Special Agent Mauve - Origins, by J.B. Trepagnier - 4 Stars

It seems improper, possibly even deviant to give a high star rating and a long review to an excerpt of just nineteen pages. What is this anyway? It’s too short to be a novella or a novelette but too long for a vox pop or a character cameo and you might even describe it as a comic without the pictures if the characterization wasn’t a bit deeper than that. It’s as if someone’s writing their life story but they’re aware they don’t have much ink and the cat needs feeding. At 99p, or 5p a page, I do feel I got a fair return for my money because I liked the ideas but what is this trend for introducing a character and then walking away for a long break? Is it a way of testing the market so an author can see if their new character is going to be accepted before they go to all the trouble of writing a book? Probably it’s to generate demand for a later novel. Huh, marketing. Can I really give it more stars though than I would to some hardworking writer who has strutted and fretted through 375 pages of decent entertainment content, where if you cherry-picked the best bits out and built them into 19 pages it would be better? Does it merit the same grade as another work of exactly the same standard of writing that is twenty times longer? Is it a good example of its kind – What is its kind anyway? 19 page books? That’s a wedding list and this is perplexing.

I’ve already mentioned it’s short but it has a lot of plot packed within it. There’s no drift, a strong fictional premise to kick off the scenario and one, single, solitary well developed female protagonist; but within this page count it’s too much to expect concentration on building more than one character. I don’t like the economically short sentences, often in rapid bursts of seven to ten words, although I have to concede that verbosity isn’t in keeping with individuals inclined to military training and exercise either. A character who’s previous job was on the phone though – wouldn’t they be chattier? I keep criticising it and then excusing it, so I don’t know where this review is heading. Dunk me.

The na├»ve humour carries this character, so if this series continues I do encourage the author to persevere with that. Realistic inbuilt imperfections are a bonus but there’s a line to be trod here because lazy slapstick would ruin it. Okay, well done. Too many of these secret agent types have the capabilities of a demigod and I think that this one, with her down to earth mishaps, is something I can relate much better to. This woman is also up for anything and expendable, so the author can have a lot of fun chucking her into situations and testing her initiative. Have you seen the French film Nikita (no, not the awful remake)? There’s a restaurant scene where she thinks she’s on a date but it’s really a mission to test her, well, that’s where I’d like to see this character go. What’s going on? Aah! Improvise.

The flaw in this introduction is that field operatives are presumably chosen for not only their initiative (which she displays in abundance) but also for their problem solving intelligence. This agent appears to have a muted and average IQ, offset by other strengths such as athletic endurance. She might climb out of a box but could she think her way out of one? (Money on the box).

The protagonist isn’t a plaything of the Universe, a reactor, and she isn’t a triumphant agitator either, so it looks as though she’s a bit of both. The agency pushes and she rolls – but she also initiates trains of cause and effect on her own. This could be interesting as she wobbles either side of the line between victim and hunter, as most socialized humans do.

Apart from the funky plot and action, which is all good stuff, the main thing that appeals to me is the character’s human flaws and propensity toward unintended humour. I can’t call this a book, so I’m giving a strong nod to the character here.

I would very much like to review the full novel, when it’s eventually written, as this character could go far.

Comments

  1. Sorry, sorry sorry everyone! This short story was always meant to be permanently free. *I* made the boneheaded mistake of adding this to KU without reading the fine print and BOOM, back to paid. I can't make it free again until July, when my KU enrollment is up. Little Agent Mauve is getting a full length book that I'm working on now, but it won't be released until I have this sorted. If you ended up paying for this short story because of my mistake, please shoot me a message either on facebook, goodreads, or twitter and when the full length is out, I'll send you a free copy

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