ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?The strongest aspect of this excerpt is its vivid prose style, which renders the terrible things described all too real for readers, really capturing the horror of what's happening. From the opening, in which historical background that at first seems out of place becomes unpleasantly relevant and oddly hypnotic, to the almost unbearable slowness with which the contagion escapes and transforms the rats, to the stomach-turning reality of what the police officers encounter, the author gets the tone just right for the type of horror thriller action the moment demands. This is the kind of excerpt that demands to be read straight through, in one uncomfortable but riveted sitting.
What aspect needs the most work?This excerpt gets so much right that it's quite difficult to make suggestions for revision. It might help to give the police offer in the second half of the excerpt a bit more backstory. Obviously he's cannon fodder rather than an ongoing character, but still, at least a name and a small amount of character detail will make readers care more about the dark fate that's coming for him. That material can also be tied in to the intensity of the moment, as when the fact that he grew up on a farm gets him thinking about animals nesting. Because this excerpt ends before any of the main characters come onscreen, the one thing it can't do is show how the author will handle character drama and the revelation of personality. But you can at least give a taste of that by turning the police officer into the somewhat fleshed-out protagonist of his own brief, unpleasant story. That added richness can only make this excerpt more appealing.
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?This is a great excerpt by a writer fully at home in the world of the sci-fi/horror thriller. The prose is great, the horror is gruesome without being overdone or exploitative, and the premise offers some originality within a familiar apocalyptic framework. The author has a particularly nice sense of pace, beginning innocuously then slowly ratcheting up the tension before everything explodes into gory chaos. Omniscient narration rarely works even in thrillers, but this author knows how to handle it, and the stuff from the cop's point of view reveals a command of third person limited as well. The only missing piece is character drama, which might be added in via some revision to the scene with the cop. But even without that, this is first-rate work. If the novel is as good as the excerpt, this is a book that deserves publication in its present form, by a writer with a real flair for his or her chosen genre.
...and the second review, which is somewhat more critical (none of which I entirely disagree with, though):
ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?The author of THE MENGELE EFFECT builds suspense through a variety of methods: the short sentences, the repetitions, the closing distance. The reader is horrified through graphic descriptions of death, yet the reader is also drawn forward to find out how far the plague will extend and how mankind will react. Starting with small animals (rats) is a good idea.
What aspect needs the most work?The wordy chapter 1 could be tossed. People are unlikely to read on after being subjected to a quick history of the 1960s and the Cold War. Start with Chapter 2. There are also places in Chapter 3 that would allow entrance into the action sooner.
A second quibble: too many adverbs!
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?This novel provides many striking images that include sound, smell, and touch. The writer has a good firm hand in telling the story (with the exception of Chapter 1)and the biomedical thriller is a popular genre. The writer does not reduce the flow the the action with too much scientific data.
So what's my favorite line from the above? This one: "The author has a particularly nice sense of pace, beginning innocuously then slowly ratcheting up the tension before everything explodes into gory chaos." Gory chaos...exactly what I was aiming for! Mwah hah hah...
Sometime soon, the excerpts will be posted for YOU to review & rate. Stay tuned...