A huge castle made of stone and steel floating in an endless sky.
This is good. Description is often used to start a story, but one of the downsides of using description is that you risk losing readers if your description isn't interesting. This is why a lot of the younger generation, myself included, has shied away from the "classics." This opening line describes an important set piece and grabs my interest. A castle floating in the sky? Been done to death and back, but at least it's something.
That was all this world was.
Now that hasn't been done much. A world consisting of one giant castle? This line is written a little awkwardly, but is hardly worth beating on.
It took a vagary group of craftsmen one month to survey the
place, the diameter of the base floor was about 10 kilometersólarge
enough to fit the entirety of Setagaya-ku within. Above there were
100 floors stacking straight upwards; its sheer size was unbelievable.
It was impossible to even guess how much data it consisted of.
The first sentence is a run-on, and could be fixed by replacing the first comma with a period. Also, "vagary" is improperly used as an adjective. It's actually a noun. It means "a sudden or inexplicable change." The proper adjective is vagarious. Moving on from that, I do like that the author doesn't throw big names around. There's Setagaya-ku, and because the rest of the paragraph is description, we don't have to juggle that with other proper nouns (like in so many other fantasies). We don't know much about it. All we know is that Setagaya-ku is big, but not as big as the castle in the sky.
Inside there were a couple of large cities along with countless
small scale towns and villages, forests and plains, and even lakes.
Only one stairway linked each floor to another, and they existed in
dungeons where large numbers of monsters roamed; so discovering
and getting through was no easy matter. However, once someone
made a breakthrough and arrived at a city of the upper floor, the
Teleport Gates there and of every cities in the lower floors would
be connected making it possible for anyone to move freely through
(MT doesn't allow for certain elements of the original format to be used here. There were previously brackets like these >< surrounding "Teleport Gates")
Technically, "small scale" should be hyphenated, but no one really cares about hyphens these days. That aside, this is a good bit of description. Ten kilometers is big, but "able to fit the entirety of Setagaya-ku" doesn't really do it justice (since we don't know what Setagaya-ku even is). This paragraph clears that up: it's enough to fit a couple large cities, small towns, villages, forests, plains, and lakes. It's about the size of a typical mid-sized game world (by today's standards). Also, I knew what Sword Art Online was about before I read this, but if I didn't know, I'd be figuring it out about now. One stairway leading to and from each level? Dungeons and monsters?
"Only one stairway linked each floor to another, and they existed in dungeons where large numbers of monsters roamed; so discovering and getting through was no easy matter."
This is wrong. For one thing, it's a run-on. With two semicolons already on the first page, I'm getting the feeling the translator just likes the way they look and doesn't quite get how they work. A semicolon separates two similar clauses that could each stand alone as two individual sentences. "So discovering and getting through was no easy matter" doesn't make sense. "Locating them and subsequently reaching them alive was no easy matter" does.
Next, what are these things (><) doing in prose? Those are there for programming and ASCII art. Not writing. I understand they're sometimes used to show that a word or phrase was translated, but they completely break a story's flow since they're so rarely seen outside C++ compilers (and occasionally comics/manga). Would this story be any worse if the sentence went like this:
"However, once someone made a breakthrough and arrived at a city of the upper floor, the Teleport Gates there and of every cities in the lower floors would be connected making it possible for anyone to move freely through these levels."
It's still a clunky run-on sentence and should be chopped down:
"However, once someone broke through and reached a city on the next floor, anyone could go there instantly via Teleport Gates."
With these conditions, the huge castle had been steadily
conquered for two years. The current front line is the 74th floor.
The name of the castle was Aincrad, a world of battles with
swords that continued floating and had engulfed approximately 6
thousand people. Otherwise known as...
(Again, Aincrad had >< around it.)
This paragraph is painful to read. Even if all the spelling is correct, bad grammar and a lack of clarity will kill everything--and those are things Microsoft Word will rarely, if ever, catch. I also think the translation may be a problem here. There's no clear subject defined, and in English, that makes for weak, boring prose. It's probably fine in Japanese, but don't quote me on that. I know maybe ten words total in that language and nothing about the grammar.
Regardless, here's how I'd write it:
Originally Posted by Matt
I present all the information from the paragraph in a single sentence, perhaps sacrificing the lead-in to the next page. That, however, feels like a carry-over from comic books and manga. I won't condemn its use in novels or light novels, but I will discourage it.