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I may open the book to a second round of reviews at that time, if you are interested.

Here's the problem -- I'm just woefully reluctant to allow the opinions of anyone that "knows" me. I know that when I'm asked to critique someone else's stuff, it's very hard for me to be honest, even if they're only a faceless entity on the Internet. Some people can be scathing, but I don't think it's in our nature to alienate and hurt people we have no beef with.

What I was thinking would be neat -- and there has GOT to be something like this out there -- is a Web site devoted to authors who can post fragments (1-2 pages) anonymously and also critique anothers anonymously. A complete double blind -- you don't know who you're judging, and they don't know who is judging you. THAT would be a good way to get honest criticism.

As my "contribution" -- and trust me, I'm not comfortable being this critical -- I'm going to whip out the red ink and annotate your passage. Now, I'm not a published fiction author nor an editor, and I'm not putting too much thought into this, so take it for what it's worth. I also didn't put my text together, nor did I proofread it, so feel free to rip into it, I have no emotional investment with it =)

Overall, my biggest concerns are: passivity in description; stilted/unrealistic sounding dialog; and the reactions themselves just feel very unnatural.

We heard Guido's peals of laughter turn suddenly into shrieks of terror, which attenuated as he fell to his death kilometers below. We rushed over to the low transparent wall at the edge of the platform in time to see the chair-bucket disappear into a cloud hundreds of meters beneath us.

Way too passive and not vivid enough. Second sentence is much too long -- six prepositional phrases! You can probably skip the "hundreds of meters beneath us" because the reader presumably understands the layout through prior description.

Guido's laughter suddenly turned into shrieks of terror, attenuating as he fell. We rushed to the edge of the platform in time to see the tops of the clouds swallow his chair-bucket.

Cap and Tom and Sparks and I stared at one another in horrified, stunned silence. How could it happen so fast? There was nothing we could do but watch helplessly.

SHOW, DON'T TELL. Anyway...

the combination of "stunned" and "horrified", to me, detracts. Choose one or the other so you can flow it for maximum impact, but personally I'd prefer not even stating that and let actions depict the scene a bit more vividly. The last sentence is unnecessary, that should be a given from the context, unless you're trying to explain a character's state of mind, and I would argue that's better done by showing.

For a brief moment, Cap and Tom and Sparks and I stared at each other in stunned silence.

“My G--“ Sparks began, then choked up. He put his hand over his mouth.

Much better -- show the reaction, don't tell us about it. Why is he covering his mouth?

"My G--" Sparks began, then choked up.

“Wha-what happened?” Tom asked, his normally olive complexion gone as pale as Sparks' and mine. “H-How? These things have been operating for billions of years. Why now?”

Personal bias, but I'd ditch the explicit stammering. The complexion thing doesn't flow and isn't active enough.

"What happened?" Tom asked, the color draining from his face. "How? These things have been operating for billions of years...why now?"

We had no good answer to those questions. “I...guess everything breaks eventually, even Progenitors' stuff.” I said in a monotone, still trying to understand myself what went wrong.

The first line is redundant and dry -- of course you don't have answers, don't state the obvious.

"I guess everything breaks eventually," I said listlessly. I looked around at the platform. "Even Progenitors's stuff."

“What are we going to do now?” Sparks ventured. “We don't even know where his body is. What are we going to tell his wife -- and baby?”

Blah. It doesn't sound natural at all to me.

Sparks sighed. "Well, now what?" He looked at the billowing clouds beneath us. "We don't even know where his body is. And we have to tell his fam -- Christ, what are we going to say to her? Or to the baby?"

“That we got him killed.” I was numb. “He was the one who was always worried about being killed by aliens, and we teased and cajoled him into coming along, and we got him killed by an alien device on an alien world.”

"The truth," I said numbly. Tom frowned, looking at me for an explanation. "He was the one who was always worried about being killed by aliens, right? And what do we do? We tease him and pressure him into coming along with us and sure enough, we get him killed by an alien device on an alien world."

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Sparks said under his breath. Tears ran down his face, unnoticed.

Unnoticed by whom? Presumably by him, but I'd just ditch that word.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Sparks said under his breath. Tears ran down his face.

I looked over at Cap and thought I saw a moist glint in his eyes as well. But I was having trouble seeing clearly myself, so I couldn't be sure. Tom sat down heavily, like a marionette whose strings had suddenly been cut.

Decent, I'd rewrite it a bit mostly because I kept using 'look' too much in my own edits.

I thought I saw a moist glint in Cap's eyes as well. But I was having trouble seeing clearly myself, so I couldn't be sure. Tom sat down heavily, like a marionette whose strings had suddenly been cut.

“What do we do now?” Tom asked softly, echoing Sparks' earlier query.

Decent.

“We go home,” Cap answered heavily. “We go home.”

Feels cliche. Repetition of something in a heavy voice is overdone.

Cap exhaled sharply. "We go home," he said. He turned and walked back to the lift, glancing back at the platform's edge only once.

-Hook
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