View Full Version : Seeking experienced reader or swap for hard sci-fi

01-31-2019, 02:45 AM
I've been working on this one for years. It's been through nine readers and nearly as many full rewrites. I'm calling it "character-driven hard sci-fi." Think of it as what you would get with a collaboration between Michael Crichton (RIP) and Steven Moffat. It's right at 100k words. I'll put the opening scene below so you can get a feel for the story.

As far as response, I'm looking for whatever style works for you. Everybody has their own way of doing beta reading, so do whatever you're used to. I have no feelings, so you can't hurt them. I have two rules. First, I am not interested in being encouraged. A beta reader has one job: find weak writing and kill it. Help me with that. Second, only read as long as the story holds you. If you lose interest, simply tell me what killed it for you and we part friends. I don't expect anybody to read something that's not up to par.

If you want to swap, I'm up for it, with a couple conditions. First, I don't want to be your first reader. My reading style is to put a few hundred inline comments, hitting anything from basic grammar to scene tension to character consistency. I mostly focus on clean-up type stuff. With that style, it's a waste for everybody if the story needs huge edits. Second, you absolutely must have thick skin. I don't try to balance positive and negative, but instead go for unfiltered honesty. I'm a firm believer that a reader is the most selfish person in the world. The reader doesn't care about the writer's feelings; he/she only wants to be entertained. So my preferred style (both giving and getting) is to reflect that honesty while giving suggestions for improvement.

Finally, if we're going to swap, our genres should be at least in the same neighborhood or we might mislead each other. I'd be a terrible beta for romance or YA, for example.

All that said, the first scene of Oz Immortal appears below. Enjoy.


Chapter 1

Kansas City, MO

Nothing unexpected had happened to Oz in thirty-three years. Today, he expected the worst.

Sitting on the edge of the bed in his makeshift hospital room three stories underground, Oz pulled the blood pressure cuff up his arm and took a calming breath.

It took three more breaths before he could unclench his hand and press the button to start the blood pressure reading. As the cuff squeezed, he had the irrational thought that the machine wouldn’t stop tightening. He tried to laugh it off, but the sound was thin in the big concrete room.

The reading, 170/103, was high, but nothing compared to what it would be during his stroke. Ignoring the tremble in his age-spotted hands, he clenched his fists and glanced at the clock. Ten minutes, forty-eight seconds to the stroke’s onset. Another forty-seven minutes to the coma. Then a little over fifty-five hours to zero hour. It was that last marker that tightened his chest and made his mouth dry.

Zero hour. Was it a new beginning or a final end? His knowledge of the future, a fixture for more than three decades, ended with him in a coma in fifty-five hours. A hard stop, as they say. All the blood thinners he had taken might make the stroke survivable or might just prolong the inevitable. But there was no stopping it. That was the hell of the thing. The clock on the wall read 3:18:33 AM. Less than ten minutes, now.

Oz made a deliberate turn away from the clock, the hospital bed, and the medical equipment to face the rest of the room. In the center of the room, sat a twisted and mangled Porsche 911. Decades ago, the car had been disassembled, moved to this underground space piece-by-piece and re-assembled. He eyes went automatically to the speck of blood on the shattered windshield.

On the wall beyond the car was a set of elevator doors, which led to Oz’s house. Next to the doors was one of several monitors set high in the room’s walls. The monitor next to the elevator showed a view of the driveway, bathed in the green glow of night vision.

Behind him, he could almost feel the clock’s ticking with every numbered beat of his heart.

Refusing to look at the clock, Oz walked to the wall on his left and placed his hand on its cool surface. Almost by instinct, he knew where to find the crack. Invisible from more than a few inches, the fineness of the door’s fitment spoke to the care Oz had taken in building the vault they lay behind it.

A monitor set above the door showed the vault’s interior. On the screen was a stark cell with a single occupant. Oz’s six-year-old son lay on a simple cot. The boy stared blankly at the ceiling without moving a muscle. He could lay unmoving for hours on end, his breathing barely measuring on the biometrics.

Oz walked to keyboard sitting on a long stainless workbench and pressed a button. The audio from the boy’s cell came through a hidden speaker.

“Time to exercise,” a synthesized voice said.

