1000 Word Book Reviews: Roko’s Basilisk by Michael Blackbourn


Roko’s Basilisk by Michael Blackbourn

The author was up front in saying the story picks up around 2800 words in. For me, he was right. Much of the first couple pages involves the main character’s daily routine except the character was going through pain. Much focus is spent describing the way his body is feeling and giving sensory descriptions. This continues for a few pages and didn’t quite hook me.

Eventually, the focus of the story became more clear on page 5, which I think is way beyond 1000 words. The story is about a VitaVax shot, which is nanotechnology that repairs cells. This is what was causing much of the issues of the first few pages.

To me, the author should have dived into the plot narrative a little faster. Other than that, I didn’t quite know the time or setting or any background to the story.

Does the first 1000 words show it as edited?

Yes, however some of the formatting was off. The thoughts of the character were not italicized as usual in a third person point of view story. There a couple odd uses of words likeShe looked up from her phone and smiled. Smiling from bed.”  Some of the sentences didn’t have a noun and a verb, which can be fine, but was a little weird in the context. “The VitaVax shot” and “Casual pants and a dark button-down shirt” and “Go” and “Stressed about the Presentation.” None of the sentences were dialogue or part of a POV narrative, so to some, I could see how it wouldn’t be typical. Note: I write short truncated sentences, but mostly in my first person POV stories. Additionally, sometimes stream of consciousness stories almost require the story to be filled with this. 

Do I care about the characters after the first 1000 words?

The first 1000 words doesn’t do enough to get me to care. By the time it gets to the VitaVax shot, I am a little more interested in the story. There wasn’t much to identify with Thomas yet early on. Perhaps it picks up later.

Do I like the world building?

I didn’t gather in the first few thousand words what the world was. So I couldn’t assess this. For me, consider this as not observed.

Overall Assessment: Would I continue reading past the 1000 words?

If reading this on Amazon, the first 1000 words wouldn’t get me to continue past. If it would have started with the VitaVix shot paragraph, and given a single flashback/filler paragraph to get me up to speed on the headaches, it would have propelled me enough to the next plot point. 

One thing I would have liked seeing:

For a man with so much pain, I would have liked to see a little more interaction. We get that Thomas is suffering, but that can be told in one paragraph. He can describe his pain in one interaction with Jane while also establishing the world and the shot he got. It doesn’t really have to be a mystery. Just jump into it and go.

Overall Story Beginning Rating: 1/5 Happy Go-Lucky Red Pandas

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 6.59.42 PM.png


Q&A with Michael Blackbourn
How long did the first draft take to write?
About a year. this was my second story after my kids book and the first ‘grown up’ sci fi I’ve written. Everything seems to take longer than I would like. When I used to jump out of planes and blow stuff up for a living everything seemed to go more quickly. Writing takes me a frustrating length of time to get right.
Did you change the ending in the middle of writing?
I added an entire parallel story inter-weaved with the main plot after I finished. It made the entire concept of the short much much stronger and I couldn’t imagine the book without that element now.
Did you submit traditionally?
No. This story is about to hit amazon as soon I as I have part 2 completely edited. They are going up as a pair. Both have strong endings (no cliffhangers) where I leave no room for a sequel, so I’m hoping the fact that there is more will be a draw to people, wondering how it might go on.
Where do you want to go with the series?
I have a second part that is done and I’m just polishing, it’s 3 times longer than this initial piece. And I have a third part outlined. There is a lot of room in this concept for more.
Favorite author who has influenced your writing?
Howey and Heinlein. One when I was in highschool – he was my into to science fiction, and the other more recently for how well he writes the internal monologue of characters.