|Reviews for Gods and Demons: ad terminos terrae|
| Anla'shok chapter 6 . 12/3/2017
Giving pokemon true agency surely makes catching trickier. This chapter was great at solidifying the whole trainer experience (and how Rangers fit in).
I loved how Tak exploited Matt's desire for a pokemon to get access to a stone. Even though he came back, he's bound to be trouble. I wonder if Tak is especially cunning, or if he's in the norm. If it's the latter, I wouldn't be sending ten year olds on journeys, they'd be outsmarted by every exploitative pokemon out there.
Moriko is self-centered and short tempered, and what's wonderful is how she's still likeable despite it. You're really showing how deep this desire to prove herself (and her I'm-alone-against-this-world-that-hates-me mindset) runs and why it's there. Also, her affection for her pokemon and Russ do show she's trying.
I hope her family declaring theft was the last we'll see of them, although I'm afraid Moriko's sister might make a new appearance (it would interesting to learn why the family that seemed to have been reasonably good to her until she turned 12 or so suddenly became so vile). I also do hope there's a penalty for wasting everybody's time with false theft accusations. I mean, with talking pokemon, it's not like it's an ambiguous situation, and you'd think pokemon would also be used as witnesses to abuse.
Those short peeks in Matt's mind make him more of a mystery than a character I actually like (for now), but they do promise a payoff. I find him more goofy than really irritating, but I understand why Moriko finds his presence anxiety inducing. Russ, maybe because he's really the most well adjusted of the bunch, fades slightly in the background (not that it's a bad thing, I'm sure he'll get his turn).
| Anla'shok chapter 5 . 11/27/2017
Well, things are getting grim.
Also, Matt's just gotten a bit more interesting.
I like the peculiar blend between futuristic technology and a Wild West feel to the world. Everything is neatly in parks, there's infrastructure and everything, but there's also this untamed danger (on top of the actual danger of having something around that eats trainers). I also like how through short scenes you show us a lot of facets of the region.
| Anla'shok chapter 4 . 11/27/2017
I guess Matt being mostly homeschooled, he's lacking a bit of social awareness. Hopefully, he'll improve. I do also get the reasoning to keep him on.
The battle was pretty much a formality, but I'm enjoying how you're fleshing out the pokemon world. The idea that pokemon can watch battles from their pokeballs was fun.
Tarahn's fight with Moriko about the waiting made me wonder if there is a way for pokemon fond of their trainers to have more options than being a house pet. It does sound like Tarahn was upset and so exaggerated how bored he'd been at home, but since you're making your pokemon all rather smart, I'm curious about exploring more the implications of the strong human/pokemon hierarchy.
| Anla'shok chapter 3 . 11/27/2017
I think the most unexpected was the sassy cocoon. I laughed through that scene.
It was fun seeing so many 'first day of journey' tropes in this chapter and have most of them subverted.
I like how you've adapted the training system so that it feels organic, and how much info you're imparting without slowing down the journey too much. I'm also curious to know what's Moriko's done according to Russel's 'jerk friends'.
So now we know that Moriko is the equivalent of half-indigenous. I wonder what the racism is based on (since it's future-earth, you'd think that such strong hostility would have been stamped out, even if some condescending bias might have survived), and if has to do with affinities (third crossing people being suspicious of what they perceive as magicky or whatever), or maybe who started a war or something.
Moriko's very prickly around Matt. She's dealing with a lot, and him being half probably doesn't help keep her mind off it (that, and the fact he tries to be "the journey expert", which is indeed slightly irritating). Right now, I don't see why they'd keep journeying together, so I'm
Also can't wait to see why all the wild pokemon have made themselves scarce.
| Anla'shok chapter 2 . 11/25/2017
First, I've got to say, congrats on inventing, naming and drawing all those new pokemon. They work as a believable new pokedex.
The first part of the chapter is great at conveying the hustle of the city life, and the busy, slightly boring routine of Moriko. I loved how much info on how pokemon fit in this universe came out in the talk with Russel, on top of showing how stuck Moriko feels and how she tries to brush it off. Oh, wow, now it gets harry potter-esque with the exploitative aunt.
I enjoy how you peel off more layers with every escalations. So now we have 'hafu' kids (still wondering if 'genehan' is a race, if it means 'gene enhanced', if Moriko is part pokemon somehow, or if it's 'traditional' racism with her mother being from another region. Leaning towards the latter, with her name sounding Asian and almost all the others more Western.), and Moriko's choice of leaving has been done for her. Her decision to bottle it all up and downplay it all to be able to just leave is tragically understandable.
