Reviews For Across the Styx
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Reviewer: CeJay Signed [Report This]
Date: 03 Dec 2019 20:03 Title: The End of the Season

One thing that is really quite obvious in this story is that Arnie's got a big heart and the fact that he has taken such a liking to these two kids is plenty of evidence of this. It truly pains him to know that they may never get the chance to escape their bleak fate.

But in any case, mission accomplished, as far as the supplies were concerned, this was clearly a successful run into a ghastly and somewhat hopeless nation which may still be paranoid about "undocumented immigrants"

Nice bit of social commentary in here which is exactly what good sci-fi and Trek should do, I think.

The ending, too, is quite delightful and ties in nicely with beginning of the story. A journey that started out gloomy and depressing, ends on a note of hope for the future.

The writing, especially the prose, was outstanding and certainly extremely professional. The way you interspersed plot with backstory was also very effective in giving the reader great insight into this fascinating character and his history, as well as advancing the story of a daring raid under tough conditions in a dystopian future.

Naturally this has whetted my appetite for more stories featuring your universe-hopping hero. What do I read next?

Author's Response: I think he's got a bigger heart than he thinks he does, anyway. His character arc in his original canon was one of my favorite things ever. Because he's NOT a likable guy to start, he's a total prat, he's got a mean streak; yet, by the time you get through six seasons, you're cheering for him anyway.

And OMG, the sociology of this universe is fascinating stuff, honestly. It's a big mental work out trying to parse events and how they relate to Prime!Trek, but I've been enjoying it.

I'm so glad you liked that ending! I did too. Things do go downhill -- I mean, there is eventually the Terran Empire -- but there are still good people trying to do good here, too.


Reviewer: CeJay Signed [Report This]
Date: 03 Dec 2019 19:52 Title: Poltergeists

This guy definitely knows what he's doing and clearly this isn't his first rodeo.

Still, there is always tension when you sneak into hostile territory and you did a masterful job at making it palpable in this chapter.

This may be nothing new for Arnie, but the danger is still very real even if the soldiers he's up against are drugged up and underfed. In fact, perhaps that makes it even more dangerous.

Author's Response: As Teddog says in another review, he kinda revels in this covert ops bullshit. LOL! In his original canon, he was a bit of a weasel, so the job of sneaking around quite suits him. And yeah, the danger is real, and he definitely never forgets that, but he's at the point of skill and practice that he's pretty good at assessing that. Not perfect, he's only human, but pretty good. Thanks! ^_^

Reviewer: CeJay Signed [Report This]
Date: 03 Dec 2019 19:46 Title: 'Round and Around

I've probably said this before but Arnie sure is one hell of a fascinating characters with just so much intriguing backstory.

My favorite part of this chapter though has to be the two young rebels imitating Arnie's accent. I suppose there ain't much traveling going on in the post-apocalyptic world, or movies and TV shows for that matter.

Great stuff interspersing such great light-hearted moments into this generally quite dark tale.

Author's Response: I stole him from the British sci-fi/comedy Red Dwarf, so I can't claim he's original. XD But I can claim that my version's been around the block; I first wrote him twenty-five years ago! I figured that those two kids probably have never heard a British accent. And that was some fun stuff to write, for sure. Thanks so much for the comment!

Reviewer: Teddog Signed [Report This]
Date: 01 Dec 2019 19:43 Title: The End of the Season

Finally! The end of the story!

"Sault Ste. Marie was a guarded border crossing both ways;"

I had been wondering about The Soo. The explanation here makes sense. Ontario's north is rough but full of natural resources that one could reap with the right amount of exploitation.

I'm really interested to see what becomes of Will and Jim in the future. I suspect nothing great, given that this timeline is going to get worse before it gets any better. Better being a vague term here.

I'm particularly fond of the visuals these two lines invoke:

"Just as anticipated, the sleet had turned to snow; dawn had broken in monochrome."

"Whenever a pothole or some other disturbance pulled him back to the waking world, he'd glance around and make sure all was well, then rest his head back against the window and watch the snow fly past until he drifted again."