With no change to his blank expression, the child stood. The computer began counting off stretching exercises which the child obeyed mechanically.

Some days, he loved the boy. Others, he wished he’d never been born. The boy had no name. This wasn’t out of cruelty, but because naming him might create sympathy for the child and that was not in his best interest. Oz would do anything to protect him.

Oz rested his forehead on the cool concrete of the vault door, relishing the way it continually drew heat from his body. The scar that ran from Oz’s right cheekbone up across his forehead burned today and the concrete’s chill was welcome. The doctors said there was no way the scar could burn after thirty-three years, but it did. Some days, the whole mangled right half of Oz’s face itched as though soaked with acid.

He glanced at the clock. Eight minutes, fourteen seconds. Oz walked to the elevator door and stood expectantly. The door opened and two men stood looking back at him. One burly and bald, but with a bushy red beard. The other thin and angular with dark, close-set eyes.

“How are you holding up?” the big man asked through a thick Scottish accent.

“No symptoms, yet,” Oz said. “The left arm starts first in about three minutes.”

Hodge rested his huge hand on Oz’s shoulder. “That’s not what I asked. How are you?”

“As expected.”

The thin man, Dr. Tony Morrow, glanced toward the invisible vault door and licked his lips. “You’re sure there’s nothing we can do? I can try -”

Oz cut him off. “It’s happening, Tony. You just have to get me through it.”

Tony Morrow nodded, though his eyes were on the screen where the boy was doing sit-ups.

“Get comfortable. I’ll start the IV first,” the doctor said, once Oz was seated on the bed’s edge.

While the doctor busied himself prepping the equipment, Oz turned to Hodge. “Everything is set. If you run into any problems –”

“Just relax. The team is set up in Atchison. These guys are the best. We’ll get it in time.”

“Ellie will be there.”

“I know. She’ll be safe.”

“Make sure of it. My daughter is not to be touched.”

“You’re worrying too much.”

“You’ve been a good friend, Hodge.”

The big man brushed it aside. “Don’t start with the goodbyes.”

Oz swallowed, glad to see that reflex was still working. He flexed his left hand. That still worked, too. Good. The doctor said, “I can go ahead and put your under. If a coma is really coming, letting me do it in advance will make it much safer.”

“No.” Oz lay back on the bed and closed his eyes. “This is the way it happens.”

He rolled his head to the side and looked for a long moment at the red Porsche. He spoke to Hodge, although his eyes didn’t leave the brown speck of dried blood. “I want the car crushed.”

“Now you’re making sense,” Hodge said with a ghost of a smile in his voice. “I don’t know why you insisted on keeping that thing.”

Oz’s left arm began to tingle. He swallowed against the sudden nausea as fear bloomed deep in his chest. He didn’t speak, but closed his eyes. A monitor began a low, steady beep.

“Take it easy,” the doctor said. “I want you to say, ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ for me.”

Oz started, but the words slurred. His lower jaw trembled and he pursed his lips as if that could stop the inevitable. Panic fought its way to the surface when he realized he couldn’t move his left arm. He’d known what to expect and thought that would inoculate him to fear. But the primal terror that gripped him had no interest in his knowledge.

“Lay back and relax,” the doctor said.

Oz squeezed his eyes shut and gripped the bed sheet with the hand that still worked. His breath came in sharp gasps as a black hole opened inside his head. Dimly, he could hear the boy in the cell. Or imagined he could, at least. The child began a high, keening wail.

The maw of blackness grew, pushing a wave of agony ahead of itself. Oz tried to cry out, but found his voice was gone. The black hole expanded to fill his world.

And Oz fell in.

01-31-2019, 02:03 PM
I'm way off your intended beta reader. But I would just say reading the first little bit that the word OZ is probably too 'taken' by the Wizard of Oz. I daresay Kansas being written before that doesn't help either.

Could just be me

01-31-2019, 05:52 PM
I'm way off your intended beta reader. But I would just say reading the first little bit that the word OZ is probably too 'taken' by the Wizard of Oz. I daresay Kansas being written before that doesn't help either.

Could just be me

Ha! You know I've had twenty people read the opening chapter over the years and not a single one (including the author...) ever connected the location with the character's name. Now I can't unsee it... Great, now I have to move my story. :)