Jul 08 2011

NicKenny’s Second Review Forum

Published by at 11:42 am under Review Forums

The protagonist of this novel is David Lawless, whose ability is reactive evolution. He gains a new ability whenever he believes that he is about to die, in order to prevent his death. He’s joined by John, a telepath, Alice, who can turn invisible and Adam, who scares people. Because he kills people.

They all attend a school set up to teach mutants how to control and improve their abilities run by the mysterious organisation the Mentors. It’s based in the military facility Fort Drum in New York state, with the co-operation and funding from various governments and secret services. At first it seems to good to be true, but David begins to learn the dark secret at the heart of the school.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “NicKenny’s Second Review Forum”

  1. NicKennyon 16 Jul 2011 at 8:45 am

    Going to begin with a short summary of the five characters that I have created in detail.

    David Lawless: Known as Lazarus Born with the latent ability of reactive evolution, which is only activated whenever he believes he’s about to die. He then gains an ability which prevents the death, before the start of the novel David has only gained the ability to fly, gained after he was shot and fell off the top of a multi-storey building, the bullet injury not being fatal but the fall certainly would have. The other is the ability to speak any language, gained after stealing something of value from people who turned out to be members of the Russian mafia. He’s reckless, borderline crazy after living on the streets for five years after his mother died from a crystal meth overdose. He never knew his father. He became involved in more serious crime after petty theft led him to theive from the wrong people.

    John: Australian telepath. Soon befriends David after being trust together in a bizarre training mission. Very intelligent and good at planning ahead. Determined to improve his powers and reach his full potential after seeing what one of the school’s professors (also a telepath) can achieve. Acts as a good counter-part to David, being thoughtful, slow to anger and overly precautious.

    Alice: Known as Wraith. American. Invisiblity. Very proficient in hand to hand combat, which David learns the hard way. Excels in all combat classes. Slightly arrogent and overly self confident. Highly competetive and just as reckless as David, if not more so.

    Adam: Known as The Berserker. American, of Irish descent. Transforms into an uncontrollable, invulnerable monster when scared or angry. Imagine a cross of Hulk and Doomsday. But more bad-ass. A loner as most people are afraid of him due to his abilities.

    Professor Anton Titov: Russian Pyrokinetic. Recruits David to the system. Has had experience with the Russian military and mafia. Trains students in the use of fire-arms, generally those whose abilities do not give them much offensive ability.

  2. Mynaon 16 Jul 2011 at 8:53 am

    Hey! I don’t have a lot to comment on right now, but I’m a bit confused by his power? Does that mean he can’t really die because every time someone tries to kill him, he gets an ability that saves his life? Does that ability stay with him afterwards?

  3. B. Macon 16 Jul 2011 at 10:38 am

    “”the latent ability of reactive evolution, which is activated whenever he believes he’s about to die. He then gains an ability which prevents the death…” This feels like it could be problematic for a few reasons. First, it sounds like it will be extraordinarily difficult to challenge him. (For example, is it possible for him to lose a fight? Is it possible for him to actually die? If not, what’s at stake when he gets into a fight?) Second, a recurring issue with characters that gradually add on powers (like Peter Petrelli from Heroes) is that their arsenals tend to grow excessively large over time. One possible limitation would be that he only retains abilities for a short period so that he doesn’t render the other characters useless. Also, I don’t feel like his ability to speak every language feels like it fits with the other power. I think that ability would feel more natural for the telepath.

    Personality-wise, I feel like there’s a lot of overlap between Alice and David.

    –There might be some Unfortunate Implications if the Irish-American is the uncontrollable wild berserker. On the plus side, I like that the other characters generally don’t feel like their traits have been pigeonholed into national/ethnic stereotypes. (If I see one more team where the British guy is the spy and the American is the hothead, I’d flip out, even though that would probably reinforce the stereotype about Americans 😉 ).

    –What’s Titov’s personality like?

  4. Cool Don 16 Jul 2011 at 10:59 am

    Yeah… if he cant actually die then that means there really can’t be anything at stake if he is in danger. This can turn audiences away since they know that nothing really fatal can happen to him so the readers have no reason to care for him.

