short fiction

Times Up

Timed writing exercise, using each word from the sentence – “It is an intuitive, user-friendly
software package, simple to maintain, operate and upgrade as necessary.” – to start off individual sentences or sections of speech. Approximately 10 minutes writing time, with no expectations of completing the story.

Sentence taken from the following document: Securing the UK Government Communication Headquarters

It didn’t take long for the power to completely drain away, and leave her eyes staring at the emergency oxygen gauge. Is the prospect of death, perhaps, the greatest focus for precision and observation ever created?

An eager sub-system regulated the flow of the atmosphere that remained, adjusting the mixture of gases to provide minimal life support. Intuitive interface graphics glimmered bright and red or, more optimistically, a burnt orange. User-friendly displays didn’t figure in Amanda’s top three concerns at the moment, as a dull ache bloomed in her chest, lungs working harder to draw every breath.

Software managed the rough balance of hardware and wetware in the station, dispassionately dividing up power and resources. Package it up in statistics and even the expiry of human life simply boils down to just enough system making demands. Simple survival comes down to competing with the very objects of human creation.

To live better and more comfortably, we built without consideration of what might happen when things went wrong. Maintain didn’t figure if excess got in the way and demanded all the attention.

“Operate or die,” Amanda muttered, pulling herself across the room with leaden limbs, “Computer? Can you lock down sections nine through eleven, then channel the atmosphere through into the core?”

And then what, she thought, what more can I do except hang here a little longer, feeling life ebb away with every precious breath?

“Upgrade protocols for core services initiated. Atmospheric recycle processing.”

As the venting hissed, Amanda felt a slight buzz in her veins. Necessary as she felt her existence might be to the success of the mission, she hoped someone alive in another section of the station would value her life enough not to rob her of an atmosphere like she had just done to Groves and Oakley.

Magic of the Angels: Review

Magic of the Angels. Jacqueline RaynerMagic of the Angels by Jacqueline Rayner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Quick Read can easily just slip by in a single sitting. At the end, you might feel the urge to go out and read more of an author, or you might be inspired to read another and another. A Quick Read done well provides a somewhat self contained tale that has a distinct beginning, middle and an end – and presents them with style, energy, enthusiasm, engagement… one or another, several or all.

Somewhere in the mix, ‘Magic of the Angels’ tells a self-contained tale with all the necessary elements, but fails to satisfy with depth and leaves the reader wanting without the hunger to seek out more from the same source.

Having read other books in the Quick Read series for 2012, I have seen how you can achieve some interesting things in a very limited page count. Jacqueline Rayner doesn’t quite pull it off here. The Doctor, Amy and Rory seem right enough, with just enough character to match the expectation of a fan reader or young Whovian. However, perhaps a little too much fan service and rolling out of familiar series tropes makes for a distraction rather than an essential dollop of colour.

I enjoyed the basic plot, but felt that the human villain of the piece might have been given more background to better sell the reader on his intentions. His callouse indifference to the fate of his victims in the pursuit of his own selfish purpose would have benefited from a deeper sence of his hurt or battered vision of the world.

The author makes great use of the abilities of the Weeping Angel, drawing in elements from all appearance of the monster in the series, but fails to provide motivation or thorough explanation. The story fails to explain why the Weeping Angel chooses to submit to external control or feeds with such limited quantities. The canny Angels have survived for so long for a reason, yet this one seems dulled by captivity and indifferent to the possibilities of escape presented by the situation.

The familiar time travelling characters work well enough together and we get the expected division of companions from the Time Lord for hi-jinx and a threat of sudden and premature demise. I can’t pick holes in the essentials of the story, or indeed have any wish to try, but the end result left me feeling mildly unsatisfied. Everything hung together, but it felt thin, like using one of those vacuum-sealed micro-tubs of strawberry jam to spread across a whole piece of steaming toast. You get a hint of flavour, but not enough.

I went in for the whole luxurious Belgian chocolate experience and came away with a thinly coated, store own branded, diet wafer snack. Quick Read, by all means – but, that shouldn’t mean skimping on the story.

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