Chapter 1: "A Place Of No Secrets" (dystopian sci-fi, 2360 words)

jd73

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Hi,

I know it's a bit cheeky to post so soon after my 30 posts, but I just want to know how chapter one is looking. Here it is




~ * ~

A Place of No Secrets

Rain. Hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City. Smacking into concrete, slicing through latticeworked endless gantries; falling forever. The clouds in their immutable sky give nothing away of when this storm might end, but it doesn’t matter any more, not when a sense of time is in such short supply. Perhaps the storm has always been raging.

Onto one vertiginous walkway a door opens, nudging clumps of old pornography against brickwork. A tin falls over unheeded, and tumbles into this dismal abyss, but if it ever clangs onto a street down there, no-one will know; not the trillionaires in their dreamships above the sky, not the snake addicts that infest Godwell’s Precinct and elsewhere, not the anonymous face – metallic, one among billions, lightly scuffed, and with the two vertical eye-slits and cautious mouth-hole of a generic service chromebot – that peers out of the gap in the doorway now. All they know of is the rain.

To a whine of servomotors she checks all directions; up, down, along the strip of steel, across the way where cables stretch between the apartment buildings. Over the seething static of the rain there had been a noise, the sound of a disturbance. Hadn’t there? Recorded waveforms of the sound are no doubt already speeding over the million carrier pulses that make up the mesh, to be verified on distant mainframes. Service bots have limited function and no known adversaries; in fact they’re dubbed shy chromebots, as opposed to confrontational variants. Blue squares on the building opposite – windows on the friendless, grinding through their lonely lives – are the only other signs of anything. But the noise definitely happened; the mesh has just confirmed it as the noise of impacting body.

In the rain, the piles of trash on the walkway heave aside. She – the shy chromebot at the door – remains motionless, a predator-prey dance. Through swathes of downpour her thermals pick out a shape, a figure. A human male, aged thirty-six, give or take, based on his general appearance. She doesn’t need to quiz the mesh to know that; that’s all prebuilt logic, local information easily acquired, but judging by the colouration of his images, he must be close to hypothermia. He’s also – and he doesn’t seem to realise this – in danger of falling. As a servicebot she ought to do something. But there is no other data on him. No biometrics, nothing.

It’s as if he’s dead.

Okay, now that is unexpected. How is that even possible?

Who is this?

As if he has his own cerebral connection to the mesh and knows she is watching, he looks up. Through silvery torrential drapes, he sees her, and in the red thermal blobs of her vision, he blinks.

Then he is on the move. He staggers to his sodden feet and mutters some unintelligible words, simple lifeform gibberish that another waveform captures for decoding, but she’s not particularly hopeful and deprioritises the receiver on that transmission; a sort of if-and-when last resort. Lingering fragments of litter tumble towards puddles with every stumbling step, until, in a chaotic ideogram against the cool glow of cruisers gliding along 217th Uran Corridor, he stops. There’s nowhere for him to go. She’s already gone through his options for him, has determined that he has very few unless he jumps. And maybe there’ll be a ragged awning for him to bounce into, maybe someone’s piles of refuse will arrest his fall, but far more likely is that there won’t be anything.

Then something in her picks up something in him, or more precisely something absent from him, and that spools up her human-friendly roboform speech codec (it’s trademarked TraLaLa and sounds like marbles rattling about in a bucket.) Her previous owner, Mr. Nang, coded a procedure for this.

--Wait, she says. --Please don’t jump. I’m not going to hurt you.

He pauses, uncertain, a portrait of desperation. His hair has formed a wet helmet against his head.

--Come inside, she says. --Let me help you. It’s safe. I have cocoa.

If he didn’t like cocoa, the sentiment alone would have to do. The promise of a warm beverage gently offered should on probability be enough.





Inside the cramped room, she gestures to the scratchy hessian of Mr. Nang’s bed. How does she know it’s scratchy, when she herself wouldn’t perceive it that way? Nang had complained about it often enough, so into the ontology it went; the blanket is scratchy, now see if you can’t drop that into conversation anywhere. This man lays down and doesn’t complain about the bedding, just scrunches himself up foetally and holds his head as if a mighty ache lurks there.

