The Bones of Babylon
Fifteen year-old Chicago believes she is one of the last people on Earth. The skeleton she just found suggests otherwise.
The adults who run Castle Gehenna claim it’s her childhood friend Babylon, who ran away years ago, but Chicago doesn’t believe he’s dead. It turns out she’s right: that night he returns, and he tells her the secrets the adults have been keeping from her. Gehenna's walls are meant to keep Chicago and her friends isolated from what remains of the outside world, because they can control the creatures that nearly wiped out the human race.
The adults are prepared to kill to keep their secret. If the other children learn what Babylon knows, they could unleash a second wave of devastation-— one that humanity might not survive. Meanwhile Babylon sets into motion his own string of murders, determined to liberate Chicago whether she wants it or not. Chicago is sure that she can stop him, but she can't even trust herself: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods in hopes that she’ll join him against her captors. All Chicago wants is to find the good in Babylon and end the violence. If she fails, she will be forced to choose between the people she loves and the truth she can’t ignore.
THE BONES OF BABYLON is a 63,000-word post-apocalyptic fantasy novel for young adults. Thank you for your time and your consideration.
The changes the author made in this revision address some of the questions critters asked in the original. Kudos for that! What it doesn't quite do, IMO, is give us that clear understanding of, well, basically, what's happening. Absolutely you don't have to give it all away in a query, but I'm still not feeling as grounded here as I think I could be. And that's why objective views are crucial for everyone. So I'm going to reflect back to the author what I'm understanding -- and not understanding -- after reading this query.
Chicago is confined to a castle city. She finds a skeleton and now she thinks maybe there are others in the outside world, although she presumably found the bones within the city walls. Later we learn adults will kill to keep a secret, so maybe they've killed this person-now-skeleton. How careless of the adults not to bury or burn the dead outside the walls where their remains won't be found.
Gehenna's walls aren't very effective as Babylon seems to be able to come and go at will.
Chicago and her friends can control mysterious creatures that decimated the world's population -- but it's a secret, even from them, that they can. So they aren't. So the creatures are presumably out there still killing people because no one's controlling them.
If the children learn that they can control the creatures, then presumably the kids will of course elect to make the creatures destroy the rest of humanity -- which it seems they're doing now regardless -- rather than have the creatures turn on each other and destroy themselves.
Babylon starts killing people in order to convince Chicago -- and the other kids -- to leave Gehenna, where she seems to be safe, so she can be free to ... I don't know. (I have no clue what Babylon wants from Chicago or why.)
Babylon uses physical mind games to coerce Chicago to turn against the adults holding her captive. It seems Babylon is intent on letting the rest of the world be destroyed if the kids don't learn how to control the creatures destroying it. (Still trying to understand what Babylon's motives are.)
I'm wondering if the structure the author seems to be sticking with for this query is the most effective way to entice -- at least if some of the motivation and why's aren't going to be addressed. Maybe consider a different approach to the query? Shake things up a bit. Give the reader a better sense of what the creatures are and how the kids can control them. Put the peril of the world in at the beginning. See what happens if you write the query so that it shows the big picture first, narrows in on the story around Chicago and Babylon, then connects how the outcome of their story will affect the entire world.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Query 93: Redux
The Bones of Babylon