Okay, so this has been a long time in the making. Some months ago, I finished writing the sequel to my first fiction book, and first in the Survival of the Fittest series. The first instalment was called Metamorphosis [UK]. The sequel is called Adaptation. The setting is, presciently, a pandemic that ravages the world. It follows a number of disparate but rather “normal” people as they are drawn inexorably together.
I really wanted to know, since there was a big gap in writing between the first and the second book, whether it flowed well from the first instalment. As a result, I wanted a couple of test readers who had just read the first one to then read the second in quick succession. Luckily, I found a couple. One of them works for a production company who had read my book unsolicited and contacted me to say that he absolutely loved it, including:
…it’s great, the slow dawning realisation of the full horror of what’s happening is very well done. The characters feel “real”, acting in shock and fear, rather than square jawed “let’s save the day!”. Metamorphosis is very cinematic, as you know!
I like the way the slow burn has been replaced with all hell breaking loose. The moment when our three sea faring friends are first attacked is brilliantly done. Still loving Bevan Vince is interesting in that you’ve resisted the urge to soften the edges on his character so far. It’s a brave choice, especially for a POV character, but so far it’s working really well. You definitely have a gift for dialogue. The interaction between the various characters feels very natural and real.
Also, the fact that several major characters freeze in the face of an attack, especially their first encounter. Hollywood tropes are that everyone always steps up straight away, but in real life – as you’ve written – fight or flight often translates to panic
After he finished the first one, he confirmed:
Loved it. Nicely paced, well thought “action” sequences, realistic characters and dialogue. Intrigued to get stuck into book 2, and hopefully find out a bit more about what’s caused this to happen. The sense of dread for the 3 seafarers when they’re first swarmed by a group of “zombies” is particularly wonderfully done. The sense of confusion and hesitancy is real – far more real than the instant “hero” reactions of the alpha types who always seem to inhabit these worlds.
This guy is a really useful critic, who knows the genre and appreciates what I was trying to do and how to build stories, so I decided not to release the second until I had his feedback. Halfway through, he let me know:
Halfway through. The pace is terrific, it’s breathless but you’re still managing to put some nice character beats in there. You’ve resisted the temptation so far to soften Vince’s character, which is good. Most writers would try to make him more sympathetic, but you’ve kept him as a bit of a selfish twat so far…
Finished paced perfectly. The way the groups come together feels organic and not forced.
You’ve kept it wonderfully ambiguous as to what this is, whilst drip-feeding bits of info rather deliciously all along.
Nice cliffhangers. Is Jessica dead? What will the “zombie” do when it gets up in front of Alistair’s team. Like the introduction of the prisoners… Vince is our anti-hero type (you’ve managed to build, in just a few pages, the most wonderful chemistry between him and Callum. I suspect Callum will be an emotional weakness for Vince in a way Fran wasn’t, and it’s a great dynamic to explore) but he’s not “bad”, just selfish….
Greg is interesting. Do I detect the beginnings of a man becoming unhinged under religious fervour? You’re balancing the more philosophical musings between the characters with the action really well. It doesn’t feel preachy or forced when they go on their esoteric flights of fancy, and that’s not easy to do.
Also love how you avoided the temptation to have an alpha male or female type who kills all the zombies and saves the day. Everyone is fallible, everyone is just trying to survive. Witness Bevan near the end where he’s clearly scared and unsure but tries to step up. Too often in this genre, the writer tries to have one person as the all-purpose badass, and it just doesn’t feel real. And that’s the best thing about these books. They feel REAL. They have a sense of time and place about them, driven by fully realised and engaging characters, that gives you a sense of being there, of picturing yourself in their situation. Loved it. Can’t wait for more!!! Bring on book 3.
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