She closes the outer door, silences the deluge, goes to brew some cocoa. Through the little window it’s an endlessness of city; vehicles gliding in smoothed flight curves, washes of neon. And the dark, always the dark.

Who is Astrophasia? she asks herself in the plague-yellow light. The question is a derivative of the health-check suite she’s become accustomed to running after every significant task. She feels suddenly lonely, a fact she does not share with the mesh. In fact, she sequesters it for further analysis in a modified side processor put there by a black-market engineer and paid for by Nang. She uses it when the moment is flagged as frivolous, something she ought not waste precious bandwidth on, such as her own personal assessment of herself. Consequently the vigilant, always-on probes on the mesh doesn’t know it’s there, but she can’t comment on that right now, because otherwise the mesh will know, and that will be that for her little mod. Instead she slicks a mop up and down the floor to take her mind off things, obliviating the trail of wet footprints. No sense slipping over, says her off-the-shelf service protocol kit. On the bed, the man moans and turns over. Is he a criminal?

And why is she thinking about her loneliness just now? What is lonely? It’s the absence of acknowledgement of an outbound ping; it’s an interface for humans. You can use those acknowledgements for further learning and growth. People don’t understand how much power is in their pings. They’re like seeds. You couldn’t believe that a giant tree could come from one, but they do. These pings operate on the same principle.

Though her previous owner. Mr. Nang is gone now, she keeps the dim apartment dutifully clean, disposing of items in the alleyway when they fail or rot away. Did Nang die? No-one can say. If so, they may re-animate him yet. The mesh supplies only algorithms of guesswork on that point. She doesn’t bother with the recycling; there are few in this block that do, when the infrastructure isn’t supported any more. But that loneliness nags. It really nags tonight. Mr. Nang was kind. Old eventually, eccentrically-minded throughout his long life, but kind.

Perhaps eight seconds have passed since she closed the door. She shakes her head. Her mind has wondered. She must be careful.

The building sways in the tempest outside the apartment, only a bit, and almost undetectable. Nang and the others joked about that, assuming they had been imagining it. But they hadn’t been. That motion had been realer than real. Though she and the nameless man are safe, occupying a reinforced grey space three metres wide and eight long, divided into two approximate halves, for sleeping and living, she doesn’t want to fall. Funny names, those – living and sleeping. For humans, sleeping must be a little like death.

But who, really, is Astrophasia? Astrophasia might have been a long-ago project engineer’s pet, or one of them, but a little token of that work was that all the service bots got unique monikers put on them. That is hers. Astrophasia, Version 37, Build W (modified-cx). As she shuffles to the cupboard, another ping back from her offline processor confirms that she likes it. Why does she like it? Because it’s pretty. What’s pretty? A harmonious collision of frequencies. Sound waves are physical phenomena – thumps of thunder outside underscore this idea, dimming the bulb in a don’t-you-forget-it sort of way – and when the edges are less jagged, whether it’s a waveform or a movement path, maybe even the definition of an object in real space, it demonstrates prettiness in a thing. It just does; it’s easier to process. It’s pretty and it mathematically holds up, and that, Astrophasia reckons, is pretty pretty too. She likes how the sound of the rain outside bevels away the hard corners of her world.

Milk bubbles on the stove. She really should let the man sleep. That would result in the best short-term outcome. And she will. But there is something, isn’t there, about those pings sent out to him that warrants further investigation.



~ * ~


First, thank you for sticking with it if you got this far. My questions are: did you find it easy to read? Could you picture the setting? What did you think of the characters? Do you find you're not concerned with what happens, or would you like to know?

Any other comments gladly received.
 
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The Judge

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It's fine to post here immediately after you've got the 30 counted posts, but the limit here is 1500 words, which you were well over. I've therefore removed the excess. Wait a while to get reactions on what's here, and if you want more feedback you can put the rest up in a fresh thread in 5 or 6 days, having taken account of any comments that might be relevant to the end section.
 

AnyaKimlin

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I didn't have much time and might come back to it later. I quite like the distance and voice you have created.

