Knightfall - buy it now

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Negative book review

I have received my first negative book review (in addition to the one that compared Knightfall to the TV series Revolution, they still gave me 3 stars which to my mind is 'average' and hey, if I can score an average mark with my first novel then it can't be all bad).  At first I was a little upset about it, but then I read it again and I realised that the reviewer had a lot of good points.  I emailed them, and they were kind enough to give more feedback in the form of unanswered questions, which I will try to answer below.  First, the review....

'I received this book free for review.

Ben is a teen prodigy who has discovered a way to acquire limitless energy. During the testing phase, unexpected events unfold and Ben awakens to a new version of his own world.

I’m not sure I understand where the author is going with Knightfall, and how Ben’s own world plays into the events of his current world. After the first chapter or two it has nothing to do with Ben at all. The reader does not get any insight as to what is going on in Ben’s head, other than a few vague journal entries. Does he think about his family, or his own home? He doesn’t even seem to be trying to find answers or get home; leaving me to wonder ‘what is his purpose?’ Is he in the future or a parallel dimension? Since this is the first book in the series there is still room to answer the many questions I have, and I have many more.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book, but to be honest I didn’t. The first couple chapters were very intriguing, but I think at some point along the way it became too overwhelmed with different POV’s and unimportant details. New characters and ideas just seemed to be haphazardly thrown into the mix of rapidly unfolding events.'

As I said, a lot of relevant and important points raised.  The questions are below, and I will answer them in turn -

1. Why isn’t Ben trying to get home?
When Ben first gets to his new world, he has no idea where he is or what has happened.  His first thought is nuclear war (an irrational knee-jerk reaction really), then on the Road Trains he thinks it may be the future, but he doesn't know.  One of the reasons he decides to go through all of the technology on the trains is that they are a piece of his home, and he hopes they my tell him where he is.  Until he knows where he is, he can't think about how to get home.  He thinks like a scientist, practical and based on facts and theories with an experiment to prove or disprove them.  Once he knows where he is, he can then start on a way to get home, if he thinks it is possible.

I have since updated my website with details of where Ben is (I wasn't going to tell people where he is until Ben worked it out for himself, but people asked and so I told them.  Essentially, it can be read here and there is no way for him to get home).  Initially, I was going to leave the dream sequence in the first chapter as the only answer.

2.  Why is he so set on helping the crew from the Road train? Does he feel he owes them for saving him or does he feel caught up in events?
The first people he meets in his new world try to kill him, then he collapses in the snow and nearly dies.  The people on the Road Train save him, and he is grateful as well as wary of them.  There is some sense of obligation too, but mainly he hopes that hey may help to keep him alive while he searches for answers as to what's going on.  Then he gets caught up in the events that unfold rapidly around him, nearly dies again, they save him again, and then he offers to help them solve their problems in return for their aid.

3.  What are his feelings as he’s traveling with this crew? What does he think of this new world he’s in and does he miss his old world?  
In his own world, the people he worked with in the lab every day are his friends and family.  He takes a liking to the Road Train crew because they remind him of other people (referring back to where Ben is and how this world came to be).  What he likes the most though is the world and how everything is new and different whilst at the same time almost the same.  As stated above, Ben is a scientist and finds the trains, the world, the bridge, the crazy cities and villages, and everything absolutely fascinating, a bit like a magpie when it sees something shiny.  He stops wondering where he is and is more interested in how a road train works, why the cities are arranged the way they are, why bits seem new and some seem very old, randomly thrown together.  He is surrounded by questions that his brain is desperately trying to answer. 

4.  Does he think about his family? (They’re mentioned in the first chapter and he seems to miss them at that point).
He has seen less and less of his family over the preceding 5 years, and is less attached to them than he would have been if he had lived with them.  He also knows that they should be okay because they were in London when the lab exploded in mainland Western Europe.  He misses his friends at the lab more, and reflects a little on that when he finds their rooms in the lab, but then he is running and trying to stay alive, whilst filled with wonder and amazement wherever he turns.