  5. NicKennyon 16 Jul 2011 at 11:24 am

    Yeah…I’ll need to find a way to limit his abilities, perhaps he can only store a certain amount at a time, or each time he gains an ability it drains him, leaving him only able to use the ability for a short time before mentally crashing, useful for quick escapes but not for extended fighting.

    However this will increase his perception of invinciblity and his recklessness will grow, leading up to a scene were his powers fail him, leading to an “Oh, crap” moment.

  6. NicKennyon 16 Jul 2011 at 11:33 am

    Or, an idea which just sprung up on me, David is seemingly invincible and becomes increasingly arrogant and reckless. Then it turns out, the main villians ability is similar to the Haitian’s, it negates abilities other than the villians own.

  7. Mynaon 16 Jul 2011 at 12:17 pm

    “Yeah…I’ll need to find a way to limit his abilities, perhaps he can only store a certain amount at a time, or each time he gains an ability it drains him, leaving him only able to use the ability for a short time before mentally crashing, useful for quick escapes but not for extended fighting.”
    I think that’s a good limit, but it still makes it so that the character is almost always gonna be fine in fights and escapes. The readers will expect him to always get out, so he’s never really in danger, and there’s no reason for them to care.

    “However this will increase his perception of invinciblity and his recklessness will grow, leading up to a scene were his powers fail him, leading to an “Oh, crap” moment.”
    I do like this idea, it sounds like a really good way to challenge the character, but doesn’t solve the major problem of him never really being in danger.

  8. NicKennyon 16 Jul 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Titov’s experience in the Russian army and with organised crime have left him grim and bitter. He’s still got quite a strong sense of humour, and will supply some comic relief. However, he’s given to bouts of depression and flashbacks of his rather dark past which leads him to heavy drinking and chain smoking. All in all, perhaps not the person who you’d want to teach your children.

    David’s ability does need working on. Does anyone have any ideas on how to make reactive evolution feasible in a storyline? Also I agree that I should drop the languages thing, it was there for basically one scene, and is not actually all that necessary for the scene to work.

  9. Milanon 17 Jul 2011 at 5:18 am

    “Does anyone have any ideas on how to make reactive evolution feasible in a storyline?”

    I guess the first problem is the nature of evolution. If you’re already adapted to a particular challenge then you survive. Otherwise, hopefully your relatives are better adapted.

    Adaption through learned skills or physical or chemical modification is within reach of modern technology. But if one assumes evolution ties to mutations of DNA, then changes (eg. due to radiation) would take time to change body parts, unless they’re very small body parts. Perhaps the body could make some chemical changes, through different regulation of enzymes/hormones/whatever, to effect quick changes. These would likely still fall within or close to human norms, or at least still be subject to physics and physical limitations.

    Sticking with genetic evolution, perhaps David already has a number of powers, only they’re latent. So he’s not ‘evolving reactively’, but it looks like it when he realises his capabilities one by one under duress.

    Perhaps there could be hints (mad scientist or other creature involved with his creation?) who could explain the limitations of the adaptation, which could add some conflict to his use of it. Perhaps the DNA mutations are derived from organisms that the reader would know, so they might sense the likely limitations.

    But this might all be too pseudo-realistic. Perhaps David’s DNA and cells can change within a reaction timeframe. Perhaps it even involves pulling in future relative bodies of David from far down the timestream – which would possibly put a dampener on future generations should his switched (more ordinary) body not have the evolved capacity to survive in that future. Perhaps future-David has tattoos, or other evidence of his future-culture that complicate his existence. Even the constant changing of his hair colour. Body snatching for survival purposes but with all kinds of strings attached…

    This is just rambling though, the power doesn’t need to be explained.

  10. NicKennyon 17 Jul 2011 at 1:00 pm

    K, this is chapter one so far. I’ve decided to stick with David’s ability of essentially invulnerability, he definitely will not have more than three abilities and most likely only two, that being his wings and the ability to create forcefields. The main villian will have the ability of negating other peoples abilities amongst others.