To a whine of servomotors she checks all directions; up, down, along the strip of steel, across the way where cables stretch between the apartment buildings. Over the seething static of the rain there had been a noise, the sound of a disturbance. Hadn’t there? Recorded waveforms of the sound are no doubt already speeding over the million carrier pulses that make up the mesh, to be verified on distant mainframes. Service bots have limited function and no known adversaries; in fact they’re dubbed shy chromebots, as opposed to confrontational variants. Blue squares on the building opposite – windows on the friendless, grinding through their lonely lives – are the only other signs of anything. But the noise definitely happened; the mesh has just confirmed it as the noise of impacting body.

This is where the story starts. You can bring in the trillionaires above later.
Inside the cramped room, she gestures to the scratchy hessian of Mr. Nang’s bed. How does she know it’s scratchy, when she herself wouldn’t perceive it that way? Nang had complained about it often enough, so into the ontology it went; the blanket is scratchy, now see if you can’t drop that into conversation anywhere. This man lays down and doesn’t complain about the bedding, just scrunches himself up foetally and holds his head as if a mighty ache lurks there.

Who is Nang? This part of the story is a bit confusing. #

But who, really, is Astrophasia? Astrophasia might have been a long-ago project engineer’s pet, or one of them, but a little token of that work was that all the service bots got unique monikers put on them. That is hers. Astrophasia, Version 37, Build W (modified-cx). As she shuffles to the cupboard, another ping back from her offline processor confirms that she likes it. Why does she like it? Because it’s pretty. What’s pretty? A harmonious collision of frequencies. Sound waves are physical phenomena – thumps of thunder outside underscore this idea, dimming the bulb in a don’t-you-forget-it sort of way – and when the edges are less jagged, whether it’s a waveform or a movement path, maybe even the definition of an object in real space, it demonstrates prettiness in a thing. It just does; it’s easier to process. It’s pretty and it mathematically holds up, and that, Astrophasia reckons, is pretty pretty too. She likes how the sound of the rain outside bevels away the hard corners of her world.

Why would she be thinking this right now? I think Astrophasia knows some of these paragraphs are infodumps you don't need right now ;)

strangely, he smiles.

It seems odd her using adverbs like strangely. Is that the way she feels? A particular way he smiled? It loses her analytical voice.
 
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tinkerdan

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Interesting use of a seeming omniscient objective voice.
I like your images.

I was looking at the longer version and overwhelmed.
However I thought you might benefit by this observation.
Rain. Hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City. Smacking into concrete, slicing through latticeworked endless gantries; falling forever. The clouds in their immutable sky give nothing away of when this storm might end, but it doesn’t matter any more, not when a sense of time is in such short supply. Perhaps the storm has always been raging.
These are all fragments::
Rain. Hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City. Smacking into concrete, slicing through latticeworked endless gantries; falling forever.
::
You could solve that problem by simply putting them all together like this.
Rain: hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City, smacking into concrete, slicing through lattice-worked endless gantries; falling forever.

This creates a long sentence that works because it is all describing the rain. And if you use a colon at the beginning you maintain that dramatic pause at the beginning and you have a full sentence with almost the same rhythm.

It almost looks as though you are trying to disguise the fact that its almost a...dark and stormy night(purple prose)contender, which is the first thing I thought of when I read this. I love good purple prose.
 

BT Jones

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Being a relative novice and not very well versed in all the technical terminology of writing, there's only so much detailed analysis I can provide.

But there was a lot to admire here, if not perhaps as much to enjoy as there could have been. I really like some of your descriptions. Very lyrical. At the same time, I found some of the sentences were too long, like so.

A tin falls over unheeded, and tumbles into this dismal abyss, but if it ever clangs onto a street down there, no-one will know; not the trillionaires in their dreamships above the sky, not the snake addicts that infest Godwell’s Precinct and elsewhere, not the anonymous face – metallic, one among billions, lightly scuffed, and with the two vertical eye-slits and cautious mouth-hole of a generic service chromebot – that peers out of the gap in the doorway now

Also...

Lingering fragments of litter tumble towards puddles with every stumbling step, until, in a chaotic ideogram against the cool glow of cruisers gliding along 217th Uran Corridor, he stops.

Not long, per se, but a bit breathless, or a bit of a mouthful. There's nothing wrong with splitting this sentence after 'step'.