I enjoy the ending with the billboard, although I can't shake that it feels like a bright spot in what is going to be a rapidly darkening future. Arnie makes a pretty bold, public statement, despite that he's going to eventually withdraw in about ten years. He's also displaying a lot of hope and attachment to a country that's about to fall in the years to come. There's the immediate threat of the coming winter and that Arnie's exposure limiting what he's going to be able to do beyond the safe zones for months.

There's a lot of unsaid dread and unknowns on the horizon. I like the way that's presented, as it doesn't shy away from how grim the world is, but my heart breaks a bit for what terrible things could be after this success.

Author's Response: Yeah, I wanted to figure out how that complicated border up there would look, especially given that it didn't get nuked. I imagine it's not a very fun posting for either side of things, really.

I have plans for them, though whether I'll ever write them all out in detail is more in the air. LOL! I do not plan on killing them in some awful manner, at least.

Adding to the billboard was a bold statement! The best part being that it's not a simple statement, either; it's kinda defiant and kind of a challenge. It's also oddly a reassurance. And it's just a tiny bit hopeful, too. I think the signature was less for himself and more for the Canadians he's surrounded with, but it was the right way to sign it. Which, I think, is why I like it. It's a complicated thing and I'm not sure even he could detangle his reasoning even if he had the mental space to do it and someone he trusted enough to explain it to, but I can see most of it from this side.

We kinda know what's coming. But I do think there are good moments ahead, even if the overall arc is heading downwards. Thanks so much for the comment!

Reviewer: Teddog Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Nov 2019 23:04 Title: Poltergeists

I love this chapter so much. Let me count the ways.

You don't show much about Enrico and Arnie's time together (I don't think it's ever been explored deeply on screen, other than we know it happened) but the little peeks we get into that time are so vivid that I don't think we need to see more to get an idea of what it was like.

I adore the boys. They're jerks in the way teenagers can be, but charming nonetheless. You can't help but feel sad for their desperate situation and understand why Arnie, especially with his own garbage youth, would want to see something better for them. You know, aside from them reminding him of the twins.

"And Arnie was proud of her, because she had done what he could only pretend to: She'd adapted and accepted and then made something great of it."

Give it time, Arnie.

The section detailing the end of Prime Nance is a gut punch. In all of the right ways, natch, but it's a brief, emotionally intense section. I don't think this timeline's Nance has really come into her own like that. This part really drives home that I need to get off my butt and write about that transition in the 2080s.

What I love about the action scene is similar to what I mentioned about the MMI RR: it's really clear that Arnie lives for this covert ops bullshit. This isn't a cold action scene about logic dominating emotional, but one that delights in sticking it to corrupt authority. It makes me giddy to read.

Author's Response: Ah yes, the two rat bastards. LOL! I actually really adore AU!Enrico? And I think a lot of his meaner edge fell off by the time we met him in that AU, too. Dude was brave and badass and wore a coonskin hat with five tails-- wasn't it counting the five times he escaped certain death? And now we know at least part of HOW he did. Which was this other highly skilled rat bastard in his ancient history. XD

I really adore the boys too. I've got tentative plans for them which are not actually devastating. And yeah, you nailed the combination of why he'd want better for them.

Yeah, I totally did start crying when I wrote about Prime!Nance's last days. It was the gentlest kind of ending, but fricken-- still, you know?

LOL! For a guy who used to be so down on himself, he found two niches he really could inhabit like a boss: Printing and covert ops. Both of them suit his personality, though in different ways. So, he definitely has a good time doing it, and getting to stick it to a corrupt authority is the icing on the cake. Thank you! <333

Reviewer: Teddog Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Nov 2019 22:42 Title: 'Round and Around

I like the emotional range in this chapter; it feels like that's the main focus here, as we're mostly dealing with mission set up in the actual events.

We have the discussion about how Arnie manages to go out on these missions, which focuses on his strong sense of confidence in getting the job done. However, that doesn't make him emotionally cold or short sighted. Arnie still has space for joy, anxiety and empathy. Being good at surviving in the post-apocalypse doesn't mean burning out or shutting down one's emotions. Compared to weaker stories in such a setting, this is a breath of fresh air.