    I never knew my father. He left before I was born. At least, that’s what I was always told. I guess I never really had a reason to question it, that’s just the way it was. My mother died when I was twelve. A crystal meth overdose, the doctor told me. Wasn’t that surprising, the average life expectancy for crystal meth users is about five to seven years from when they start and I couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t using. I didn’t stay around long after that, made a break for it after telling the woman from social services that I needed the bathroom. Cliché I know, but it worked. Clearly I wasn’t dealing with geniuses, or maybe they just didn’t care about some messed-up kid whose drug addict mother had just OD’d. After all, stuff like that happens every day in the big city. Worse things happen at sea. Not entirely sure of the relevance but I always loved the stupidity of that saying. Worse things happen everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they should. It doesn’t mean they’re any less real, valid or painful. I went home, grabbed everything I owned, all the money I could find left in the flat and anything I thought I could sell on. Looking back, I’m glad the police had already searched the flat for drugs and confiscated what they found; otherwise I would have no doubt tried to sell them on. That could only have ended badly. Of course, living on the streets was no picnic, but I kept it together, I kept my head down, I survived. As I already mentioned, it wasn’t too hard to avoid social services, they didn’t get the funding to care about kids who rebelled against the system. They barely looked after the ones who didn’t. On the streets I learned a lot of things, more than I had ever picked up in school. How to fight, how to steal, how to run through a city (surprisingly difficult), how to listen, to see and observe, to read a situation, to understand what drives people and how to judge their next action but most importantly, I learned when. When to fight, to run, to jump into action or to stand back and observe, to flee and to see something through. It wasn’t a very forgiving school, there was little room for mistake as failure meant social services, jail, intense pain, or, occasionally, death. Just like high school eh? I learned fast, working with other kids, the other street urchins. Often I was the one to steal whatever we were after while the other kids would provide the distraction. I was always the fastest, always the best. And I was never caught, not with the petty theft anyway, it wasn’t until I started to get into more serious criminal activities that things started to go against me. And somehow I’ve ended up here, backed into a dead-end at gun point, with my future looking to contain decidedly more bullets. Again.
    I wasn’t particularly worried; I’ve gotten myself out of worse situations before. The man holding the gun looked to be nearing the end of his middle-age. His untidy blond-but-greying hair hung loosely around the side of his face, his beard trimmed into a neat goatee. He wore blue-tinted glasses, together with his battered, black fedora and obviously impractical dark trench coat made him look like he was part of an old detective movie. I tensed, expecting a shot to ring out of any second, berating myself for letting this happen. Thankfully, this time I was not at the top of a fire escape on top of a twelve story building. Then again, I’ve already gotten out of that alive. I have experience in that situation.
    I shrugged at the man. “Are you actually going to shoot me or are you just planning on waving that thing around all say?”
    To my surprise, the man chuckled and lowered the gun. “I don’t want to hurt you David, I just want to talk to you. I have, how do you say, a proposition for you.” He said with a slight Russian accent.
    I smiled “Let me guess. Russian Mafia? I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting you people before. Whatever it is, the answer’s no comrade.”
    This earned another bout of laughter from the man, who shook his head. “No, not Russian Mafia. Not anymore, at least. And I’ve heard of your encounter with them. You were shot by….one Ivan Kiryakov, I believe. You fell twelve stories and yet here you are. Some would say that’s….unlikely, too say the least. Or miraculous. Tell me David, do you believe in angels?”
    “Where’s this going?” I asked cautiously.
    “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them….Psalm thirty-four seven. Think of me as your guardian angel.”
    “Yeah? What’s this proposition then?” I have to admit, I was vaguely interested. Okay, I was very interested. This man had clearly researched his audience and I could at least here him out. Besides, he had a cool accent and while I accept that may not be the best reason to put myself at risk, I had before for a lot less. Well, almost less. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but he had put the gun away, right? I had the situation under control.
