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Erasmus's picture

Puss in Combat Boots

By Erasmus in Teleport Us

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Puss is an artificial lifeform, created to be a companion creature by her designers. Now the humans are long gone. Can Puss find a new purpose amongst the dust and rubble of their ruined city?


Thaddeus Howze's picture
Thaddeus Howze from Earth is reading Jim Butcher: Storm Front February 20, 2013 - 9:47pm

I have mixed feelings about the piece "Puss in Combat Boots".

  1. The title throws me. Maybe its's just me but it didn't seem to have anything to do with the story per se, other than the reference to adventuring and Puss in Boots. So I will call that a "lost in translation moment."
  2. The contemplative nature of the piece was pleasant, but even with all of the descriptions used to describe the place, I still had a hard time picturing it in my mind. Not sure what happened but I didn't get a feel for it until the very end.
  3. "Puss" didn't really have a motive, a reason for being, or if it did, we don't really get an understanding of what motivates her other than the fear of the Surgeon.
  4. Speaking of the Surgeon, if he was so terrible, so fearsome, how did he catch and experiment on everyone who was left? Were they unable to run away? Did he have a program or technology which forced them to comply? Or was he simply stronger and faster than everyone else, making their capture even more terrifying?

Does this story work? Yes, it took me a moment to get into the mood, but there were no glaring errors to push me out of the work once I melded with the tone. I wanted to have a bit more action and a bit more understandable conflict but I was satisfied overall with the direction and pacing. The piece wanders a bit in the middle but tightens up nicely at the end. It left me wanting more so you have accomplished your task as a writer.

Clearer, cleaner and tighter for your prose is all I would recommend. You have the makings of a good storyteller and I suspect if you outline your pieces with an ending in mind, it will help your tales with a stronger narrative and conclusion. Keep writing.

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Pet Sematary February 22, 2013 - 5:20am

Nice story!  It had a great sense of voice, theme and tone.  It took me awhile to put all the pieces together, the broken chronology and Puss' lack of direction, but reading till the end I realized that was the point.  This is a story about the character redefining her place in the world.  I think that is something readers can connect with.

So, I suppose I should offer a critique along with the praise.  I'm not a fan of unnecessarily vocabulary.  Words have one purpose: to convey an idea.  If they fail at that because they're too scholarly or your reader isn't scholarly enough, they still fail.  This is just my personal preference and I'm sure others will feel differently.

Still, a really good story that pulled me into the character.  Good job!

William Bryan Estes's picture
William Bryan Estes from Brady, Texas is reading Savage Sword of Conan February 22, 2013 - 6:39am

It had a nice dark theme and had a good feel to it.

irennie's picture
irennie from All over. Currently in Cambridge, England. is reading the Target Doctor Who novelizations February 24, 2013 - 2:26am

I liked this.  I found it strange and immersive.  I did however have a couple of slight issues.

  • I wasn't over-keen on the name.  "Puss in combat boots" made me think that "puss" was going to be a humanoid capable of wearing clothes rather than ostensibly a cat.  Plus, it gave me the expectation that Puss would be instrumental in more action than actually happened.  It was also a title a lot more joking than the story it accompanied.
  • When it came to matching the requirements for the challenge, I didn't think this exactly fit as a utopia or a dystopia.  This was a wasteland, not a society.
  • I didn't feel like the story had a complete arc.  I found it fascinating and I enjoyed the journey, but I didn't feel like we went anywhere.  This could be remedied by fleshing out the Surgeon's plan a little more.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed it a lot.  The Surgeon was nicely creepy albeit occasionally too much of an exposition vehicle.  The silent Puss was a passive main character but gave us a detailed look at the world you had built.  I really liked the slow reveal of the Twins, and indeed the central theme of "what happens to your stuff without us?".  I liked that the death of the humans wasn't given a cause, it was a fact of the world and in a sense didn't matter.

The device of a main character without a sense of time passing was interesting, but I wanted a little more unpacking of what this would feel like.  Would the lack of sense of time just be from major incident to major incident, or would it be truly moment to moment?  There's a short story called "memento mori" by Jonathan Nolan that was turned into the film Memento that I think you could draw a lot of inspiration from if you shose to unpack this theme:

I hope this didn't come across as too critical.  The reason why I've been able to drag out a lot to talk about is that this is a very good story which with some alterations could be a great story.  I'm attaching my specific comments as a separate document.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 4, 2013 - 9:15pm

You have an interesting concept here.  What happens to all the sentient machines when there are no humans left for them to serve?  It was very easy for me to get a clear picture of the City and several of it's denizens.  Excellent job!

The only suggestion I can make is that you put the story through a little more editing.  I noticed several instances of repetitive word use (like pale in the second paragraph).  It takes some scouring when you edit to get rid of those.  Just of curiosity, did you learn British English?  The way you spelled center caught my eye.  (Not a problem just a curiosity).

Good work and Keep at it!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 9, 2013 - 2:27am

You have a lovely mood here, and wonderfully descriptive style of writing.  Puss is a passive character (the title is a little misleading), but a good guide into your world.  The Surgeon is wonderfully creepy, and while the segment with him/it and Puss seems designed mostly as a way to deliver exposition, it does work. 

I did struggle through the beginning though.  A lot of the language is over elaborate, and seems there more to demonstrate a good vocabulary and a clever turn of phrase rather than being there to tell the story.  Words like orifices, buckled behemoth, flagellating limbs, pontificated etc just took me out of the story.  In the second paragraph you have two similes in a single sentence.  You are clearly a good writer, and you don't need these flourishes to demonstrate that.  Just write simply.

I really did like the affected memory of Puss.  It is a nice idea which could really be fleshed out.  If it was expanded on, it would give us more insight into your character. 

The story has lots of potential, and if you had a more complete story arc to go along with the world you've created it would be great. 

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 9, 2013 - 10:22am

I enjoyed the story well enough. I'll admit that my biggest beef with it was the obviousness of the flashbacks and the Surgeon's role as the guy that fills in the backstory for us. It was so apparent that I found myself taken out of the story, thinking of how you might more organically introduce us to the backstory. Combine that with your protagonist's somewhat vague motivations for doing anything at all, and it makes me feel like this was less plot and more world-building, which is hard to make work for a short story.

I can't bring myself to give it a thumbs-down, because it was very well-written and smooth from a technical point of view, and while the characters didn't feel as fleshed-out as they could have been, you do seem to have a fairly stable grasp on the mechanics of writing. Even though I thought the several long flashbacks were probably not the best way to tell a short story, I would have accepted them in a novel.

So, even though I think it could use some work, I'll give it a thumbs-up.