A Reading Experience

I know how much effort an author has to make in order to produce a finished story, much more for a novel than a short story, granted, but even the shortest piece of fiction requires a high degree of attention. Anyone who attempts it deserves to be given some leeway.

And yet. And yet.

There are exceptions.

A couple of months ago the good lady was approached by someone via her blog to ask if she would like to receive a certain book for review, a book which happened to be labelled Science Fiction. She replied that she had too many books to read but mentioned that I read SF so the offered was extended to me. I accepted despite some misgivings. The book duly arrived (from the US with a heavy postage on it) and those misgivings multiplied. Its appearance had the stamp of print on demand on it and a look that implied self-publishing. There was a named publisher on the copyright page though, Fulton Books Inc, so I thought it might be okay.

Wrong.

So wrong.

I’m not going to name the book here but I will post the review on the blog at a later date. I won’t put the usual “Pedant’s corner” addendum on the review but include that here (see below) to give a flavour of it. I think it’s the longest such I’ve ever had but it could have been many times the length and still not encompassed all its stumbles.

After one day of reading, I googled the “publisher.” It “is the most affordable solution for publishing your manuscript.” Yes. It’s a vanity publisher, a self-publishing racket, if you will.

Nevertheless I kept on with it. I felt under an obligation as I had agreed to review it and the author had taken the trouble to send it to me.

Most novels have at least some typos, some clumsiness of expression – that’s to be expected – but this book had infelicities on every page, sometimes many – whether grammatical, syntactical, in spelling (even allowing for USianisms,) or in its punctuation; words were used in ways askew from their accepted meanings (separated for divided, relented for refrained from, radiate for radiant,) it contained sentences that made no sense. The whole thing gave the impression of being hammered out on the keyboard and thrown into the world not fully formed. There was no sign of revision or editing, certainly none of proof-reading. None of the things a reputable publisher would at least make some sort of fist of.

Reading it was like reading through a distorting mirror or in a language that wasn’t quite English, certainly not English as we know it. (To be generous to the author this may have been an attempt on his part to render future changes in the language via his prose but other parts of the novel were resolutely quotidian and so challenge that interpretation; challenge it severely; challenge it to destruction. There is no comparison here to the likes of Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.)

At times it felt as if a sort of meaning might be glimpsed through the forest of words, a ray of understanding of a possible new method of expression, an almost making of sense. But humans are hard-wired to discern patterns from chaos, to see images in cloud formations or in the dappling of light through trees: that tantalising flicker never did quite coalesce. There was no substance to it.

It was as if the text had been written by a machine or possibly run several times between different languages through a ropy translation engine. Disorienting. And did I say the characters were one-dimensional?

Lesson learned.

Accept review copies only through recognised outlets.

As to the review, I’ll be as gentle as I can with it when I do post it.

Pedant’s corner:- in the epigraph; Leonard da Vinci (x 2, the usual ‘Leonardo’ was used in the book’s text,) deign (design.) Most of the following occurred in the first few chapters. Thereafter I only noted down particularly glaring incidences:
skullduggery (skulduggery,) “the skyline of Chicago that ebbed from the distance” (either, ‘ebbed into the distance, or, ‘swelled from the distance’) “the water smoothed to a placid.” (To a placid what?) “the world had change in the last decade” (changed. This is only one of many inappropriate verb tenses employed in the book. There were also many failures of agreement of subject and verb, along with innumerable stray quotation mark, with ‘where’ and ‘were’ being frequently mixed up,) “that thrived on carbon dioxides” (carbon dioxide; carbon does have two oxides, but only one of them is a dioxide,) “Terra farming” (several instances, terraforming is the usual term,) “spectrums of color not comparable to anything he’d seen on Earth” (1, spectra; 2, human colour perception does not depend on the viewer’s location, on Earth or anywhere else,) “maneuvered into a parking space between a police patrol vehicle;” (it parked inside another vehicle?) “a pail face” (pale face, pail was used again later for pale,) “a man lay dead on his back in the position he had fallen” (where he had fallen,) “identification card” (many instances; ‘identity card’.) “Next to that image appeared a coded script of information she had been trained to read was projected from the computerized crime kit on the floor.” (That is a sentence which, like many others here, needs revising.) “‘……the GSR.’ ‘The Galactic Smugglers Ring,’ Thad defined the acronym.” (Another acronym was also elaborated in the sentence after it by a character whom we were then told was defining that acronym.) “Dexter pushed over a pillow then stopped when he saw a sparkling grey rock underneath a pillow” (the same pillow or a different one?) “when its it processed” (when it’s processed,) “‘but that was in zero gravity, the laws are different here on Earth.’” (It wasn’t in zero gravity; the previous speaker had referred to jumping off lunar rock faces, moons exert gravitational attraction: also the law of gravity is exactly the same everywhere in the universe – “the laws” are not different on Earth,) “to almost to an obsession” (only one ‘to’ required.) Dexter says something to Gail even though five lines above she had been referred to as not yet being present in the room, we’re told when she does step into the room – at the bottom of that same page. “Now that he was within several feet from his target” (either, ‘Now that he was several feet from his target’, or, ‘Now that he was within several feet of his target’,) “with the world’s resources that their disposal the birth a new day, a new world came from the ashes” (at their disposal, birth of a new day,) “sir name” (several times; the usual term is ‘surname’. To be generous to him it may be that Cargile here is trying to suggest a future form of English but when there is a perfectly usable term understood by its intended readership in the present day, that’s not necessary,) “on it’s surface” (its. OK, many writers are prone to this substitution,) “down on his hunches” (a simple typo, the correct ‘haunches’ is used elsewhere,) “the normal gene pole” (gene pool.) “‘That’s not what I met, sir.’” (‘not what I meant’,) “‘A grin crept across his face of amusement’” (I like the concept of a face of amusement, but the suntax here is awry,) “at top her gloved hand” (atop – used later,) “bringing the rifle to bare on target” (to bear,) “soft and none threatening” (non-threatening.) “‘The weather net will … then return current temperature to sixty-eight degrees Celsius’” (if its ‘current’ it’s already at that point and does not need to be returned. And ‘sixty-eight degrees Celsius’? People would likely die of heat stroke within seconds, 68o Fahrenheit would be much more comfortable.) “‘When Homo Sapiens encountered Homo Erectus and ‘Neanderthal’” (Neanderthal, yes, but Homo Sapiens came long after Homo Erectus became extinct, “taken a back” (aback.) “Dexter took those last words like a parent forwarding his disobedience would be his demise.” (??? I can not make sense of that sen tence in any way.) “He glanced to either of his team members” (both members, not ‘either’.) “He suddenly lurched his head to the roof of the bay compartment.” (That is one for Thog’s masterclass.)
On the back page blurb: “artificial human’s labor” (humans’,) “a part of humanities utopian society” (humanity’s.)

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