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There’s No Such Thing As Wasted Reading

January 7, 2010

I really need to get better at updating this thing.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is twofold.  First, it’s to serve as a venting point for me so that I don’t keep annoying my Facebook friends with my ranting (although it’s quite likely that most of the people who will read this will be my Facebook friends anyway).  Second, it’s to demonstrate that any reading a writer does is good reading.  Even the bad stuff.

I must preface this post by saying that I’m torn.  On the one hand, I don’t want to mention the book or author by name because I think he could be a really good author given enough practice and learning of the craft.  On the other hand, he’s put the book out as “published” and, so, has left it open to public review (good or bad).  Sometime during this rant…er, post…I will decide if I am to name the book and author.

What the hell.  The book I will be analyzing (not too in-depth) is The Unsuspecting Mage. It’s Book 1 of The Morcyth Saga by Brian S. Pratt.  Just do a search on Smashwords for “Pratt” and select this one.  It’s a free e-book (I wouldn’t recommend buying the paperback unless you find a dollar one on Amazon because the author charges $14 and up for paperbacks).  This covers me so that anyone reading this can read it and judge for themselves.  🙂

The premise of the book is Landover-ish in that it follows a person from our own time-space continuum into a fantasy world.  James, the protagonist, is a senior in high school and has no idea who’s brought him to the world or why he’s there.  Don’t worry, the author doesn’t spoil that…it apparently takes seven books to find that out.

The main things I remember about the first quarter to half of the book are James eating, entering the fantasy world, eating, travelling, eating, sleeping and eating.  Seriously, I think Mr. Pratt was quite hungry when writing the beginning of this book because he spends an inordinate amount of time explaining what the character is eating.

James, of course, can do magic and is quite fond of throwing rocky projectiles enhanced by magic as a makeshift bullet.  He is instructed by a magic book that mysteriously disappears and doesn’t show up again.  I really expected the disappearance to play into the plot somehow.  It didn’t.  So far, at least.  That’s okay, I suppose, because apparently all the rules it gives for doing magic are bunk even though it is a “very important” book.

James travels a lot, prodded along by some weird little creature who acts as a plot device (and at one point dresses as Mickey Mouse) to move him from place to place.  He meets up with a street urchin, Miko, who essentially acts as a way for James to explain things to the reader that don’t really need explaining.

The story itself is not bad.  The execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired.  It took a while to get used to the third person, present tense delivery but that’s workable.  Except for when the author accidentally slips into past tense.  There are a lot of instances of two tenses within the same sentence.

This book would have benefited a lot from either a paid edit or even a few fresh eyes from a critique group.  This book has shown me what I already knew:  If you’re going to self-publish make sure someone other than you has read it through for grammatical, spelling and logical errors.  No book should be made public with a line that ends “asked questioningly.”  Nor should any book hit the masses with apostrophes used in pluralizations (only happened a couple of times but it was within a page of each other and made my hair hurt) or tags after every snippet of dialogue.

This is in no way a condemnation of self-published books.  On the contrary, by reading more self-pubs, I’m hoping to find those gems that just haven’t made trad pub.  This is not one of them, however.  It was, however, a very valuable learning experience for me in just how much rampant errors will jar the reader from the story no matter how good that story may be.

And if Mr. Pratt, or anyone who knows him, reads this know this:  I am not saying you’re a bad writer, just unpracticed.  And for the love of all that is good in this world, please have multiple people read your ms before publishing it.

That goes for everyone who puts pen to paper or pixel to screen in the name of entertainment.


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