I appreciate how you balance out 'evil family' with, 'reasonably competent and helpful background characters' (the councilor, the banker -although, the "older people" had me smile, assuming that electronics aren't a new technology and well, the aunt can't be much over 60 if that-). It makes the world more believable.
The ending was cute to a gloomy but poignant first chapter. I want to hug Moriko. Russel is also a promising secondary character, with already a bunch of layers to him.
Also enjoyed learning 'second crossing' was about space travel and the pokemon worlds are sort of human colonies. It adds a nice spin to it.
| Anla'shok chapter 1 . 11/25/2017
A very compelling start.
The style is polished and I find it easily to visualize everything. The Gym Leader aspect feels believable and authentic (the crowd, the dual persona, etc).
It's also a nice change to start with an adult character with established pokemon.
The details show you've thought through the mechanisms and history (such as the rotating roster, politics of gym leader assignment, 'second crossing' people and the history of the place) which convince me I won't feel betrayed by the worldbuilding three chapters in, and I enjoy how you don't feel the need to explain everything and just let us get sucked into Gen's life. The pokemon all seem to speak (or at least there's a sizeable minority of speakers among pokemon 'worthy' of a trainer of Nocturna's caliber), so I'm eager to see how you juggle pokemon-trainer dynamics.
The last part gives us a tease of plot and stakes, which is awesome.
The only nitpick I'd have is that if there's an obviously mysterious ancient and powerful pokemon under a forcefield in a cave and that everyone seems to knows about it, specialists should be teeming about.
But since I don't know your population to wilderness ratio, and a whole other bunch of things about your pokemon universe, I'm going to assume there's an explanation. Maybe I was supposed to understand 'everyone local and the foreign scientists haven't bothered to ask'.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 30 . 11/24/2017
AAAAAA There's going to be a sequel? So that's why so much stuff was still unresolved! I'll just have to keep an eye on you, then. ;)
Okay so, overall review:
I feel like you had two different story ideas here, and they were mutually incompatible. In the first half, you have a more low-key character-focused travelogue, while in the second half you have a grand high fantasy conflict. Transitioning between the two is possible, but I really feel like your insistence that the characters couldn't interact with the final battle ended up undercutting it. There's a ton of moving parts by the end of the story that the main characters have decreasing relevance towards, so the end of the story is just sort of everything crashing together while the protagonist watches helplessly. Maybe it's just the inevitable "reveals can't live up to audience's imagination" problem, but I think I liked the slower character drama better - there was less going on, so there was more time to focus on each individual piece. I really liked all the interactions with the pokemon, but those necessarily have to fall by the wayside as the situation gets more complex and intense.
I mean, if this is only meant to be the first book of a massive epic, perhaps that works - like, this was Moriko's first brush with the godmonsters, but next book she'll be more equipped to fight them directly - but as it is, it leaves the ending a little too open-ended. Generally I guess the solution here would be to pit the protagonists against a weaker but more personally relevant foe, so it's not the end of the world but it's still possible for them to take it down on their own.
Worldbuilding-wise, I really loved all the stuff you did with the pokemon. You did an amazing job of showing how fully sapient pokemon should work - they are constantly and consistently treated as real people by the humans, you repeatedly bring up the importance of informed consent and mutual benefit, and it's clear that the establishment gives them many legal protections too. Your battles were also fantastic - you put so much thought into the moves and tactics and describe them clearly and beautifully. My only objection is that I'm not totally sold that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Most of the battles are all pokemon - I'm pretty sure there are a few gym battles (particularly Matt's) where the trainer doesn't give any orders at all. And you do so, so well at fixing one of the biggest problems with that by having the humans honor the pokemons' contributions too, but it still raises the question of why they need the trainers at all and, more pointedly, why the trainers should be rewarded with money and badges etc. for it. You say that the trainers function as batteries for the pokemon, but that's such a vague and abstract advantage, especially in Pokemon where tactics are so important. It's the sort of thing that might work for Digimon - a setup where you have only one partner and battles do tend to be more about raw power - but it doesn't really fit the Pokemon setting, to me.
I think this setup could have worked really well if you were doing a more original setting that didn't revolve around fighting, just people bonding to nature spirits to help them live in an alien environment and understand the world. You do do a good job with the non-battling aspects and showing how much pokemon enjoy seeing the world and learning about humans, so that part works well for the mutalism angle.