5.  Ben is a genius, so what can he offer this group from his own abilities that will benefit them, and how will it help to get him home, if in fact he is thinking about getting home?
He offers them the use of the vehicles in the laboratory in the hope that they will allow the Road Train crew to get to their home more quickly and warn them about the attack.  He also gives them weapons and equipment that will aid them in their fight (eg the night vision goggles).  With regards to what his genius can offer, he understands mathematics and physics, so not a lot in this medieval world.  Apart from the reverse engineered mechanical items (guns, Road Trains, I was going to have an Archimedes screw on a farm at one point but deleted it), they are at a medieval level of social and political development.

6.  The electricity in his lab is still functional, why, if this world doesn’t have electricity?
Electricity in this world is more of a myth, a legend, a 'something' that will make the old technology work.  People have no idea what it exactly is, and when Ben tries to explain that lightning is just natural electricity, they first can't believe that he can harness lightning, and then doesn't really believe him anyway.  The dynamo with the bulb he makes is dimmer than a candle, so how can it be the electricity that will make all of the old technology work?  How do you explain what an electron is and how it orbits the nucleus of an atom in various layers and the forces that it exhibits to someone who only really understands what they can see and feel?  Its a bit like explaining how a modern internal combustion engine works to the person who first discovered the wheel.  I have a character in book 2 who collects pieces of old tech and imagines electricity to be a sort of key.

When they arrive at the lab and see working technology, they have no idea what is does but are more impressed.  Then more fighting and they have to forget about it for a while.

7.  Is this the future or a parallel dimension?
This is a pocket dimension, see the link above for more detail.

8.  Will we eventually find out what happened to his team in the lab and why their bodies were missing?
This is not the same lab, this is a construct from his subconscious as described on the link above.  As to what happens on the earth Ben left, there is a 3 mile wide crater left behind that has an impact on that world.  I hope to write those stories one day in a trilogy called The Succession War.

(Not in the list of questions sent by the reviewer but pulled from the review)

9.  After the first chapter or two it has nothing to do with Ben at all.
The book is called 'The Chronicle of Benjamin Knight', and that's what it is; His journal as he explores his new world and the events that unfold there, which were happening anyway, he just impacts on them slightly and they change because of his presence.  The world is both created in the instant he falls into it, but also has thousand of years of history (broaching the concept of non-linear time that may be explored in a later book).  I never promised Ben would be the main character, and I don't promise that he will survive through all of the future stories in this world.  He may be it's creator (even unknowingly), but he is as vulnerable there as anyone else.  He is our eyes, as it were, to another person's story, at the same time as becoming part of it.

10.  I think at some point along the way it became too overwhelmed with different POV’s and unimportant details. New characters and ideas just seemed to be haphazardly thrown into the mix of rapidly unfolding events.
I take the point about too overwhelmed by point of views.  I tried to keep them to three, and hopefully did a better job with book 2, and may well go back and re-write pieces in the future.  The book is not really meant to stand alone as a complete story, though, just tell how Ben got to the world and the first part of Alexander's war.  It is supposed to make the reader ask questions whilst enjoying the events that occur, leaving many more questions than answers.

I really enjoyed LOST and that method of story telling.  An off hand comment from a character in season 2 may have be pivotal plot point in season 5, you just have to pay attention and wait for the pay off.  The new characters and ideas may seem to be haphazardly thrown into the mix, but that's because you haven't gotten the whole story yet, just the first part.  I really want the pieces I set up to pay off, and if they don't then I have failed in telling my story.


Still with me?  Here goes.
Three of the characters have supernatural type abilities in this story.  They all use them in Knightfall, one of them unknowingly while the other two use them consciously.  I hope when readers find out who they are, they will go back and say 'ah, now I know why that scene seemed odd/weird!'.

So, that's the questions answered, and I hope that they will help others who have similar questions make sense of it.  I realise that not everyone will like my story, and that's fine, I saw someone gave Stephen Kings's IT two stars of Goodreads the other day (I know, I didn't believe it either!).  I really appreciate the feedback though, how else will I get better?  I want to keep writing, I have a lot more stories to tell, and anyone who tells me when I get it wrong should be thanked.

As usual, comments below please, let me know what you think!

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