Friday, August 13, 2004

How to insult your readers

Am I the only one who's clued in? I recently started The Codex by Douglas Preston and, by page 17, I couldn't believe that Tor/Forge had published such a badly written book. Where was the editor? Where was his head?

Fine, I tell myself, maybe it's just the beginning that's bad, so I start flipping through the book, and it's still so badly written it's almost impossible to read. The language is about grade 4 level, descriptions are barely competent, the dialogues are stale and inane, the characters are unidimensional and cliché. Sentences such as "...mounting the portal and striding up to the zaguan doors, giving the doorbell a firm series of depresses", or "...picked his way through the bushes with his Ferragamo wingtips, a look of annoyance screwed into his face" are at the same level as "It was a dark and stormy night".

Am I the only one thinking this is bad writing? According to the reviews, media- and reader-wise, this is a good book. How many saps believed the hype and forked $40 for drivel with a mediocre story?

This comes from publishers selling names rather than quality writing. Preston was a co-writer with Lincoln Child for Relic, which was made into a movie that had some success at the time. I suspect they've been banking on that "fame" ever since.

There are some positives through this, however. It takes a bad book to realize there are still some really good ones out there, genre writing or not, which means there are publishers and editors who do have a brain inside their heads. Second, I didn't buy the book, it was borrowed from the Library. This is one instance where spending our tax dollars works for me.

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