Oh and I loved all your fakemon. They tended to have a very straightforward, animal- and nature-based aesthetic, which has always been my favorite and I'm disappointed later gens have been moving away from it. The starters were particularly great, and the leaflet line. :D
Also also I loved what you did with the chapter titles. Not just the multiple titles (which makes sense given how long your chapters are, you can't possibly cover all the themes in a single title!), but the thematic repeats. I find that to be a really neat arty thing, and it works particularly well in travelogue and journey stories, tying everything together.
But yes! Overall very good, great characters, great pokemon, great worldbuilding, would read again. I'll definitely keep an eye out for the sequel.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 29 . 11/24/2017
Good denouement chapter! It's nice to have these.
I have no idea what is going on with Russ, though. So what, Matt was right and he really was only helping Moriko out of pity the whole time? He doesn't seem resentful of Moriko at all in that scene from his perspective early on, even though this seems to imply he was frustrated with her the whole time. I really can't tell how much of this is supposed to be the demon's influence and how much is really him. If it's the latter this feels really, really sudden. He apparently never said a bad word towards Moriko for like 8 years, yet actually he always hated her? Why did he never so much as hint at this before? He doesn't even seem to have needed to give anything up - the popular kids still like him and invite him into their group. And in general I don't like "nice people are secretly evil" reveals, it feels so depressing and cynical. :(
Also Rufus! :( So I guess the mega evolution showed him Moriko's deepest emotions and desires, and he didn't like that? I still feel like, emotionally, this also feels sudden - Rufus is a pretty passive character for most of the story, and basically drops out of the picture after the paraslit arc, so doing this suddenly at the end feels... kinda off? Like it's just there to make Moriko sad. Despite being her starter, I don't feel I have a very good grasp of his personality or motives and I'm not very attached to him, so this doesn't feel like an emotionally meaningful tragedy I could have seen coming. Did you feel you were boxed in to this outcome because only the starters can mega evolve? I think it could have worked better if she had done it with a different pokemon, perhaps Liona.
And finally, Moriko's reveal felt a little underwhelming, I guess? It's hinted at and built up throughout the entire story, but when it comes out it's just a few lines and a pretty simple situation. It makes sense and explains a lot, but the narrative weight of it feels... off? I dunno, I'm not explaining it well. The fact that we don't understand the Spirit of Wrath very well also makes it weird, I think - like, it turns out Moriko's whole life was ruined by this side villain who shows up in one scene towards the end and then disappears without us really learning anything about her, that's not very good catharsis.
That was a lot of criticism, haha. This was otherwise really good, I like that Moriko has a life and a future even without Russ, and that she gave her pokemon such informed consent. Oh, and the description of ensoulment's downsides was also necessary, it's good to finally get closure on that. I'm worried about Matt getting roped into the exact outcome he feared and that the Queen still being inscrutable, but he's still a lot better off than when he started. Overall good end!
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 28 . 11/24/2017
I feel like the battle here was too chaotic. This feels like the pitfall of high fantasy, where the final battle is just a lot of crazy power jumps that removes our sense of scale plus a zillion pileups from all the outstanding plot threads. It's just... a bit much? And the heroes didn't even do anything! I appreciate your touch of reality that no, ordinary kids cannot stand against a god monster and they should leave it to the professionals, but then... what was the point of all this, if they can't interact with the climax? This grand final battle is just... the heroes try a few tricks, none of them work, then the bigger fish come in and solve everything for them. It doesn't feel narratively satisfying.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 27 . 11/24/2017
["It is not known by any who now live. But this I will tell you: dead souls travel to the heart of the world, and they rejoin with those who were and those who will one day be. But some cannot make the journey, and they fester." She was silent. "Humans are not innocent, but… you do a great service, to destroy them."]
Hm, so the daikaiju are like undead? Is that why the whiscash's body is rotting underneath?
[The woman looked at her.
"You left the darkwater in him. You did it to draw out the Prince."]
I initially read this as the Queen saying this. You should probably add a speech tag for Moriko.
["We'll engage the Prince," said Droit, his spoken voice strange with the vowels too round and buzzing with a bird's grating pharynx.]
Oh, I hadn't considered how pokemon would have difficulty speaking through radio. That's a nice touch.
Ah, we're back to great epic fantasy battles again. Rematching a mid-game villain is always satisfying. Rufus' counter was awesome. The mega evolution thing did feel a bit too much like Digimon, though, I felt.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 26 . 11/24/2017
Hmmm. I do feel this is starting to get into the "just write original fiction already" territory you mentioned earlier. The demons and legendaries feel too... human, if that makes sense? Like,
["Long ago I had a name, a name that no one spoke. Fire-bringer, they called me, gift-giver, the Spirit of Wrath. Bane was I to queens and to devils. Armies would fall before those I had chosen. I am the raised hand and the falling sword. When a vixen fights a wolf for her kit I am there. When the horn sounds and spearpoints rise over the ridge I am there. When the earth trembles and brings forth fire I am there.]
