HH Com 177

The Burbs—the toxic, gang-ridden sprawl surrounding Freedom City—is home to the poor, the criminal, the desperate. Stubbs is all three. Once he ran the means streets. Now he’s barely scraping by—a stubborn throwback in a world where reality is stored on hard drives; where bodies are upgraded to fit the latest fashions; where cheap tech can make a monster out of every two-bit hood.

When he’s hired to protect a wealthy woman with her own mysterious agenda, Stubbs sees his last chance: to pay his debts, to start a new life, to prove he’s worth a damn. And when she’s murdered on his watch, Stubbs will stop at nothing to track down her killer in a desperate bid for redemption or revenge —whichever comes first.

From the lawless Burbs to the exclusive pleasure domes of the Yellow Diamond; from the gleaming gilded cages of the City to the bizarre bazaars of the Zoo, Stubbs is drawn into a deadly web of technology, politics, and vengeance. A web connecting cops, evangelists, gangsters, and his own dark past.

In the end, Stubbs will have to risk everything—his life, his makeshift family, even his soul—to stop a killer. A killer who is less—and very much more—than human.

bingo bango bongo!


Anonymous said...

I was about to snipe about the lack of proofreading, when I realized the 'errors' were too consistent. Forgetting to take it out of Word format would account for the missing em-dashes, but I'm not sure why the apostrophes got eaten, too.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this gets a bingo. I'm guessing it gets a bingo because of the form of the hook, and it has an interesting plot. Is there no devaluation for awful grammar and sentence construction? You know, the basics of the language? Just curious.

writtenwyrdd said...

I found this to be the plot of a couple other books I've read fairly recently, more or less. I suppose it could be good, but I don't get the bingo on this one...for me, there's not a lot of exciting specifics. I thought, Oh It's Another Crimson City episode, actually. It must be a matter of personal taste.

Anonymous said...

Author here.

Anon1 nailed it... though I did in fact copy it from Word into Notepad in an attempt to get a text-only version.

I'm guessing blogger doesn't like em-dashes or 'fancy' apostrophes.

Put an em-dash between all the words without spaces, and put the apostrophes back in - and if the sentence structure and grammar are still 'awful' I'd like to hear why.


Crys said...

the author will probably get zinged on the story for its derivativeness, but you know, this is the kind of story people like to read before they drop off to sleep or when stuck in airports; it's good, solid pulp.

puzzlehouse said...

It may be a well-written hook ... but as far as SF plots go, it's far from unique.

The point, of course, is that the writing in the hook trumps all.

Kate Nepveu said...

Author: the best thing to do, in the future, is to tell Word to _save as_ plain text, with a .txt extension (probably listed ASCII under the file drop-down menu, but I don't have a copy of Word here to check), and _then_ open the .txt file in Notepad for copying and pasting.

Just FYI.

type, monkey, type said...

An example of grammar problems:

From the lawless Burbs to the exclusive pleasure domes of the Yellow Diamond; from the gleaming gilded cages of the City to the bizarre bazaars of the Zoo [the previous two fragments can't be connected by a semi-colon; a semi-colon only connects complete clauses], Stubbs is drawn into a deadly web of technology, politics, and vengeance. A web connecting cops, evangelists, gangsters, and his own dark past. [This last sentence is a fragment.]

Your writing kicks ass, but there are some punctuation goofs throughout.

Dave said...

Regardless of the punctuation, it's a good hook. E-mail can do weird things. A copy editor would take care of the punctuation.

The hook is focused on Stubbs, his problems and how he solves them. It's set in a future world but that's not the hook, Stubbs is. Even the killer, who's kinda, maybe, possibly human is brought in at the right time and in the appropriate emphasis.

Gerri said...

Don't use em-dashes. Just do a double hyphen. You'll have to explore Word to turn off the auto-dash. That, and turn off smart quotes. Just use the straight lines. That'll stop the apostrophe problems. I'd advise doing that for all your writing, not just stuff intended for the Internet. That way, you'll be ready for anything.

Otherwise, nice hook. I learned a lot from it.

Writerious said...

You forgot Irving.

It's Bingo, Bango, Bongo, and Irving.

(For those who remember their Gilligan's Island years.)

I Said said...

