Reviews for Mercenary War 2: Dagger Zero
Shadow Commando chapter 3 . 7/24/2011
Sorry for not reading this sooner. I'll do my best to catch up on the other chapters.

That's actually pretty clever having Beltino as Starfox's supplier.
chaos Leader chapter 5 . 7/21/2011
Sorry about not getting to this chapter sooner. I had some writing I needed to finish up and get out of my head.

Yay, infodump chapter!

You've shown us so far a real piece-of-work that is Raven. I'm sure we'll be seeing more developments and plot twists from her. And then there's the great old analogy of chess, hard to go wrong with a chess game. Almost reminds me of a scene from Bladerunner. The relationship you're building between Khamisi "Scales" Tafari vs. Beltino Toad or reminiscent of the relationship between Magneto and Xavier of the X-men. Old friends turned rivals due to diverging priorities, though I have reason to suspect their true intentions are far more parallel than the readers are led to believe. We shall see.

On another note: "Energy"

This is one thing that's always bugged me at the back of my mind. I read a story, it goes in a direction that includes scientific/engineering details, and then the writer falls short on specifics. The prime example is the use of the word "energy" to describe and refer to phenomena. You (the character of Beltino Toad, that is) said the fragment emits a "baffling level of energy"... well? What kind of energy? Magnetic? Electrical? Thermal? Gravitational? Kinetic? Is it radioactive (ie: radiates specific particles)? Granted, you seem to have dodged this particular obstacle by intoducing the concept of "bioelectricity", which you tactically left vague, and hinted at a classic "Super Soldier" trope.

The "vague energy" trope also shows up in a number of other places in your work; from what comes out the muzzle of a blaster, to energy signatures, to several other places. I've given you slack here for the most part; delving into the details of science and technology is generally not what your stories are about, and such details are not necessary; but now I might start jumping on it. Merc War II still more or less a story about power, influence and intrigue, but when the experts within your story start using vague terms to describe their area of expertise, they stop being experts in my mind.

One method that works fairly well at getting around this issue altogether is to simply not have the scientist explain at all (or explain later). Whenever something like this comes up in a story somewhere, I find it easier, both as a reader and a writer, to have the new element demonstrated in front of the focus character/readers (and the expert characters within the story-world would probably find it easier as well). By demonstrating the effects plainly for all to see, you don't need to have a character babble on in sciencey speak, or offer something dumbed-down and hopelessly vague. It hooks the reader in by their curiosity and the healthy shock-value, allowing you the author to divulge and explain later if need-be. The lets just talk about it approach is, quite frankly, dull.

If it sounds like I'm harping on you for little details, it's probably because I am. There really isn't much else to criticize/critique, and I know how boring reading someone expounding how great your writing can be. This really is great work, there's just a few things here and there that make me tip my head sideways and go "Hm?" Keep it up.

chaos_Leader.
Keiron Halycon chapter 5 . 7/20/2011
What are you planning for Beltino and Scales? An interesting choice for a highly trained merc, a dove. So pretty much you made a material that has enormous energy output but not without its risks. So Dagger is somewhere, hidden away. So why hide them? I seem to think that Beltino should be locked away with Scales at this point. OH well, keep up the great writing.
Colyo chapter 5 . 7/20/2011
Goody! One big ass information sandwich is what's on the menu here. Gaps being filled. The face, name and purpose of our main antagonist have been identified, and the story is now going in a direction comprehensible enough to start to identify things to look forward to or anticipate. An excellent macro-setup chapter, through and through.

With the way you've introduced Raven here, I can tell you've put a good many hours of thought into her, so I doubt she's going to be a Starwolf style pop-in-pop-out threat... no, what you've made here is a keeper, and from what I've seen so far, she's a unique colour that's going to make a great addition to your palate. I can't wait to see what you're going to do with her.

So, the fragments have been identified as possibly something that would turn someone into a psychokinetic killing machine, but I'm betting they have some other purpose, because Raven doesn't seem the type to need bother wish such raw power. Besides, I'm doubting Scales would ever give them to her. Power is relative, after all. I'm going to guess he's blackmailing her somehow if he can make such a hardened killer blush with humiliation at the threat of dismissal. He has someone, or something, very important to her, and I'm gong to take a jump and predict this is going to lead to a very bloody betrayal somewhere down the road. Raven is clearly benevolent deep down.