Two little bits of writing that capture my imagination for things unsaid, off-screen:

"No one pounded on the door to wake him up, so Arnie figured he hadn't overslept; "

Fuck you, Tom. :P

"It wasn't nearly as successful a strategy as he wanted it to be, but maybe with practice it would be. It wasn't like he didn't have time to get good at it"

Knowing what is coming up in two hundred years, this feels ominous.

Author's Response: For someone who claims to be an anti-social bastard, he halfway fails at that. I think if there's anywhere that he's LESS self-aware, it's in his propensity to get attached to people without actually meaning to or even quite realizing it, until the chips are down in some way. Hell, the Red Dwarf crew. The original ShadowKnights. And these people.

Tom would just shrug and say, "Should have set an alarm." LOL!

Also, yeah. Heh. That foreshadowing to Mister Aloof down the road. It takes a surprising amount of bad happening -- 2072-2080 -- before he masters that to any real degree. And probably another couple decades for it to become comfortable, or comfortably numb anyway. Thanks for the comment! ^_^

Reviewer: Teddog Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Nov 2019 20:02 Title: The Wastelands

Two passages that I think are really compelling upon reading:

"In a way, he was glad that Nance was physically confined to a box; he had a feeling that if she wasn't, she would be on the front lines trying to save people, individually or by town, and would get herself killed or captured in the process."

The reveal that I like here is that we get a sense that Arnie is an excellent judge of people and situations even if he admits to not being the most social of people. I can see this as being a mix of subconscious survival skills and conscious covert opts skills.

This pays off later in the chapter when we get the sense of how much Arnie is consciously aware of his quirks. I love that there's a reveal of self-awareness, even if it might not be fully self-aware. That leads me to wonder: how much did Logan or Enrico observe about Arnie's quirks, if both of them drove home the same themes? Or was that just general advice?

"...but most of it was antibiotics and other medications it was hard to get anywhere, even in Canada, though thanks to Forrester they were able to. If not always reliably."

I missed this during beta, but this is actually really complicated in the context of medical ethics and probably grounds for future in-universe discussion. The short version is that, in the real world, uncertain distribution of medication is often socially moral but can be considered medically unethical. This is a deep cut and admittedly informed by professional experience. For me, the mention here reflects how dire and oppressive the situation truly is if Forrester allows the uneven shipment of medication to happen.

It also addresses something that's overlooked in post-apocalyptic fiction: what about the medication distribution supply? If the world ends, how do people get maintenance medications?

Author's Response: Re: Arnie being a pretty solid judge of character/situation, I think the covert ops skills almost mitigate the survival skills. Not mitigate. But temper? Because in canon, he's constantly on edge and paranoid about other people, their motivations, their intentions. Now, all these years later, he has some slightly better filters to look through; he tends to assume good faith more, even if he's not in a hurry to make friends. LOL!

And yeah, he's not too bad at self-awareness, all given. He still likes to live in denial, but at least part of the time, he's actually aware he's in denial. XD Re: Logan and Enrico; I think Logan -- who was a good teacher -- probably read him a whole lot easier than Arnie would be comfortable with. So, giving this neurotic, anxiety-prone guy some tools for all that anxiety would have been job one; getting methodical about situations where you have time to reason is one of those tools. And Enrico was dealing with a guy who was on the run emotionally and literally, and probably was able to recognize that much? So, had the same advice.

The situation really is dire. I'm sure Johnathan would rather be able to do things on the up-and-up, regularly, but things are so lean and controlled by a conservative government that even what he manages to do is pretty extraordinary and at no small personal risk. But I love how your background informs your view on it, and I'd love to figure out what that in-universe discussion would entail. XD As to how do people get their maintenance meds? Many don't. And many die. Thanks for the really hella awesome comment!

Reviewer: Teddog Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Nov 2019 19:23 Title: Outbound Ghosts

My favourite part of this chapter is the still beginning of the check-in. I love the different reactions of Arnie, Tom and The Reverend in the cab. You really capture both how claustrophobia that space is and the comradery that helps them tolerate that limited space, despite the friction between their personalities.

