressive stance, they called it. Well, they still looked pretty aggressive to Sam; just they looked underarmed too. He’d have a word with Major Bielski about that, see if anything could be changed.

The crowds ignored them until they reached Heaven and Hell itself. The building loomed above them, faux opulence with holographs of previous patrons enjoying themselves, some with VR headsets and some with each other, running up and down the building. The bouncers, shaven heads and cheap suits gleaming in the fluorescent haze, managed barely civil nods.

"What's the issue here?" said Corporal Rossi.
Sam half-tuned out, preferring to read the intelligence logged about the venue on his wrist tactical display. He’d heard tales of this club already, the unofficial centre of Mariner’s illicit trade, but he wanted to know more. Besides, this was Rossi’s show. Not his.
"Bunch of guys in a private booth don’t wanna pay. Boss wants them out."
"Why aren't you handling this?"
"That’s what our taxes pay you for," the doorman shrugged, happy to be unhelpful.
Sam murmured something rude under his breath. As stories went, it was as offensive to the brain as their aftershave was to the nose. They used every excuse to keep the authorities out at Heaven and Hell and yet here they were, stepping back to let the Security Detail in. Rossi looked even more hangdog than usual and the doorman was sneering, daring them to challenge him.
"Okay. How many?"
"About six. You can handle that, right?" The doorman’s sneer grew wider.
"Are they armed?" Rossi ignored the sarcasm.
"Of course not. We don’t allow guns in here.”
Corporal Rossi just stood there staring at the man and Sam knew exactly what he was thinking. If they were armed, he'd need the whole squad, maybe back up. If they weren't, maybe he could do it with just four men – and avoid involving Sam. The doorman was as trustworthy as sinking sand but Rossi wanted to do this himself.
“Right, my section, we’re going in after them.” Rossi tried to sound decisive but he glanced at Sam, unsure what orders to give his superior.
"Want me to secure the emergency exit?" Sam offered, throwing him a lifeline.
"Good idea, sir. Secure the emergency exit and be ready to offer support. Let’s go.”
Sam gestured for his borrowed section to fall in as he shuffled through the tactical data to find the blueprints.
"I know where it is sir," one of the grunts volunteered. Lindholm; that was it. Tall, dark and pale. Like an extra from a horror movie.
"Lead on."

The fire exit was located in a side alley that had been liberally doused with eau de urine and worse. The huge overflowing bins were covered with dried vomit. It was possibly the least pleasant place Sam had seen in some time – playing policeman, waiting with three grunts who didn’t want to know, situated some ten thousand light-years west of his childhood dreams. This was what was annoying him; he’d never wanted to be a peacetime soldier. He’d made the best of it, keeping himself amused with the insanity of bureaucrats and soldiers alike, but tonight he hated it. He’d hated it ever since he’d heard the rumours about the Triplanetary Fleet’s latest adventures, the discovery of lost human colonies out in the deep dark.

With a deep breath, he focused on the job in front of him and examined the blueprints of the venue. He didn’t like the situation. Maybe they should have called in the armed back-up. It wasn’t his call though - he was just the observer. Unless it all went wrong though, that was, then all of a sudden he’d be considered the officer commanding and the blame would fall on his own handsome head.

Across the alley, the men had gathered around Lindholm, who was showing them something on his civvie comm; pictures of a woman, if Sam read their reactions right. One of his sergeants back in the Independence War had been like that. Always showing off photos off his latest girlfriend every chance he got. At least he claimed they were his girlfriends. They called him Peacock, always showing off. There was one in every company. Peacock had died at Second Vesta had they never did hear from any of the girls afterwards.

A loud bang interrupted his reverie. He prayed that it was some sound effect, but that hopeful delusion was shattered by more shots and people screaming in terror. The grunts stared at him then gathered around, photos and girls forgotten.
"Rossi, this is Gibson, we can hear firing. What is the situation?" he said into the radio mic. "I repeat, what is the situation?"
 
Sam wasn’t a party person and even if he was, - finickity (you would get away with this), but it should be 'if he were'. Subjunctive, not indicative.

He looked up at one building to see a garish neon - axe the 'looked' filter. "Twenty feet up a building, a garish neon..." etc [or similar].