And of course, what would be a Merc Wars sequel without the return of our dashing hero Fox McCloud? The only thing is, right now it doesn't feel like he would play too big of a role. He has a personal stake in the fight, yes, but with a lot of the camera stirred around Andrea up until now, I can't see where he fits in the setup here. But, like Beltino said, he wants all of his pieces in play. We'll yet see what you do with dearest SF One.

I just have one thing I'd like to say. Like One Death Away, you're holding a stacked hand and you're showing it to us bit by bit. Just be careful not to show us too much too early; I think the information about the fragments could have waited until a bit later, don't you think? Granted we don't know what Scales wants them for, but with the explanation Wyatt gave we can hazard a more few guesses than we need to be paying attention to right now in the story.

There's my 68 cents. I'm on MSN as always if you wanna chat, you know the drill.

See you next chapter,

Colyo
Northernmegas chapter 5 . 7/19/2011
Other then the FMP vibe (that is not a bad thing) I'm likeing this fic.

Yet why do I feel that McCloud and the Great Fox will be a wreck when they find him. *evillaugh*

Until next time. Luck runs out, skill doesn't!
The True ZX chapter 4 . 7/7/2011
You've still got it, man. I as much into this story as I was when I read "One Death Away" a few years ago. I'd love to see more.
Keiron Halycon chapter 4 . 7/5/2011
Yes, learning a bit about Beltino Toad more and more and his eccentric ways. I like the exchange between the possible Venomian soldier. You certainly love putting Slippy into horrible situations.
JVNemesis chapter 4 . 6/29/2011
You always seem to find a way for Slippy to end up...in trouble. It makes me smile.

I liked the chapter, overall. No real surprise there; you haven't disappointed me yet. Slippy calming someone else instead of freaking out himself seemed a bit...odd, though.

A lot of foreshadowing, I think, in the neat little training session; I'm sure we'll see Lucy and Kurtz again later when Andrea has reached...inner peace, or what have you.

Nice dramatic entrance for Raven. That was fun to read too. I'm sure she had some reason to be there, rather than just showing off.

But yeah, it was a fun read. Keep it up.

I read Kurtz in a Russian accent. Just so you know.
Colyo chapter 4 . 6/29/2011
A challenger appears! With Raven, our antagonist group is starting to gain a face, or an identifiable lack thereof. I found myself waiting for Andrea to go into zen mode with a couple of these trials but that's precisely the point, isn't it? I get the feeling you're going to bring back Lucy later once Andrea's been... "developed" more. I hope I'm right.

That's the awesome thing about Andrea, though. Unlike Fox or Gage, she has a very clear development direction which you helped outline today. Giving us a taste, a carrot to follow on the path to her development. Even better yet you're introducing a lot of characters and situations that are acting like pseudo "parents" to her. Beltino who is so far ahead in knowledge and wisdom that it would be like comparing an average parent to a young child, for example. Falco being there too on the flip side of being not only an example she can follow to learn to, for instance, be able to trust mercenaries.

I like what you've done here, and I'm still excited for more! Keep it up!

PS. Going into the section with Raven I think you should have put Titania as part of the location header to add a bit more clarity.
graystripe chapter 4 . 6/29/2011
ok...i think kurtz and raven are being trained the same way to use the same weapon...lol.

that is the only thing i am pointing out...lol.

good chapter.
chaos Leader chapter 4 . 6/29/2011
Great to have you back among the living.

This chapter, once again, reinforces the "reluctant trust feel" reminiscent of "Mass Effect II" with Cerberus and the enigmatic Illusive Man. But by other means this time around. One of the most poignant lines was during the final scene between Kurtz and Andrea: "Always there is danger. But there must be trust. Trust in my control." In the context, the rules are not laid out, Kurtz is using lethal force for all we know, and Andrea has only his word to trust, much like from Beltino. Just out of curiosity, what was your reference for Kurtz's species? I personally got African Wild Dog out of him, since his vague description matched that more or less, and his accent reminded me of an Afrikaans/South African accent.