Armies, swords, horn sounds, those are all human things. You also have the suicune acting very modern and human-like. And like, why are these ancient demons taking human forms? It might just be personal preference, but I feel like Pokemon works better as a more eldritch setting. This is a world without humans, right? The powers that be shouldn't be so comprehensible to human minds; this isn't a world that revolves around us. (I didn't mention it in chapter 21, but I also felt this way a bit about pokemon having an analogy for non-reproductive sex; you did such a good job of explaining how alien their reproductive system is, and then all of a sudden they're all like "oh yeah, this weird animal thing makes total sense to us," it was a little jarring.)
I also feel like the Spirit of Wrath came out of nowhere? If there was foreshadowing for it I missed it. Moriko is generally surly and belligerent, but not to any degree that I would ping as suspicious, and her backstory has been kept very vague so if the Spirit was supposed to be tied to that we can't really recognize it. Maybe it'll make more sense later.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 24 . 11/24/2017
I like the opening! Pokemon adventures are always cute. I feel like we haven't seen enough of Tarahn and Rufus lately; the newcomers have been getting most of the focus.
[which is why grandma asked her pokémon to go with me]
"Grandma" should be capitalized here.
[This is a strange land, full of monsters," said the metal spider with a mouth on his belly.]
Is that some ironic narration I sense? XD I do love conceiving of how strange settings can create a new normal, but pokemon are still so bizarre that I'm sure this must come back to hit them sometimes.
Man, things are really getting heavy now. I'm getting a strong "calm before the storm" feeling.
I'm not sure how I feel about Linden's sudden superpower; it didn't seem foreshadowed, and it feels like it undermines the whole concept of demon pokemon if there are people who can just downgrade them to normal.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 23 . 11/24/2017
["Pro tip: don't worry about all that gross smooching stuff," Linden said authoritatively. "It's boring. It's so boring. Oh my god it's boring. Only one thing is worth worrying about: po-kay-mon."]
*asexual smugness intensifies* :D
I love Linden, she's injecting a lot of levity back into the group now that Russ has changed.
Hmm. I'm not sure how I feel about the fusion thing. You write it well, but it feels too much like it's drifting into a standard fantasy setup - I don't really like humans getting involved in pokemon battles. It also doesn't make sense to me - you emphasize again and again that humans are matter-based and fundamentally distinct from pokemon, so I don't understand how they can fuse. It sounds like it should turn the pokemon matter-based, at the least. It does, though, address the unfairness of pokemon taking all the risks in battling.
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 22 . 11/24/2017
["When he… takes something from you," Matt said eventually, his voice ragged, "it makes a link from you to him, and he can take your energy.]
Hmmm. I wonder if he's targeting Moriko now. She has effectively "lost" Russ, and if I'm right about the darkwater it may be his influence.
["I told you, dude," Russ said, pointing to an old photo of a car-sized pokéball that Silph Co. scientists had developed to try to contain an ancient haunter.
"You sure did," Matt said dryly.]
Wait, I thought Russ was the one who thought the giant pokeball wasn't real?
This was a nice chapter. I feel so bad for everyone. You're doing a good job of getting into all their emotions. I was always thinking what Moriko was going to do after the summer, and now that the end is almost upon them that's looming ever more.
I'm curious about how giant pokemon work. Are they just old and powerful pokemon, or is there something unique about them?
| St Elmo's Fire chapter 21 . 11/24/2017
["Hey dad, we're surfing with Betsy!"]
"Dad" should be capitalized here.
[Sylvia returned, calling out "I found Linden!" as she landed.]
There should be a comma after "calling out", I think.
["You didn't notice?"
"I'm immune to sleep attacks! It's my ability!"]
This seems odd. The pokemon say that even without the sleep effect, they can feel the hypnosis. Insomnia seems like it should only protect against the sleep itself, not other aspects.
["Here they are!" they heard shouted.]
Something was dropped here.
The sequence of Moriko ensouling Vleridin was really well-done. You really conveyed how seamless the memories felt, and how she didn't realize anything strange until the end. Also cool to get a pokemon-centric sequence. Celeste is proving to be quite intriguing. I'm guessing the celestiule matriarch has reincarnated into her?