It wasn’t because the rest of the patrol were edgy around him either. - clarify the 'it'? Might just be me but feels a little while since the 'it' was explained.

and so it was only a little. - axe

but Sam wasn’t that officer. He wasn’t a people person either. - feels a shade repetitive. Maybe "...but Sam wasn't a people person."?

“Roger. On our way.”
That was Corporal Rossi, stifling a yawn once he was off the radio. - why not just have "Corporal Rossi answered, stifling a yawn..."?

This was their fifth call-out in the last two hours and every single one had been a case of being incredibly patient with the incredibly inebriated. - sentiment fine, but two 'incredibly's in a short space. Could change to 'inebriated louts' or suchlike.

be treated thusly. - that way? Might just be me but 'thusly' reads a little old-fashioned.

; just they looked underarmed too. - 'they just' reads better.

The building loomed - 'club'. More specific, reads better. [As an aside, there's also the nice double meaning of a weapon over their heads].

As stories went, it was as offensive to the brain as their aftershave was to the nose. - nice.

“Right, my section, we’re going in after them.” - axe the 'my'. There's no other section about, is there?

The huge overflowing bins were covered with dried vomit. - style: drying?

He prayed that it was some sound effect, - from where? Unless you have something beforehand (outdoor theatre?) this seems out of place.
 
That works better for me - there is some repetition in it that I think you'll pick up in the next pass (like that he's not in charge) but it feels clearer and reads quicker, getting to the hook with much less detail to wade through.
 
The second posting was better and it's good to see you care enough to go back and revise what you'd already done The Big Peat.

Sill too much telling instead of showing for me, and with too much padding. I would prefer your writing to be a lot more concise. The padding slowed the plot down and made the story line predictable, which is never where you want to be. There are still POV issues for me and this needs to be controlled more (if the terms I'm using are a problem please say so). However, and this is very positive, for a new member your writing is of a very high standard and much better than my first attempts. If your serious about improving your writing you've come to the right place in the big old web, even if it is a small dark dusty corner of the internet. Keep at it and like Jo says, focus on the hook and from me, focus on the reader and what you show them (or not - called suspense). Anyway, good luck with it.
 
Thoughts from a reader, one who reads a lot of military SF, but not a writer: (I did not read the previous crits of this.)

the place was always rammed.
I have only a vague idea what this means. The leading candidate "jammed" as in full. But it could also mean everyone in the place was drunken.

I was left wondering what "Sam" was doing there. Wasn't he the head huncho? Shouldn't he be giving the orders? Why did he need a life line? Guarding the emergency exit has to be among the most obvious moves in the world. Why did he not think of that in the first place?

I also wondered about the lack of a clear focus. Why was he looking at the guy looking at his personal com? Why all that stuff about "peacock?" It didn't seem to be going anywhere.

The opening feeling for me is that this is an opening that will have little to do with the real story to come. ---- I'm not sure that's a good thing.
 
This is my very first post, but I need to get my feet into this water, so here's some thoughts. Excuse me please if I am just showing my ignorance over providing useful advice ...

I definitely preferred the second cut to the first. Like many of the reviewers above I felt both distant, and than it was too info heavy in the first edit. The second edit feels lighter, more active, and I feel closer to Sam, moving around the scene quite quickly with him. However I still don't feel too close, yet I feel like I want to know this guy a bit closer. I feel that there is a still strong narrator voice that is competing with Sam's voice. I wonder if we can hear more of what Sam if thinking through some vocalisations, whisperings or mutterings, rather than being told. For example,

Part of Sam wanted to grab the man and shake him until he understood this was potentially a dangerous situation and should be treated thusly.

I'd like to hear and see Sam's distain for this guy. So maybe ...

'I'm going to kick his backside before we're done with this,' muttered Sam, out of earshot, 'He's going to get us all f***ed over.' Sam spat some gum onto the sidewalk in Rossi's general direction.

The loud bang acts as a good hook. Up until the loud bang, the piece isn't very aural, apart from the dialogue obviously. On a plus side, this starkness gives you a sharp turn in the action. On the other hand, if there was more noise going on, and therefore more confusion over the first bang, I think it would add to the tension.

My overall feeling from the first edit was that I wouldn't want to read on. But that changed on the second edit, and I really want to know what's happening in that room with Rossi.
 
