Columns - 2007

    Sea of Red

    Dear Moses,

    Thank you for your submittal to our publishing house. I am returning your manuscript under separate cover with extensive comments marked in red, but I'm taking this opportunity to overview my reaction to your work.

    After scrolling through your writing, I believe this has the potential to be a great piece of literature, an all-time bestseller. There's compelling characters, sex, violence, and socio-political undertones that could ring true for generations. That said, I have a few comments.

    I'm concerned about the overall length and structure. You've broken it into five parts, but let's face it, this isn't Shakespeare. The story's pacing is inconsistent across books. These comments, some general and some specific, should illustrate.

    The opening chapter, while interesting, stretches credibility. It paints an incomplete picture of creation, and does so in an entirely impractical timeline. This could work in the fantasy genre, but as the story progresses it becomes much more rooted in recognizable terms that damage the beginning's credibility.

    Speaking of credibility, Noah? At that age, how is he supposed to believably be a shipbuilder and animal herder? Also, how believable is it that he could harvest enough gopher wood to build a ship big enough for all those animals? As believable as the entire world being flooded, I suppose.

    On that subject, I have some concern about the almighty character. It's intriguing to have a main character persist through the entire work. But is he a protagonist or antagonist? Is he really a he?

    The almighty character usually appears to be a "good guy" but recurringly acts with anger, violence, and without remorse against other seemingly protagonist characters. And he has a lot of rules. It's hard to tell whose side he's on. Perhaps this adds mystery to the story, but I believe it will invite great debate and confusion for some readers. Who's he in it for? What's his motivation?

    The rest of the first book is quite compelling. Family intrigue, feuding brothers, parental sacrifice, favoritism´┐Ż you have it all. This kind of stirring drama is lacking in various later books. Some balance would be useful.

    Where are the women? Aside from Eve and the four matriarchs, we see very little of women throughout. Even those I mentioned are somewhat secondary to their male counterparts, and the rest are even more briefly portrayed. Women are half the population and, once literacy rises worldwide, the ones more likely to devote time to reading. They'll crave characters to associate with.

    The story of slavery in Egypt through the commandments at Sinai is compelling. Guidance from a burning bush, carrying out plagues against a tyrant, civil unrest, political struggle. Good stuff.

    Crossing the parted sea and watching their pursuers drown in it is an image for the ages. And then once they're free, they immediately start to question their new leader. Golden calf, strong image. Smashed tablets. This is all high drama.

    But once they've received the commandments, some issues arise. The story stops. They periodically wander the desert, but not much happens for a long time. Some infrastructure's created, some people complain, some people are killed for varying levels of transgression.

    What takes them so long to cross that desert? If nobody who left Egypt is allowed to enter the promised land, why doesn't this almighty just kill them as he has others? The image of six hundred thousand men, and presumably that same number of women plus half again as many children, in that small desert makes forty years in it seem absurd.

    The story hits a wall. After they leave Egypt and start to wander the desert, the entire third book is a recitation of laws about not sleeping with your cousin's neighbor's goat.

    The fourth book eventually recovers, but it initially reads like a census report. And while in earlier books there were promises of descendents being as numerous as the stars in the sky, based on the numbers early in the fourth book, the promise only scratched the surface of the results.

    There's an increasing number of consistency issues such as this in later books. Even the writing style is inconsistent; there's seemingly four distinct voices in different parts of the text.

    While the final book strays a bit, significantly redundant to earlier text, its ending is fascinating. It's reminiscent, it has some poetry, and it has an ending that has sequel written all over it.

    I believe with some restructuring and consolidation, most of these issues can be resolved. You should also strongly consider translating this work. The original Hebrew is quite open to multiple interpretations. At least add some vowels and punctuation. Some space between words would also be nice.

    We look forward to seeing a rewrite in the near future for further consideration.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who is preparing to dodge lightning bolts even though the rain season is over until November. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.