A couple of possible errors also.

slicing through latticeworked endless gantries

Should this be through 'endless latticeworked gantries'?

Her mind has wondered

This is presumably 'wandered'?

In general, I was struggling to picture the location. Some kind of intermediate floating city, with the ultra rich above the clouds and the poor in squalor at ground level?

I think the part with the robot in the house should come first, to clearly identify who this is, the shape of the house, the city outside, and the rain. Maybe she can lament her lack of imagination or programming, or inability to see the beauty. You can then, perhaps, switch to the man's perspective; the vivid depiction of everything outside. That then creates some kind of connection between the two; her seeing a human who must see things in colours and music and poetry. Maybe there's a cold functionality about her that he is drawn to as well (depending on his back story).

Sorry if this sounds overly critical, but then i suppose this is the point of 'critiques' in a way. I should close by saying I really did enjoy big chunks of this and there is definitely potential for something rich and rewarding. I can only say I pictured your world in abstract colours. It was striking, but not detailed, like some neon avante-garde artwork.

If you can tone down some of the descriptions and set your framework first, it will be that much easier to follow thereafter. Also, don't be afraid of conveying some of these opinions with dialogue. I, myself, am guilty of the 'telling' not 'showing' and am constantly switching internalised descriptions for dialogue where I can. There is the perfect opportunity here to capture a lot of the robot's feelings and opinions through dialogue with the man. He doesn't necessarily have to be fully conscious. She can lament a subroutine where she talks too much. Maybe he is fading in and out of consciousness and speaking only occasionally.

Sorry, I'm rambling here. But I'd be very interested to read more. It's one of the hardest things to do but you have to try and block out what you already know about the story and try and see it through fresh eyes. It's something I struggle with myself.

But keep at it, @jd73. I really like the lyricism of some of your words and imagery. I guess, to use movie directors as a reference point, its just about whether you are aiming for Scott / Cuaron / Fincher / Villeneuve or Mallick / Von Triers / Aronofsky.
 

jd73

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Thanks guys. Responses in the expandy bits:




It's fine to post here immediately after you've got the 30 counted posts, but the limit here is 1500 words, which you were well over. I've therefore removed the excess. Wait a while to get reactions on what's here, and if you want more feedback you can put the rest up in a fresh thread in 5 or 6 days, having taken account of any comments that might be relevant to the end section.

Whoops! Apologies, I fully missed that guideline. Thanks for the heads-up.

Being a relative novice and not very well versed in all the technical terminology of writing, there's only so much detailed analysis I can provide.

But there was a lot to admire here, if not perhaps as much to enjoy as there could have been. I really like some of your descriptions. Very lyrical. At the same time, I found some of the sentences were too long, like so.



Also...



Not long, per se, but a bit breathless, or a bit of a mouthful. There's nothing wrong with splitting this sentence after 'step'.

OP: I confess, I do like a long sentence :)

A couple of possible errors also.



Should this be through 'endless latticeworked gantries'?

OP: Yeah, I was trying to be too avant garge; I like that suggestion - will take it om

This is presumably 'wandered'?

OP: D'oh!

In general, I was struggling to picture the location. Some kind of intermediate floating city, with the ultra rich above the clouds and the poor in squalor at ground level?

OP: OK, for me, I want the location to be a key thing so I will work on that in as non infodumpy a way as I can

I think the part with the robot in the house should come first, to clearly identify who this is, the shape of the house, the city outside, and the rain. Maybe she can lament her lack of imagination or programming, or inability to see the beauty. You can then, perhaps, switch to the man's perspective; the vivid depiction of everything outside. That then creates some kind of connection between the two; her seeing a human who must see things in colours and music and poetry. Maybe there's a cold functionality about her that he is drawn to as well (depending on his back story).

Sorry if this sounds overly critical, but then i suppose this is the point of 'critiques' in a way. I should close by saying I really did enjoy big chunks of this and there is definitely potential for something rich and rewarding. I can only say I pictured your world in abstract colours. It was striking, but not detailed, like some neon avante-garde artwork.

