Do you have it in you?
I have been planning to try the Page 99 test for a couple of weeks now, see older post here. Although other matters on my plate grabbed my attention before I could put my books to the test, I will have to admit that I have been quite terrified also. It almost felt like sending my firstborn away for IQ testing the results of which would stamp on her an unchangeable destiny. Oh well, not quite as much, but it’s close.
Then, I realized, this was as good a “coming of age” test for an author, as surviving the first negative review is. I thought, what the heck–I was going to get it done and be done.
My plan originally, which you might have figured out already if you survived the older post I had linked, was to not just do a “page 99” check, but also do a “page 199” and a “page 299” test. Since it is quite unattractively late already for writing an update, today will only be the first. The next two will also arrive, I promise. So, without further ado, here goes MXC (Maia and the Xifarian Conspiracy) to the surgeon’s table.
What are we doing at “Page 99”
We are smack dab in the hot mess that is Chapter 17, titled “Yilosario’s Fourth.”
Question being, is this chapter important in the grand scheme of things or is it merely a filler?
In this chapter Maia’s teammates come to question Maia’s reluctance to embrace the Alliance Initiative, a peace summit in which they have all come to participate. The successful completion of the tournament will change everyone’s life in a good way and every kid except Maia values the chance they have been given. But Maia, thanks to her traumatic past related to Xif, refuses to be invested in the team. Complicating matters further is her being selected as a team leader, by none other than the powerful automaton, Yilosario’s Fourth.
There will be more to Yilosario later in the series, but that’s not for discussion now. What’s important is Maia and her teammates get to know each other in this chapter and motivations that drive each character come to light. This in turn sets up the teammates with and against each other-contrasting lives, motivations and goals set up the conflicts between the five teammates.
Another piece that is set up in this chapter are the rules that hold the XDA (Xifarian Defense Academy) together.
What’s on page 99?
Two things that allude to the central premise of the book.
1. The rules of the XDA-These rules, dull and uninspiring, conveys what Xif and Xifarians are, how they think and how their lives are regulated. It goes to show how closed a society Xif is, how cocooned the Xifarians are from anything outside of it.
VII. COMMUNICATION OUT OF XIF WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE COUNSELOR IS AN OFFENSE PUNISHABLE BY EXPULSION.
It goes to show how helpless the visitors (Maia and gang) are while in Xif, and how dependent they are on their “counselor,” the eternal and enigmatic problem that is Miir.
The rules also give a clue to the TEK, namely the telekinetic abilities of Xifarians-a power that is pivotal in the climactic showdown in the book.
2. Following the rules is a conversation the members of Core 21 (Maia’s team) have with Ren, their sole Xifarian teammate. It alludes to a critical clue-something in the XDA’s past that might have necessitated rules like these.
“There have been security breaches before,” Ren explained. “They’re always worried that information on the various technologies we handle here, including information related to our defenses, may leak out.”
Okay, so page 99 is pretty important.
The more critical ask is-would anyone buy the book seeing only this page?
The answer to this is-NO. If I were a reader and there was nothing else to make me want to buy the book other than just “the page,” I don’t think the page would sizzle enough to win me over.
So then, is page 99 representative of what lies in the rest of the 250+ pages?
The answer to this is also-NO. My books are a complicated maze of puzzles. People who love it do that because they enjoy soaking themselves into mysteries and seeking the threads of these riddles. These threads I spin are not for the faint of heart to detect and solve, they are not meant to be easy to find. One page, therefore, is not enough.
Does page 99 give a snapshot of the book then? Absolutely! It gets a solid glimpse of the DNA of the tale. But it’s also ridiculously insufficient because it only just scratches the tip of a mystifying iceberg.