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Legends and Adventures of Industralia #3 – A Life Invented

Lori Alden Holuta serves up an extra helping of Industralia with her third novella in the series – A Life Invented. As with the previous two installments, the story is aimed at young adults – but it is something that can be enjoyed by someone of any age. The story focuses on slices in the life of Gerard Liddle, a character first introduced in the novel A Flight To Brassbright.

Enough of an introduction – what about an actual review?

As with her previous outings, Miss Holuta presents a happy little world where the conflicts are quickly resolved and – at their best – lead to learning opportunities for all involved. It’s also refreshing to see a family – and parents – working to understand a child on the child’s own terms. The glimpses that the author provides of Gerard’s life like this are sweet, refreshing, and – for the children and young adults reading them – must be affirming and hopeful.

If one might level a criticism to this type of story, though, is that it is short – and presents numerous events (in a very short space). Out of the three stories in this series so far, the first (Steamkettle Kids) seems to be the strongest.

Why?

All three stories are short (no more than 35 or so pages apiece). The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day excels compared to the other two stories because it uses this space to present the readers with a believable and small roster of characters. In the space of the story, the author then presents the reader with a concise story and a central conflict. This type of storytelling is as old as storytelling itself. It works because it invests the reader in the characters (who seem not so different from themselves). It lets the readers care – and want to know what happens next.

In comparison, both A Life Invented and The Legend of the Engineer are a little less refined – for different reasons. In The Legend of the Engineer, there is a central conflict (will there be enough coal for the Engineer?). Still, the central character in this conflict (Margaret) is presented in a very short space of the story’s short space. More could have been done to develop the conflict and the characters – and this would have helped pull readers in, keep them focused, and make them yearn for more. Still, the reader has a conflict. The reader has a character. The story has all it needs from which to grow from a good story – to a great one. The focus just needs to be there.

In A Life Invented, the reader has a central character (Gerard). There are conflicts (tons of them). Still, short spaces and a lack of focus can lead to an uneven story. A central conflict in the short space of story would help focus Gerard, help readers invest themselves in him, and help readers keep coming back for more.

There is a ton (of bricks of good – not being tossed by a trebuchet) good in A Life Invented. It’s optimistic. It’s warm. It presents a picture of parenting done right. These are things young readers need to … read. Still, focused stories help younger readers focus. Focused stories help focus characters (which help all readers care about them). And characters readers care about help readers keep coming back and wanting more.

Just my two cents. Feel free to share your feelings in the comments below. A Life Invented is available both on Amazon and in Second Life.

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A Clockwork’s Critique: The Works and World of Lori Alden Holuta, Part One

Dear Reader:

Herein, I shall attempt a series examining the (both existing and upcoming) works of author Lori Alden Holuta.  The series starts with the first published review (I think!) of her short story The Steamkettle Kids Saves The Day.  From there, I will work through the rest of her works in order of publication.  I hope to end the series with an interview with the author about her writings, her influences, and her hopes – not only for her writings but for the world she has created.

Sincerely,

E.P. Isaacs

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The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day

Type: Short Story

Author: Lori Alden Holuta

Available At: The Brassbright Chronicle

Whatsis:

The story concerns the budding world of Industralia.  For the uninitiated, this is a land that first appears in print with this story, however, it will be expanded in the book “The Flight To Brassbright.”  The story concerns two children and their attempts to thwart a group of ne’er-do-wells bent on a scheme that will hurt the working people of their city gravely.

Thoughts:

To me, this tale evokes images, characters, and the general feel of other tales for preteens and teens that I’ve read growing up – such as “Soup” by Robert Peck, “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain.  Generally speaking, I liked it a great deal.

When Positives and Negatives Collide:

The setting, for the story’s size is well-detailed.  However, I went into the story not knowing that it wasn’t a full book.  I quickly identified with the heroine, a Miss Paisley Pockets.  For the size of the story, the author does a very good job of telling the reader about her – just enough about her – to move the story forward and make the reader want to connect with her.  She seems like “Little Orphan Annie Meets Huck Finn.”

The other characters are good, but Paisley steals the show.  I don’t feel as much of a connection with them.  That could just be me.  It could be that we are only dealing with a short story.  Who knows?  As the universe of Industralia expands, however, I think the residents we find in Miss Holuta’s freshman work will each find their own time to shine.

All in all, this was right up my alley.  I loved it.  It’s fun, and innocent, and good – in style and otherwise.  The only real negative is that I feel cheated.  I want more story, because when the story ended, I wasn’t expecting it.  I guess if I want more, I have to “buy the book.”  Shrewd marketing ploy, Miss Holuta!  For you and your publisher, and I think I just might bite.

At 99 cents, why not buy your own copy of “The Steamkettle Kids Save The Day”, and tell me what you think?