If you can tone down some of the descriptions and set your framework first, it will be that much easier to follow thereafter. Also, don't be afraid of conveying some of these opinions with dialogue. I, myself, am guilty of the 'telling' not 'showing' and am constantly switching internalised descriptions for dialogue where I can. There is the perfect opportunity here to capture a lot of the robot's feelings and opinions through dialogue with the man. He doesn't necessarily have to be fully conscious. She can lament a subroutine where she talks too much. Maybe he is fading in and out of consciousness and speaking only occasionally.

Sorry, I'm rambling here. But I'd be very interested to read more. It's one of the hardest things to do but you have to try and block out what you already know about the story and try and see it through fresh eyes. It's something I struggle with myself.

But keep at it, @jd73. I really like the lyricism of some of your words and imagery. I guess, to use movie directors as a reference point, its just about whether you are aiming for Scott / Cuaron / Fincher / Villeneuve or Mallick / Von Triers / Aronofsky.

op: Thanks for your comments:) Much appreciated






I didn't have much time and might come back to it later. I quite like the distance and voice you have created.



This is where the story starts. You can bring in the trillionaires above later.


Who is Nang? This part of the story is a bit confusing. #



Why would she be thinking this right now? I think Astrophasia knows some of these paragraphs are infodumps you don't need right now ;)

OP: You are right and I've struggled a bit with this. I've already cut some for this reason. I'll see if I can drop some more of it in later alongside other present-moment actions


It seems odd her using adverbs like strangely. Is that the way she feels? A particular way he smiled? It loses her analytical voice.

OP: Interesting point about the adverbs there. Her voice is proving quite a tricky thing; on one hand I want it analytical, on the other I ant it quite "humanised". But yeah, I think 'strangely' is a little weak there so will get rid




Interesting use of a seeming omniscient objective voice.
I like your images.

I was looking at the longer version and overwhelmed.
However I thought you might benefit by this observation.

These are all fragments::
Rain. Hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City. Smacking into concrete, slicing through latticeworked endless gantries; falling forever.
::
You could solve that problem by simply putting them all together like this.
Rain: hissing from a black sky, firefly-visible for a moment, describing blue tracers in the degenerate neons of Flippstein’s Fourth City, smacking into concrete, slicing through lattice-worked endless gantries; falling forever.

OP. Thanks . I like these suggestions. However there's a part of me that agitates for a little light-tough grammar abuse in the name of voice and tone of the piece and so forth. That said I'll certainly reduce the # of fragments and see how it scans. I suppose, stylistically, having the first sentence just that "Rain" was kind of part of the tone of it, for me. Then with each other sentence, the idea was to suggest that no matter where one might be in the city, it's most definitely dark and wet. But we shall see:)

This creates a long sentence that works because it is all describing the rain. And if you use a colon at the beginning you maintain that dramatic pause at the beginning and you have a full sentence with almost the same rhythm.

It almost looks as though you are trying to disguise the fact that its almost a...dark and stormy night(purple prose)contender, which is the first thing I thought of when I read this. I love good purple prose.

OP: I tell you, this revelation kept me up last night. I've gone straight into Bulwer-Lytton territory without realising it. Will have to think on this :) But thanks for bringing it to my attention

Thanks for the comments everyone - much appreciated
 

Topher

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I really enjoyed it, it certainly captured a mood very well. I liked the voice, the play between an analytical voice and something like humanity.

There were a few turns of phrase (e.g. "dismal abyss", "seething static") that jumped out as overly poetic for my tastes - kind of made me jump out of the world and see the author - but that's probably just a stylistic difference.
 

jd73

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I really enjoyed it, it certainly captured a mood very well. I liked the voice, the play between an analytical voice and something like humanity.

There were a few turns of phrase (e.g. "dismal abyss", "seething static") that jumped out as overly poetic for my tastes - kind of made me jump out of the world and see the author - but that's probably just a stylistic difference.

Thanks. I do like a bit of poetic language, it's true. Probably a bit too much:)

Thinking about it, one big challenge for me is to find ways to portray things in the way I visualise them, without overdoing it. I wonder if using more real world stuff might help, eg. I might change that to be "smoky abyss" or something, foggy, or polluted. Something concrete rather than abstract. Hmm....