Just one small point. Near the end, someone is described as "tall, dark and pale". Self-contradictory - or at least might appear so at first glance. I would write "tall, dark-haired and pale". If, that is, what the man is supposed to look like.
 
This is my very first post, but I need to get my feet into this water, so here's some thoughts. Excuse me please if I am just showing my ignorance over providing useful advice ...

Welcome to the forum and thank you for your feedback. Can I suggest making a thread in the introductions forum as a way of getting your feet even wetter?

Also, every voice is useful, and the only way to learn which advice is the best is to give it and see! I'm finding that out myself, both as a critter and an author. I'm still not sure how to get the most out of this myself :)

Thank you to everyone else too of course.
 
I'm still not sure how to get the most out of this myself :)

Thank you to everyone else too of course.

I think that's a process that differs from person to person. Some people get lots of crits and look for themes. Some get daunted with too much feedback and sort of freeze. Some - I wince at my past self - try to fix everything mentioned and get in a mess.

Now, I tend to let the feedback sit for a while and my mind mull over it until I can see the new, better shape.
I also try to be braver about sticking to my own ideas and trust myself a little more - but that's hard, especially at the start.
 
I'm in the minority. I really liked the first version - POV wobbles and all. The first few paragraphs of the second version seem heavy to me. This is what I mean:

Sam Gibson was annoyed.
It wasn’t because it was late and everyone else in Mariner Station’s Entertainment District was in full party mode while he patrolled with the Security Detail. Sam wasn’t a party person and even if he was, it wouldn’t be with the frantically drunk star crew all around. It wouldn’t be here either. He looked up at one building to see a garish neon holograph proclaiming “FUN! FUN! FUN!” as though it was some kind of warning. The sheer tackiness of it always made him grin; the place was always rammed.

In the first version, you started with two clear, concise sentences, although the third is info-dumpy. The second version starts with a clear statement, but I don't find annoyance a very hooky emotion. The second and third sentences of the second version lost me.

The FUN! FUN! FUN! sentence was a clever clincher for the paragraph. It loses some of its impact when it's buried in the middle of the paragraph.

With "always made him grin", he steps out of the moment. Why not make it more direct: "He grinned at its sheer tackiness."

It wasn’t because the rest of the patrol were edgy around him either. Well, maybe a little, but he couldn’t blame them and so it was only a little. No one wanted the company’s new Executive Officer staring over their shoulders. The problem was he couldn’t see how else he was meant to learn about his new deployment. Still, half the squad resented him being here and the other half were in awe of him. Another officer would have put them at ease with a good joke or something, but Sam wasn’t that officer. He wasn’t a people person either.

To me, the way he vacillates (does he blame them, or doesn't he?) seems a little too insipid for a veteran of active service. I also think that the sentence starting with "The problem" could be re-written to make him more decisive. On the other hand, the comparison with "another officer" worked well, in my opinion.

“There has been a complaint about disruptive behaviour at Heaven and Hell,” the comms operator from HQ announced.
“Roger. On our way.”
That was Corporal Rossi, stifling a yawn once he was off the radio. This was their fifth call-out in the last two hours and every single one had been a case of being incredibly patient with the incredibly inebriated. Part of Sam wanted to grab the man and shake him until he understood this was potentially a dangerous situation and should be treated thusly. The other part sympathised entirely. Besides, the brass had made it clear this wasn’t meant to be dangerous. They wore fatigues, not their armour, carried tasers and flashbangs and nothing else. A non-aggressive stance, they called it. Well, they still looked pretty aggressive to Sam; just they looked underarmed too. He’d have a word with Major Bielski about that, see if anything could be changed.

His concerns about the patrol's attitude are very general. I'd like a more specific example of their different perspectives on risk: something - a hazard or a civilian behaving oddly - that Sam notices but the others ignore. This could be an opportunity to drop in information about his active service. (As an example, an army officer returned from Afghanistan told me how he went on instant alert when he saw a large cooking-oil can outside a take-away food shop in Sydney; these were popular containers for improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.) Another thought: Sam might frown at some indication of the patrol's lack of readiness - slung rifles, perhaps.

From here on, I increasingly enjoyed the second version.
 
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