"stop at nothing"
"dangerous bid"
As a matter of fact, that whole sentence sounds like it's right out of a textbook on how to write a movie trailer.

I don't agree at all about the hook being good--but then it did work. But I do think the premise of the story is neat as long a the book isn't filled with the cliches.

Anonymous said...

Author here (again...)

After seeing the comments on some of the first hooks, I was sure I'd get ripped on this for lack of specificity and the plot sounding too generic. While I'm thrilled that Miss Snark liked it, that's obviously still a problem given comments here. I'm not claiming to have re-invented sci-fi as we know it or anything, but I don't see my plot as an airport potboiler, and it's a far cry from Crimson City and its ilk. I hope. Back to work for me.

Miss Snark doesn't do sci-fi, perhaps that's why it seemed less generic to her.

WW, out of curiosity, what other books did it seem similar too?

Kate - thanks, but I did have it in .txt format. The problem I think is that blogger doesn't like em-dashes or 'fancy' apostrophes (which are allowed in .txt files). Either that or the webmail utility I used to send it monkeyed the format up.

TypeMonkey - thanks. Semi-colons always give me fits. As for the fragment, I see it but I don't much care - one of those instances where good writing trumps good grammar IMHO. I think that anon2's comments were directed at the formatting snafu, however, not my egregious semi-colon misuse.


Anonymous said...

This might be far from unique & have typos, but it really grabbed my interest and drew me in. I'd read it!

Katharine said...

The HTML for an em dash is as follows, only without spaces between the elements:

& mdash ;

If you want em dashes in a phrase on this or any blog, just type that code (without the spaces between elements and with no space before or after the code), and it'll look fine, like this:

... The Burbs—the toxic, gang-ridden sprawl surrounding Freedom City—is home ...

Anonymous said...


Very interesting. I think I would enjoy this. Yes, it seems to be a formula novel, but I am one of those who likes them, both in airports and before going to sleep.

I could accept the grammar idiosyncrasies as reflecting the imperfect background world of the main character, but I suspect the hurry with which this was written may account for them.

I believe this is the second bingo on a formula mystery. I've noticed how totally "back of the book" polished they sound.

Virginia Miss said...

Author, congrats on hooking Miss Snark!

Anonymous said...

Type monkey, it's true that the author only needed a comma to separate those two clauses, but it's not true that a semicolon can only be used to connect complete clauses. It's also used when punctuating a series of dependent clauses which require their own internal commas.

But the person who criticized this submission for "awful grammar" is wrong. It has much better grammar than most of these I've read.

Anonymous said...

"Punctuation goofs" can be fixed by an editor. Yes, as summarized by the hook, the plot might sound familiar, but there are only so many plots in the world. It's the telling that makes a novel worth reading, and it sounds like this writer can tell a good story.

Kate Nepveu said...

Hmm. Prior comment appears not to have made it through.

Removing critique of word choice, then:

For purposes of calibration of effect, Author: as a science fiction reader, this hook leaves me thinking "cyberpunk."

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark I know you are kidding. You have to be kissing about this grammar nightmare.

Anonymous said...

It may be a little less than unique, but I honestly didn't notice that until puzzlehouse mentioned it. I like it. If you can write well, I think you've got a chance with this.

You may want to rethink the name Stubbs, however. That was a character on a cop show long ago. What was that? Miami Vice? The name shouldn't be that difficult to replace though.

Good luck.

A Paperback Writer said...

Careful, type monkey, a semi-colon may be used to connect phrases if the series of phrases is long and already uses many commas; however, I agree that the semi-colons are not needed in the sentence you picked out.
As for the plot sounding "familiar," it reminds me very much of the current trendy YA series with Uglies and Pretties in it.
I thought this was a realitively interesting idea. Good luck, author.

HawkOwl said...

Wow. I so couldn't agree less.

That being said, you're right about Blogger. Blogger accepts HTML as input, not Microsoft-ese. There are ways to make all the fancy characters, though. Like, hmm, how about: ⊕. (Actually I have no idea if that's gonna work, HTML being non-standard. But you don't need this one, usually.)

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, JS. Popular Fiction II would be proud.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. There seems to be the typical vagueness and cliches seen in most hooks (Mysterious agenda, deadly web, desperate bid for redemption) and I was completely confused about what was going on. It must be a genre you like.

xiqay said...