Thanks - you've kicked off an interesting and potentially very useful train of thought here @Topher
 

Topher

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No problem, yes I agree that it's the abstraction in those phrases that made them stand out :)
 

Wayne Mack

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For me, there seemed to be too much time spent describing trash filled streets and then the main points of the chapter were simply told to the reader not shown. I did not get the feel of anything dystopian in the intro. I have a couple of more minor quibbles in some of the sequence.

For me, the key points of the chapter are that Astrophasia is a robot connect to an internet that monitors her. She has not normal emotions and an illegal modification. Both are a source of danger to her if discovered. I think exploring that would make for a far more interesting first chapter; perhaps starting with Mr. Nang modifying her and emergence of awareness.

More detailed things that bothered me are,

The late introduction to Astrophasia's name. I thought this was a brand new character at first.

I really did not get the sentence,
She – the shy chromebot at the door – remains motionless, a predator-prey dance
Motionless seems to be a direct contradiction of dance and did not lead to an enlightening imagery.

I would have preferred to see the dialog set off with double quotes. The dash did not indicate dialog to me when reading.

I also did not feel the reaction to someone contemplate suicide,
Let me help you. It’s safe. I have cocoa
to be realistic. If that is the offer, I would expect the person to just go ahead and jump, not be consoled.

I feel that there is a lot of conflict bubbling underneath the surface, but instead the chapter gets bogged down in telling me that the streets are dirty. I think there may be enough underlying issues that if brought to the forefront could easily constitute 3 chapters and be a more compelling introduction into your world.
 

Edoc'sil

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Hi jd73 great story I love the introduction to the world by starting up high and slowly focusing in however to make it more engaging I would perhaps follow the tin can and have it pass by the denziens of this world rather than saying no one noticied it then having it fall at our protagonist's feet not sure if that would improve it because I am a paltry writer but that's what I would do, it may make it longer but it would allow you to describe the players in this world with more detail (although not too much because you want to get to the meat of the story fairly quickly.)

One thing I disliked was the questioning of Astrophasia to herself(?) immediately when she goes back inside. Although you know the character far better than I, it doesn't seem like something she would do, because she is a robot and has a task to do. I like the symbolism of her putting it in an external black market processor and that tells me more about the world but perhaps it would be better served putting it further down the extract when there is more of a lull for example where you put her questioning herself again seems more fitting.

I would introduce the character and her name immediately when she meets this mysterious man and put the questioning section when she realises he is asleep and has nothing to do.

Apart from that it looks like this world has a deep lore and a cool dystopian setting, keep it up!
 

The Scribbling Man

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This was very enjoyable to read. Your prose is poetic to a point of making my brain only half-care when I read something that didn't quite work. The fact that, as others have pointed out, there are things that would benefit from being re-thought/made clearer and yet overall still remain fairly engrossing is an advantage.

I don't think there is anything specific I would point out that hasn't already been mentioned, but I agree on most points. Narrative elements are brushed over in comparison to the description that takes over. While captivating for a first chapter, I can see this pace becoming tedious at novel-length.

In a macabre way, the offer of hot chocolate tickled me, and it felt just like the sort of odd logic a robot might try to apply. However, I also agree with Wayne Mack on expecting the man to jump, or at least for the robot's initial attempt to be unsuccessful.

I do not know your overarching story, so I feel reluctant to tell you what to change. In answer to your questions though:

did you find it easy to read?
I found it easy to read because I enjoy nice prose and poetic imagery. However, there were narrative elements being dropped in that I didn't necessarily grasp. I am the type of reader who gives the author the benefit of the doubt though, and if I don't fully understand what's been dropped, I assume I'm maybe not meant to. I log it, and wait for more context to be delivered.

Could you picture the setting?
Yes and no. In terms of imagery, yes. In terms of location, I was confused a couple of times, but that is not uncommon for me. I often have to reread descriptive passages. It's like I get caught up in the perty wordplay, then miss what's actually being said. A me problem.

What did you think of the characters?
It feels early to say. The robot character sounds interesting and the focus is on her. The man has much less attention, to a point that I don't really know anything about him other than he is a man who tries to kill himself, but decides that hot chocolate from a robot is an adequate reason to change his mind.