Have you been watching kung-fu movies? I mean, seriously, this chapter was centered almost entirely around close-quarters combat; it's even titled "Shadowboxing", which I know carries several other potential meanings with it. Not only that, but I believe I have just witnessed your fight-scene writing improve drastically, by leaps and bounds, from what I remember before. So many writers in these archives, when confronted with a brawl, will write out each and every intricate detail of a fight, as if they're meticulously choreographing each instant and capturing it. The end result is a giant block of words that readers only reluctantly slog through, which leaves little to the mind. I like what you've done here, a LOT, it's more or less how I try to write my own fight scenes. The way you express the general feel of the fight and insert detailed highlights at key points is an excellent, efficient, densely compressed form that gets the reader through the fight, and allows for additional layers of narrative to be slipped in by the author with ease. It's not just a fight for fight's sake anymore: the fight itself, from a storytelling standpoint, is often symbolic of larger forces at work, of other aspects playing at the characters' minds. Like Dance, or other arts, a fight can in many ways express what the storytellers aren't saying, or can't say, through other immediate means at their disposal. At least that's the philosophy I've come to witness in great martial arts films; a philosophy I attempt to emulate whenever I write a fight scene. Good on you for that, really.

The attack scene was kind of interesting. You bring up some more unanswered questions with the new elements you're bringing in, and this time we actually know what questions we're supposed to ask. You leave it ambiguous as to whether Slippy gets killed or not, but I suspect that he's not dead this time, which is implied later. We're given a mysterious warrior woman as the presumed antagonist this time. It's reminiscent of ODA's sirens, but I'll hold off gut-judgment until I see more clearly where you take this. It's finally getting off the ground, pretty smoothly too, and there's no stopping now!

The only main criticism I can think of at the moment is in your slower paced sections. I feel a little rushed through them, there isn't a whole lot of time-and-place description to anchor the reader down, especially with the characters: I often had little more than a name and some dialog to identify certain characters by. In this case, I'm thinking of the exchange between Wyatt and Slippy, and the Andrea/Falco scenes to some extent (wasn't really a problem in the Kurtz/Andrea scene though). I think it's an older habit of yours, to blaze through the poignant moments a little quickly, as if you're writing another action scene. I remember mentioning this in another review a while ago for ODA.

I think I may have finally broken a month-long writer's block not too long ago, before reading this, and can finally follow through on the line I started earlier. Hope to see you there, and keep it going.

chaos_Leader
JVNemesis chapter 3 . 5/29/2011
You have no idea how shocked I was to see who the "New Story" email I got was from, or how surprised I was to see chapters two and three up already.

But in a good way.

Hi there, long time no see, how are things, etc.

I really like how you portray Beltino. Although I did draw the same conclusion as several other reviewers, with Cerberus, and was waiting for him to start preaching about youmanity but...

It's interesting; I don't really come on this site much anymore, except when I get updates from a few specific authors. I think I've moved away from reading about the same characters thrown into different situations with varying degrees of successful writing for the umteenth time, but your fics are always different. It feels less like a typical fanfiction and more like your own novel, which I love. So bravo, I liked it, keep up the good work, etc. I'll be in touch.

JV
Ellophane chapter 3 . 5/26/2011
It's clear that you've put a lot of planning and organization into the plot. Your writing style has kept me interested and is fairly well edited with a few little trip-ups (seventeen minutes or twenty three minutes?) Anyway I'm enjoying it, and actually reading (I'm usually more of a skimmer.) Keep up the good work
Emperor Andross chapter 3 . 5/21/2011
Whoops, I missed you beginning to post this one. intriguing beginning, I like the way you've carried over the sanctimonious Beltino from ODA.

This story promises to be really interesting, but I hope that Fox shows up soon.
chaos Leader chapter 3 . 5/20/2011
Now we're getting somewhere. One part Bourne and another part Mass Effect 2...

I liked the first half of this chapter, a lot. So often we get conflict in the form of in-your-face guns-blazing that we forget the sinister side; the side that lies, cheats, circumvents combat prowess to stab one in the back unawares. It gave this chapter a sense of tension, imminent danger, coupled with a lack of trust that will have us looking at every character with a healthy dose of salt. In fact, I'd venture to call this style you've got going a kind of "murder mystery of epic proportions". You've already got the "Detective" figure in Beltino Toad; lets just hope it doesn't turn out like the play "Mouse Trap".

Now I can't help but think this version of Toad is going to have quite a few more enemies than he says. Anyone with power and influence on that kind of scale is going to be deemed a threat by someone, sometimes many someones. This time around especially, your rendition of Beltino Toad is starting to seem more like benign-appearing Illusive Man ala Mass Effect 2. There's just something about him that makes me question his motives and total openness...

Incidentally, I'm hammering down a chapter in SF Legacy now that deals with similar concepts, and even a few similarly named things it seems...

Glad to see this sucker start coming together. I'll be following it closely.
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