It may be April Fool’s Day (and it’s snowing — just like it was 14 years ago when Gabbey sent me to the hospital), but I’m quite serious about bringing you a fascinating addition to the First Impressions series today! This excerpt is the first 180 words from David Weisman’s science fiction manuscript Absorption:
At first the young girl’s eyes looked identical, but when she glanced around the room the left didn’t keep up with the right. She had freckles and red hair tangled in a mop.
Second Lieutenant Brett Johnson said, “Keep practicing. Your eyes will move together by the time school starts.
“Okay,” Lydia replied tonelessly. The flat expression on her face reminded Brett of the horrors she had been through.
He considered the lack of enthusiasm. Her immune system had accepted the new eye – but if her mind rejected it there would be trouble.
In a deliberately casual voice he asked, “How do you like your new eye?”
She brightened just a bit. “It’s wayout. I can see in the dark.”
A moment later she explained seriously, “Infer red vision.”
“Most people call it infravision,” he told her with a smile, but his mind was elsewhere. So the eye wasn’t the problem. Brett had no training in pediatric emotional therapy, and no authorization to perform it, but Lydia’s flat affect bothered him more than a natural display of grief could have.
Immediately I’m wondering several things – including what happened to Lydia, of course, and who is Second Lieutenant Brett Johnson? He’s got military rank, but he seems to be a doctor, so I’m envisioning a scenario where this child has been through a traumatic experience and is being treated by military medical personnel.
The scene is compelling, but some sentences pull me out of the story because it feels like I’m receiving information from the author instead of experiencing the main character’s observations. The second sentence is an example of this. I would suggest deleting it and weaving that description into other, stronger sentences.
At first the young girl’s eyes looked identical beneath her tangled mop of red hair, but when she glanced around the room the left didn’t keep up with the right.
“Okay,” Lydia replied tonelessly. Despite the apparent innocence of her freckled face, her flat expression reminded Brett of the horrors she had been through.
I really like a passage further down on the page, where Brett tries to develop a rapport with this child, so he can help her cope with her grief.
“Talk to me,” he suggested.
She looked at him. Brett wondered how he looked through her eyes – new and old.
She declared, “You have too many muscles to be a doctor.”
“That’s exactly what they told me in medical school. At first I was supposed to enroll in goon school.” Brett let his face go slack, hunched over, and let his arms dangle, a parody of an over muscled and under brained goon.
How easily the author has made me like Brett – just by allowing him to make fun of himself!
Overall, this seems like a very good start to an interesting SF novel. I want to know what horrors Lydia has seen, and I like Brett Johnson enough to follow him into the story. My advice to David would be to watch out for sentences where the author interrupts to share information and find a way to present those facts naturally through Brett’s eyes.