Conceptually, Tolerance is a story that just about anyone can relate to. Who hasn't had to deal with delays at customs, crying kids, "generously proportioned" passengers, irritable flight attendants, and so forth? The premise alone begs for the reader to sympathize with Doug. The problem is, Doug is just not likable. From the outset of the story he's judgmental, elitist, and snappy. The prose continues with event after event, knocking the reader over the head with just how unlikeable this guy is. Then at the end, he just kind of "gets what he wants."
Granted, Doug's clearly structured purposely to be this way, but even in stories featuring egotistical protagonists, readers need something to adhere to. This is is magnified by the fact that he remains essentially flat the entire story. It would be one thing if he started off somewhat tolerant, then gradually becomes less tolerant with every event until he finally snaps, but the problem is he snaps right at the beginning. Every event on the plane is weighted relatively equally, with the same response, so he doesn't go through any sort of character arc and just ends up feeling like a shallow ball of hate.
This is also a problem when he discovers his "power." Again, his acceptance of it is almost comically flat. "Oh, jeez, I must be doing it." There's no sense of wonder, no sense of suspense or worry - he barely even lets it affect his behavior. One would think that if they had the idea they were causing it, at first they might think they're crazy, then test it, then become paranoid that every little angry spat would cause them to die in a fiery death, until finally they become so overwhelmed by whats happening on the plane that that becomes what they want. But the narrative pretty much throws away these opportunities and continues on its spiteful path.
Technically the prose is alright. There is a bit of a tendency to overwrite (for example, the first three sentences could be condensed into one "Doug Melman chuckled at the people he called "tourists" sitting in their window seat. The pros knew the aisle was where it was at."), and the sentence structures could use a bit more variation (far too many start with "Doug...something").
In the end, Tolerance isn't a bad piece, but given the strong subject/title I thought I would like it more than I did. In such a heavily character-driven story, the character Doug just ends up being too flat.
Review of: TOLERANCE AT 20,000 FEET
reviewed by TOFMatt on 09/02/2011
Other Reviews by TOFMatt 31
A review of The Car and Candice (Revised)by TOFMatt on 09/01/2011You won't find any big action or high-concept in The Car and Candice - in fact, the story itself is almost boldly down-to-earth. Despite the fact that very little actually happens, the prose is pretty sharp and varied enough to hold interest. Some of the scenes do tend to drag a bit (the conversation between Max and Al, the lead up to picking up Candice) which would be alright... read
A review of City Sanctions Second Editionby TOFMatt on 08/31/2011Conceptually, City Sanctions seems as though it is a piece cut from a movie like Cloverfield - a slice of normal life thrust into the claws of something anything but normal. It reads as one long action scene, which in-and-of itself is not bad. The problem is that, almost by the nature of the twist at the end, there just isn't any weightiness to any of it. The story reads... read
A review of KING ARTHUR AND THE NIGHTS AT THE ROUND TABLEby TOFMatt on 08/30/2011Right from its clever word-play title, King Arthur is unabashedly unrelenting about its perverseness and condescension. While it's sure to make some readers squirm uneasily in their seats, this is where the story is its strongest. Many of the concepts are pretty clever (Excalibur, Lancelot, etc), albeit in a corny "bad porno" sort of way, but therein is where the humor lies... read