Do you find you're not concerned with what happens, or would you like to know?
From what I've read so far, I would have read on. I am a sucker for nice prose though and can be very tolerant of poor pacing if it's nice to read (though I get pretty peeved when it doesn't pay off in the end). Putting aside the writing though, I did find the description of the robot intriguing and I would be curious to see where things are going.
 

jd73

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Hi jd73 great story I love the introduction to the world by starting up high and slowly focusing in however to make it more engaging I would perhaps follow the tin can and have it pass by the denziens of this world rather than saying no one noticied it then having it fall at our protagonist's feet not sure if that would improve it because I am a paltry writer but that's what I would do, it may make it longer but it would allow you to describe the players in this world with more detail (although not too much because you want to get to the meat of the story fairly quickly.)

One thing I disliked was the questioning of Astrophasia to herself(?) immediately when she goes back inside. Although you know the character far better than I, it doesn't seem like something she would do, because she is a robot and has a task to do. I like the symbolism of her putting it in an external black market processor and that tells me more about the world but perhaps it would be better served putting it further down the extract when there is more of a lull for example where you put her questioning herself again seems more fitting.

I would introduce the character and her name immediately when she meets this mysterious man and put the questioning section when she realises he is asleep and has nothing to do.

Apart from that it looks like this world has a deep lore and a cool dystopian setting, keep it up!

This was very enjoyable to read. Your prose is poetic to a point of making my brain only half-care when I read something that didn't quite work. The fact that, as others have pointed out, there are things that would benefit from being re-thought/made clearer and yet overall still remain fairly engrossing is an advantage.

I don't think there is anything specific I would point out that hasn't already been mentioned, but I agree on most points. Narrative elements are brushed over in comparison to the description that takes over. While captivating for a first chapter, I can see this pace becoming tedious at novel-length.

In a macabre way, the offer of hot chocolate tickled me, and it felt just like the sort of odd logic a robot might try to apply. However, I also agree with Wayne Mack on expecting the man to jump, or at least for the robot's initial attempt to be unsuccessful.

I do not know your overarching story, so I feel reluctant to tell you what to change. In answer to your questions though:

did you find it easy to read?
I found it easy to read because I enjoy nice prose and poetic imagery. However, there were narrative elements being dropped in that I didn't necessarily grasp. I am the type of reader who gives the author the benefit of the doubt though, and if I don't fully understand what's been dropped, I assume I'm maybe not meant to. I log it, and wait for more context to be delivered.

Could you picture the setting?
Yes and no. In terms of imagery, yes. In terms of location, I was confused a couple of times, but that is not uncommon for me. I often have to reread descriptive passages. It's like I get caught up in the perty wordplay, then miss what's actually being said. A me problem.

What did you think of the characters?
It feels early to say. The robot character sounds interesting and the focus is on her. The man has much less attention, to a point that I don't really know anything about him other than he is a man who tries to kill himself, but decides that hot chocolate from a robot is an adequate reason to change his mind.

Do you find you're not concerned with what happens, or would you like to know?
From what I've read so far, I would have read on. I am a sucker for nice prose though and can be very tolerant of poor pacing if it's nice to read (though I get pretty peeved when it doesn't pay off in the end). Putting aside the writing though, I did find the description of the robot intriguing and I would be curious to see where things are going.

Awesome feedback, thanks @Edoc'sil and @The Scribbling Man! I'll certainly take it on board:)

@Edoc'sil I like what you say about the questioning herself bit. I have already started to move that elsewhere. I don't think it needs to happen all up-front as it does here. Maybe just enough to introduce the style. I suppose I include it to round her out as a char to the reader and also to demonstrate the mechanisms by, and reasons for, which she does human-type stuff...we will see.

@The Scribbling Man totally agree about the pacing. I am conscious that the whole "can be very tolerant of poor pacing if it's nice to read" is, while a relief to know, a bit of a trap, for me:)
 
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Edoc'sil

One day I'll find the words.
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@jd73 yeah totally, I really like this almost human robot and it seems like her now gone creator did some cool things to make her more human. I want to see how this myseterious man and her make a relationship, which possibly propels her into discovering more about herself and her "human" elements.

Also where did Mr. Nang go? Did he die? Was he killed? Is he inside Astrophasia in some way? Lots of questions I want answers to, which is a good thing, encourages me to keep reading.
 

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