Yes, it seems inconsistent that Miss Snark would pick this one from the slush, with some of the trite phrasing and overall vagueness.

but then "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds" or something like that.

I liked this one as more pulp fiction, beach read (airport read) material.

a reader said...

If this book is about living on the internet (and I think it is), and author is asking what novels are like this, here's a small list of novels on the same subject:
Virtual Light
The Diamond Age (more about nanotechnology than the internet, I guess)
Count Zero

I'm sure there's a lot more.

MWT said...

"Cyberpunk" was the first thing that popped into my head too.

The strange grammar/punctuation bogged it way down for me, especially in the first paragraph. "Once he ran the means streets" makes no sense. You need "and" before the last item in each list. For example: "Now he barely scrapes by - a stubborn throwback in a world were reality is stored on hard drives, where bodies are upgraded to fit the latest fashions, AND where cheap tech can make a monster out of every two-bit 'hood." (You don't need semicolons. Commas are adequate there.)

The last two paragraphs were much too vague, and I think there should've been more about the killer than there was. And earlier than first mention in the last paragraph.

The second paragraph was good.

Maybe Miss Snark just likes things that sound like thrillers.

Fuchsia Groan said...

You got me with the part about upgrading bodies to fit the latest fashions. I actually didn't realize it was SF at first, because I'm reading a book about cosmetic surgery where they describe it as "upgrading." The first graph got me on Stubbs' side as a "throwback" and underdog. The rest did seem more formulaic, but I'd give it a chance to see if there's some satire and character development to go with the airport thriller.

The guy on Miami Vice was Tubbs, not Stubbs. I've got no problem with the sentence fragment--this one was obviously intended for emphasis, and most grammar books concede that's OK, as long as the device isn't used ad nauseam.

Anonymous said...

Mean streets? That's what it sounded like, an old hard-boiled detective plot moved up in time. Tropes at best.

Aside from content, the form seemed good, neat, hookish. Probably easier to sound neat when using familiar shapes.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Jon Courtenay Grimwood.

Miss Snark constantly demands "freshness" but doesn't handle SF, leaving me to wonder: if she did do SF, would she have rejected this as reheated cyberpunk?

Having said that, it is a very well written hook, in spite of the grammar.

type, monkey, type said...

Re: semi-colons being used in lists, yes, of course. I didn't mention that because it is very very rarely used in this sort of fiction (and I couldn't seem to explain it as succinctly as some of you did).

Author, have another look at that fragment. If i were editing you, I would suggest that the fragment in your last paragraph is used very effectively, but the fragment in the second-to-the last is overdone--almost forced drama. It is your choice, of course, since I'm not editing you. (I see now that you did it deliberately--I shouldn't have corrected it for grammar, schoolmarmish of me.)

Again, this is far better writing than most here.

Anonymous said...

I dig these "Snake Pliskin" kind of books. If the writing is smooth and descriptive wiithout overwhelming me with scenery, I'd buy it. Good job man, good luck.

sniz said...

This sounds like Batman Returns, Robots, and The Matrix all mixed together. An odd combination, but those movies all worked.

Ski said...

I got the idea of the story from your submission, and I like it. This isn't my cup 'o tea, but sometimes you gotta venture into new areas. You've done that with this invite. Isn't that what this is all about? I sure wish you Good Luck. Let us know if it ever hits the shelves.


Anonymous said...

"Stubbs will stop at nothing to track down her killer in a desperate bid for redemption or revenge"

I'm not seeing why ^ but I'd read it.

puzzlehouse said...

JGS, I should have qualified my comments by saying that I find most hooks tend to suck the life out of plot. It doesn't really matter if the plot elements aren't unique as long as you do something unique with them.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to diss the author, because obviously something is working for somebody, but I truly don't understand what makes this a winner. I read a lot of SF, and this is so filled with cliches and the kind of writing Miss Snark usually hammers with a spike heel that I honestly don't get what lifts this one out of the slush pile. I would be sincerely grateful if someone could point out where the energy, freshness, or whatever it is that makes this spark for you is.


Anonymous said...

Author asked what novels this sounds like? Based on my reading, it's got huge elements in common with "Broken Angels" by Richard K. Morgan and "Hammered" by Elizabeth Bear. These are both great books that attracted a lot of attention within the SF community, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.