The Balancing Act


been doing a lot of soul-searching after I published the Tech and the first set of reviews started pouring in. Many questions were asked, all of them valid. Before I continue, I must thank all the reviewers, one and all, for their forbearance in reading close to 500 pages of what some of them must’ve certainly felt was rather a long book.

"I try. I don’t always succeed. You see, it’s the journey. It has to be fun."

In fact, one of them even suggested that I could’ve reduced the page count and created a series of books, with each case or perhaps a group of cases clustered into one book. Hmm. Then there are several who remarked that the chapters were too long. Double hmm. Finally, last, but on no planet the least, there were those who were confused by the sheer volume of characters, plots and sub-plots, with one reviewer having to retrace their steps, read a chapter all over again to make sure that they didn’t miss an important link to the chain that made up a fairly complex storyline.

Like I said, all the comments were valid. I’m summarising, of course, and leaving out the more complimentary, and the most critical of critiques for good reason. I’m not attempting to address the outliers here.

"Time to move on"

Let me begin with an explanation. It’s not a defence. Not really, as you’ll soon see.

As most of you who have read the book might’ve discovered, the book is no more and no less than a series of thirteen episodes of a procedural. Quite simply, put, it’s not quite a teleplay or even a screenplay, but it’s a novelised form of it. There are plenty of clues. Here are a few. There are thirteen of them, one for each of thirteen weeks of a pilot season. More successful procedurals have twenty-two (hint: foreshadowing the number of chapters in the sequel). Next, each chapter has a title. There were a couple of reviewers, possibly because they’re fond of the same set of procedurals that I’ve favoured over the years, that plays homage to the said television masterpieces from Leverage, Criminal Minds, NCIS and Poirot, to name a few. There’s even Quantum Leap in there somewhere. These procedurals span a few decades. Last clue, which almost everyone noticed as it was hard not to – there were several cases strung together, eventually tied together with the suspense keeping the reader interested.

I could’ve done something about it. I fought with the copyeditor and typesetter and lost the argument about chapter breaks. I might even release another edition with each chapter remastered as an episode, as it should be, with smaller chapters therein representing scenes. Or I might just leave that for The Tech 2. And no, I haven’t thought of anything smarter than that as a title. Not yet, anyway. Several possible tags spring to mind, such as Malware. Or Trojan Horse. Or simply Virus. I even considered leaning towards a more interesting take on the AI Aisha, such as Beating Turing’s Proposition – the test or the Imitation game. But I digress. The point is the feedback is well taken and shall be addressed.

'Too many characters' was a common talking point among reviewers. If you have read the book, do you agree?

Time to move on.

Little can be done with the number of characters. Most procedurals have a set of consistent characters, the main protagonists. To that extent, I’ve tried to stay true to the format of procedurals, limiting it to Alexandra, Val, Nancy, John, Gabriella, Don, Mike and of course, Aisha, adding a few repeating characters which are combination of villains and the good guys. Then, there are the walk-ons who come and go with each episode and so forth. The plot needed those characters. Can’t be helped, I’m afraid. Blame the genre. What I can do, I reckon, is to ensure that the main, important characters are given more prominence, unlike my first foray, where I probably tried to be a little too clever in attempting to hoodwink the reader by investing a little more in a character I was planning to kill off in the next chapter. Knuckles rapped adequately. Point taken.

I’ll address the first comment last. The length of the book. By now, having read of my intention to introduce twenty-two – no, you haven’t read it wrong which is why I’ve repeated it – chapters – correction, episodes, will that make the book even longer? I should hope not. It’ll probably be around the same length, with shorter, crisper episodes, but ah, the plot will surely thicken, with each episode ending in a cliff-hanger. No surprise there, I suppose. It’s about the average for the genre, by the way, just in case you’re wondering. Just check. Don’t take my word for it. Dan Brown’s are a bit longer. Baldacci and Child books are a bit shorter. But not by much.

Readers and reviewers, thank you once again. I’ve read, poured over, every single one of the reviews. I really appreciate your time and patience. And I’ll do my damnedest to do better.

I try. I don’t always succeed. You see, it’s the journey. It has to be fun. It has been for me thus far and I have hopes for the future. Hope you enjoyed it. I know that I did. Let me know what you think.

Mark Ravine


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