The Color of Nothing by Francesca Flau is a novel about a woman who awakes to find her house surrounded by literal nothingess. The two things it brings to mind for me are Kafka and The Never Ending Story.
WHY I PICKED IT UP:
I like the concept; there are a lot of ways Flau can go with this and, as I mentioned, it sounds a little Kafka-esque. It’s got some pretty damned good cover art. It is also available for free on Smashwords!
WHERE/WHY I STOPPED:
I stopped around page four or five because NOTHING was happening. Surprising, yes? Nothing happening in a novel about nothing. I was afraid of this.
There’s just nothing to draw the reader in. Flau establishes the nothingness very quickly–it’s one of the first things that happens in the book–and then describes the main character trying to find out what’s happened. Seems standard, but there’s nothing at stake and it’s boring. There’s no hook AND she doesn’t even explore the MC’s emotions about her situation, so we the readers feel nothing as well.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER, IF ANYTHING:
Firstly, Flau needs a little work on her proofreading; there are a couple of comma spliceed run-on sentences here and there.
Next, she should really focus on how her character feels when this enveloping nothingness surrounds her. Readers identify with the main character, meaning most of the time we feel what they feel. If you don’t describe the MC’s feelings about a situation, the readers don’t feel anything.
Plotwise, Flau is in need of an inventive hook–our main character awakes, finds out about the nothing, then fucks around for an hour trying to figure out what’s happened. There’s no deadline to meet, no sword of damocles, and without anything pressing she could theoretically sit around until the end of time doing nothing and surrounded by nothing. Not a good start to the book.
So you need a hook–it might sound silly, but we need to know WHY she wants to get around the nothing, or at least give us a limit on the time she has to figure it out. The easiest way to do this would be to make the nothingness creeping slowly closer to and inside the house.
Also, there’s a fourth wall breaking reference to Dr. Who, in which Flau specifies the eleventh is the main character’s favorite. The only reason I can think that bit of information would be necessary is to establish setting, but I still found it a little uneccessary.
A promising premise, Flau’s book is over 60,000 words long, so it probably goes somewhere eventually. But she needs to work on making the beginning more engaging for readers to really pull them along for the ride.
As always, check it out for yourself and tell me what you think!