    “I’m like you David.” I tensed, suddenly unsure again. “You probably know that you’re different from normal people.” I must have twitched, or done something to give myself away because the man smiled widely and nodded slowly. “I thought so…..” He slipped the pistol into the waistband of his trousers and took a pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket. He held one out to me, but I quickly shook my head. He smiled again. “I’m glad. It’s a filthy habit… Don’t suppose you have a lighter on you? No?” He sighed “Oh, well.”
    He clicked his fingers and a small flame appeared on the tip of his index finger. He lit the cigarette and shook the flame out. He looked up and chuckled at the look on my face. “It’s an old party trick, but, as I said, I’m like you. I can generate and control fire. A useful talent. For things like lighting cigarettes, of course.” He inhaled and leaned back for a few seconds before exhaling. “We’ve set up a school, for people like us. I’m here to see if you’re interested.”
    I shook my head in disbelief. “So you’ve hunted me through the back alleys of New York and the dregs of society, held me up at gun point and mentioned random biblical verses…. to offer me a scholarship to some school? Wow…..it’s just like I imagined college would be like… Is it Ivy League?”
    “No. It’s not on any map, any list, any government register. It’s for people like us, run by people like us.”
    “Ooooh. Intrigue and mystery. Sounds too good to be true. You could be a serial killer…just saying.” I stared at him, wondering whether I could take his offer seriously. He seemed to be serious. Well, he had put the gun away at least. But I had survived all these years by trusting only myself and living in the shadows. This offer could be legitimate but then again, could easily be a hoax set up to steal my organs or something. It wouldn’t be the first time. I shook my head sadly an said. “I’m sorry, I can’t accept this. I have no idea who you are or if you can be trusted.” I shrugged and watched him warily. If he was a psychopathic murderer this would be the time he takes the gun out again. To my surprise he just shrugged and took another drag of the cigarette.
    “It’s not easy, is it? Knowing, that you’re different, that you’re special, when you’re surrounded by ordinary, mundane people. In this school you’ll be among your own kind, learning to control your abilities. The saddest thing that can happen to a person is never finding the place were they truly belong.” He looked along the alley. “Is this yours?”
    This effectively shut me up and I stared at the ground, images flashing through my mind, not all bad, but….missing something. One thought kept ringing through my head. When I’m old and looking back on my life, wouldn’t I like to be able to say I had the balls to do this? To be among people like me. To be amongst equals. I looked up slowly. “When you put it like that, how can I refuse? I’m in. Just one question though. Do I have to do geography?”
    “You choose your own subjects. We don’t actually have a geography teacher at the moment.”
    “He had a nervous breakdown after a student torched his BMW after failing the end of year examination. It was actually quite funny. After that, well, teachers were a bit hesitant to sign on.”
    “This is just sounding better and better. When can I start?”
    The man grinned, and discarded the cigarette, stubbing it out with the toe of his boot. “I hoped you’d say that. My name is Professor Anton Titov. I’ve got a car only a block from here. Welcome aboard.”
    “Hello, professor. My name is David Lawless. What do you teach?” I said in a mock enthusiastic voice.
    “Well, many people’s abilities, unlike mine, do not give them… much offensive ability. I train people in the use of firearms. It’s an important part of the curriculum.”
    I frowned. “That sounds very different to how I remember school. Are all the classes as….extreme?”
    Professor Titov chuckled. “You have no idea, kid. You have no idea.”

  11. Tempoon 29 Jul 2011 at 8:16 pm

    A few thoughts:

    I’m not sure whether a character such as David would be best introduced by spelling out his complicated, tragic past point-by-point or by just giving half of the story and conveying a sense that there’s something terrible he isn’t telling you. In particular, the whole crystal meth episode telegraphs “this is a dark story” somewhat obviously.

    There seems to be a lot of color description when we first meet the gunman. Maybe throw in some other senses or textures?

    Nice job using the trenchcoat as an indication that all is not usual. Also with just aking a sideways reference to the top-of-the-building incident.

    Is the scripture quote going to reveal something about Titov’s character, or is it just supposed to make him more enigmatic?

    David’s sarcastic wit comes through in the words given, but maybe not so much in the way the words are presented. For example, the “Is it Ivy League?” quip comes off in my mind as something I have to think about being sarcastic. Maybe that’s just me, though – I’ve never been the best at conveying attitudes through quotes alone.

    Excellent job having the hero resist the call and then come around! I like it when authors are able to use the “accepting the call” step as an opportunity to show a new facet of a character rather than as an opportunity to drop a house on Grandpa. Although that’s already happened several times over…

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