by Renhe Zhang
25 Words or Less:
Two Chinese kids who might be superheroes or secret agents go back in time and are also made younger so they can… er… um… ah…
Well, the background looks like a screen-grab from one of those documentaries, and the characters seem to be in three different styles — maybe four, I’m not sure the baby panda is from the same source as the mother, unless it’s meant to be a stuffed toy. Definitely a home-made job then… but I’ll concede that a junior reader might not mind in the slightest. It’s what’s inside that counts.
Formatting, Grammar & Spelling:
The text begins (and, often, continues) in the form of a series of lines of dialogue, all unattributed, which might work if they were attached to illustrations, but here are simply stacked up on top of each other. Basic English punctuation is stretched, lots of double ellipses rounding off or … … breaking up sentences for no apparent reason. And when the punctuation is fine, you still get things like this:
“Right, that’s just ten years before 2046, it’s just in the future of some years later, it’s not so far.”
There are routine failures of grammar throughout, plus misused vocabulary (the heroes are sent on “an emergent mission”, which I admit brings a smile to my face — gotta love those special ops shows where the team’s director is into chaos theory…). Sadly, no matter how magical the story of a tomato asteroid might be — and it’s a great title — the language barrier is going to cause too many problems to be overcome.
Characterisation & Dialogue:
Well, let’s have that line I mentioned before:
Bola is a fifteen years old boy, and Lemon is a thirteen years old girl. However yesterday in order to accomplish an emergent mission, they were changed back to be a five years old little boy and a three years old little girl separately.
This is pretty strong, as the writing goes. And the dialogue?
“Ah … … Your Excellency Respected Monarch, when would our respectable distinguished guests arrive at our Miao ethnic village ? As you know, now all the insects and worms for our banquet have already been prepared perfectly here, we are just waiting for our respectable guests to arrive here. Once they arrive here, then all the insects and worms would be put into the hot pot to swim within the boiling oil, or to be steamed or fried, then the banquet will get to start very soon … …”an aged unkle is talking to a little boy beside him. The little boy have a big cake-shaped cap on his head.
“Oh … … my dear uncle, just wait for some while a little more please, I believe they would arrive at our Miao ethnic village very soon, would you please to be a little more patience ? No to be so anxiously and worriedly please … …”answers the little boy who is called as monarch there.
So, you see, it’s really not working.
Was I enticed by the story so far? No. In fact, I’ll admit that I gave up within two clicks of that last quotation. It’s basically unreadable without suffering a serious brain wrong.
This looks to be, if not a piece of unedited machine translation, then certainly a second-language English speaker at work. And while that is admirable, and it would be well beyond my capability to review the sample in Chinese for example, it has to be said that I wouldn’t try to do so, and for the sort of reasons Renhe Zhang shouldn’t have.
Renhe Zhang’s ambition should be applauded, but The Tomato Asteroid is sadly too broken to be readable by a native English-speaking audience.
= Technicalities =
Title: The Tomato Asteroid
Author: Renhe Zhang
Price: $3.86 (August 2015)