Jason D’Angelo was on watch, his 10~mm double-barreled rifle cradled across his arm, when the leer broke cover. He heard its splayed webbed feet splatting on the muddy ground before he saw it. Lucien Dubois saw it at the same time and leaped back from the carcass he was gutting, bringing his knife up in futile defense.
Jason fired as the leer began its final rush toward the unprotected colonist. The leer staggered and turned on his new tormentor. Blood discolored the bird’s iridescent pink feathers, but did nothing to slow its charge. Jason aimed more carefully this time and shot it fair in the chest, just left of its massive sternum. The leer went down like a felled tree and Jason broke open his rifle.
The dead leer’s mate broke cover before he had time to reload. Jason spun around in time to see the bird explode soundlessly, scattering flesh and entrails across the clearing. For a moment Jason was too stunned to react, then he realized that Jan Andrax stood beside him holding his express pistol.
“You’d better finish reloading, Jase,” he said and turned away. Jason punched two new shells into the breech of his rifle and was grateful that there was no one to see how his fingers trembled.
Andrax swallowed hard. It had been a close thing for D’Angelo and through no fault of his own. The lO-mm rifle was part of a small consignment for New Harmony; it was designed for simplicity and reliability, not firepower. A two-shot weapon simply was not adequate for an untamed world.
He holstered his express pistol. Dubois had returned to gutting the herby, but the violence of his motions showed the degree to which he had been frightened. That was good; the fright was inevitable but he continued to function in spite of it. Jan made no move to aid him, but continued to scan the surrounding bushes.
I’ll say this from time to time since readers may discover this serial at any point. I am making my comments under the assumption that many of my readers are new or would-be writers and want the nuts-and-bolts behind the story.
As I said yesterday in the other blog, brevity was the order of the day when Jandrax was written. Books were short and you had to talk fast to get your story in. I think I overdid it sometimes.
The technique used here is called in medias res, literally, into the middle of things. It works here because the prolog and few previous paragraphs have already told us, in large, where we are. The action in the first two paragraphs tells us more specifically where we are without slowing the story for landscape description.
These first two paragraphs work, but at the beginning of the third paragraph, the second leer comes at Jason (and the reader) too fast, and Jan’s actions come out of nowhere. Jason knows that Jan is nearby; the reader doesn’t. The paragraph should begin Andrax saw the dead leer’s mate . . . Then the reader wouldn’t get lost.
The third sentence in the fifth paragraph should have been saved for later. It slows the narrative.
Don’t expect this point by point exposition to continue. It isn’t sustainable. I insert it here because this is a classic case of a new author, a first book, and a first chapter that isn’t as good as the rest of the book will be.
We all have to start somewhere.