And that friction is earnest but not necessarily antagonistic. We can get a sense that these characters are all united in a similar goal although not always in agreement.

Author's Response: I definitely was aiming to show that they were all three professionals, I guess? Like-- they get on well enough to do their jobs, and the Reverend is a natural peacemaker, but yeah, their being united in the common goal is what keeps it from becoming a real brawl at any point. Re: the check-in and cab scene; I like the feeling of it. It's cramped, but it's kinda cozy too. Thanks for the comment!

Reviewer: CeJay Signed [Report This]
Date: 30 Nov 2019 13:09 Title: The Wastelands

A lot of exposition which is not a bad thing to continue on the great world-building in this piece.

Things are truly dire in this reality, presumably they weren't a great deal better in the Prime Universe after WWIII. Green,after all, was there too.

The one silver-lining here is that, although this is the MU, I believe, eventually the Terran Empire will be a better place for ... well Terrans. Not so much for anyone who isn't.

Author's Response: Oh, I know it. It's definitely not my most polished work, but yeah, a lot of it's because this is the first time I've written in this era and had to do some scene-setting. Things are dire! And they get worse! But-- it's not all darkness, either. And no, Green was pretty awful in either timeline. And the Terran Empire does get better to terrans, yes. Maybe not rebels, though. Thanks so much for the comment!

Reviewer: CeJay Signed Liked [Report This]
Date: 26 Nov 2019 14:07 Title: Outbound Ghosts

Terrific piece of world-building here, even if it is a dark and depressing world. Quite a few layers to unpick as well with a lot of backstory which makes these characters (which I'm not familiar with) really feel alive and interesting.

I'm not big into post-apocalyptic sci-fi (one of the many reasons why I prefer Trek over say Terminator or other, darker franchises) but this story certainly has me intrigued and I'm curious to learn more about this world, Arnie and the ShadowKnights.

Author's Response: Oh man. Hiya CeJay! It kinda is dark and depressing, though it has its moments of kindness and hope, at least. And oh my god, the backstory. Heh. That's a very long story (Arnie's timeline -- just the timeline for reference -- is 9500 words, and that doesn't even go into the show he came from.) I know what you mean. I like post-apocalyptic stuff, but not so much for sci-fi? But I'm thrilled you enjoyed it even out of context, and thank you so much for the comment!

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Nov 2019 23:22 Title: 'Round and Around

Hope is not a sin, indeed. This is great!

Author's Response: That's one he wrestles with pretty much back and forth with for centuries, too. Thank you very much!

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Nov 2019 23:13 Title: The Wastelands

Intriguing characters. And thanks for resurrecting coulamine and Crossman Pharma. The co-heiress (she has a twin sister) to the Crossman Pharma fortune during the ENT time period is the sweet, pretty, and sometimes a bit dim Jenny Crossman, Lili's roommate and eventual friend. I like the idea of that sort of contrast, where the predecessors might as well be from another planet -- much like our own ancestors probably were during the Dark Ages. 

Thank you for bringing back the Second Dark Ages and their downbeat vibe where everything feels itchy and gray and strange and wrong.

Author's Response: I love how scrappy they are, honestly. XD And yes, I have some plans for that down the road, though nothing to the level you've done with it. And oh, that's a neat bit of lore there; it's always fascinating the difference a few generations make. I'm definitely enjoying drawing this out. The weight of the inevitable, but also the bright little sparks of humanity and hope.

Reviewer: jespah Signed [Report This]
Date: 16 Nov 2019 22:56 Title: Outbound Ghosts

Exciting and fascinating beginning -- so, many, questions! Well done.

Author's Response: Question one: How the hell does one get Arnold J. Rimmer and turn him into a wildly competent covert ops agent? Answer: It's a much longer story and he's 119 here. LOL! Thank you. <3 This has been a very enlightening era to write. I imagine at this point, things still parallel the Prime Trek timeline enough that the MRR2 people would recognize the feeling.

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