Thursday, May 16, 2013

"The Ohnegott"

And now it's time for another of my infamous book reviews...

I learned something new about goodreads today: If someone deletes his account, you lose any mail you may have exchanged with that person. What the heck? Seriously, why is my email deleted because someone else deletes his account?

So... back around Christmas, I received an email from Charles Timm asking me if I would review his "book," "The Ohnegott;" I say "book" because it's barely longer than a short story, but he's treating it as if it's a full length novel. I explained to him that I was busy with several projects and had other reviews I needed to do, so it would take a while (as you can see, it's now May (and the only reason I stuck it into the list, even now, is because of how short it is)); he said that was fine. I also explained as explicitly as I could that any review I would give would be completely objective--there would be no automatic positive review. I told him he should check out some of my reviews so that he would know what he was getting into. I don't know if he ever did that, but he said he understood and wanted the review no matter how it turned out. And, see, that was the part I wanted to save, because it's good to have it in print when someone tells you to be harsh.

At the time of the request, "The Ohnegott" had no reviews. It does, now, mostly negative ones, and he deleted his account, so I have to wonder if those things are related. And the email that I saved is gone. Oh, well...

The first thing I looked at when Timm gave me a copy of his story was the length. I don't have an exact word count, but it can't be more than 10,000 words or so, but he's charging $2.99 for it. My immediate response to that back in December was to tell him that he's charging too much for a story of that length. He agreed with me, yet the price is still $2.99. That seems unfortunate to me, because I would actually be angry if I paid $2.99 for this. I'd probably shrug off $0.99, because Amazon doesn't let you charge less than that, $3 is the author taking advantage of me both because it's not long enough to warrant that kind of price, unless it was exquisite, and, because, this "book" is the opposite of exquisite.
[As a complete aside, the next Charter Shorts is just about ready for release, and, if "The Ohnegott" had been a submission from one of my middle schoolers, it would not have made it into Charter Shorts, Too. Seriously. And it was written by a guy, supposedly, with a degree in English.]

Let's start with grammar and punctuation because that's oh so much fun, right? I have no kind way of saying this: He needed to get some. The story is littered with inappropriately used semi-colons and commas. Semi-colons used as commas. Anywhere he could put a punctuation mark, he did. Sometimes just stuck between words for no apparent reason. Frequently, there were long strings of sentence fragments strung together with said commas and semi-colons so that, in the end, the string of fragments didn't actually say anything. To cut to the chase: a degree in English does not mean one knows how to use punctuation correctly, and Timm is in desperate need of an editor just to deal with the punctuation. Not to mention that his verb tenses didn't always match and not all of the words he used meant what he thought they did.

And that part, the part about using the incorrect word in a sentence brings me to the next bit. I think he was trying to write in "lofty" language. To elevate the story by his word choices. But it just reminded me of my dad and how he used to use "big words" to sound more intelligent except that he'd use the wrong word and just sound... well, I'll just say that when I was teenager I was often left embarrassed whenever my dad would open his mouth to talk. "The Ohnegott" felt just like that to me, like Timm was trying too hard to sound grand and bigger than life but left it looking like a bunch  of five-year-olds playing dress up. Only, it's cute when five-year-olds do it.

Sometimes, though, the worst grammar problems can be overlooked if the story is good enough, but this one wasn't that. In fact, it was more along the lines of one of those five-year-olds wishing he could be good enough to cause his birth to magically have been a royal one and find out that his dad is really the king and he's really a prince. Frederick's desire to work hard enough and become worthy enough to have been born a royal makes absolutely no sense, but let's forget about that for the moment. Let's go to the incestuous attraction that Frederick and his foster-sister, Carina, have for each other. But they're not really brother and sister, you say? Well, it's completely unclear that they know this. From the presentation, it appears that they believe they are brother and sister and each has a secret love for the other, which, in the end, turns out to be okay, because, surprise!, they're not really related (except not a surprise, because the reader knows they're not related; it's just a surprise to them making their long secret love for each other okay).

Beyond all of that, the story is illogical and inconsistent. The king has had all of the churches burned down for no apparent reason, and, evidently, no one knows where the king's castle even is. But I'll give you an example right from chapter one where we are introduced to... well, I can't tell you that, because the character has no name. Let me let you catch up:
Right at the beginning, our brother and sister meet a monk in the woods. Only he turns out to not be a monk, he just likes to wear the robes because they're comfy. Probably because he's fat. Monks have to be fat, you know (Timm tells us this later in the story, the thing about monks being fat). [Remember the part about how the king has burned down all of the churches? Evidently, he kills monks, too, but this guy is waltzing around in monk's robes. (Yes, we are told in the first paragraph that churches are outlawed.)] As soon as the "monk" reveals he's not a monk, the siblings realize he's just a kid. What the heck? Suddenly, he looked younger than the mature man he'd looked only moments before! I'm going to just assume he's a teenager, because Timm is never clear on just how old the kid is. When it comes time to exchange names, we find out the not-monk has no name.

Let me take a logic break here. This kid, teenager?, has no name. Not even anything he calls himself. Nothing anyone else has ever called him. He's homeless, see, but he did live with a string of women at some point (a whore's kid, then?), but, evidently, not a single one of them ever had anything she called him. He doesn't even make up a name; he's just all sad about how he doesn't have a name. Oh, wait, more logic break. He's homeless! At this point, he's living mostly in the woods scrounging for food (and we get his thoughts about how good it will be to actually get to eat), but he's fat. And he knows how to read, although he's never had a family or anyone take care of him, and he's very knowledgeable about medicine.

Which takes us to the next thing, they decide to take this nameless not-monk (although the sister promises to get him a name) back to their house to attempt a cure on  their sick father. I'm thinking, at this point, that we have the set up for the story. But, no, because that whole thing never happens. They just take the not-monk back and feed him and the whole thing about him healing the father never comes up again. In fact, the not-monk's presence in  the story is rather questionable except to fit the "fat monk" archetype. Which he doesn't do.

After that, other things that make no sense happen. The only saving grace the story had was that it was short. If it had been any longer, I would have backed out of reviewing it. Which, after reading the first chapter, I wanted to do, anyway, but, then, I couldn't email Mr. Timm to tell him that (because of the closed account), so I sighed and finished the read. I'm going to have to start turning these requests down. I have too many things I want to read on my list to take time out to read something like this, even if it didn't take very long.


  1. You slog through some of the worst reads. I would've given up on that one, review request or not.
    $2.99 is excessive for that length. I bet a lot of people returned it on Amazon when they realized its length. (And probably once they realized it sucked as well.)

  2. I appreciate your candid review! It is important that we know who is out there detracting from the quality work of other Indie authors. Congrats on your tenacity and courage to do the dirty work.

  3. Alex: Well, you know, if I say I will, I will. Unless I get agreement to quit reading. I mean, I did try to not read this one (and that Venitar one), but...

    Stephen: Yeah, I think we'd have a better marketplace overall if more people would be willing to be honest about some of the crap that's out there.

  4. That's a classic example of why self-publishing still gets a bad rap sometimes. Kind of sad, really. So many people want to be writers, think it's an easy thing to do, and then they get eaten by sharks because they didn't realize it wasn't a kiddie pool they were jumping into.

  5. L.G.: Yeah, I'm amazed at how many people think they can just write something up in a couple of weeks and toss it onto the Kindle and expect to become some bestselling author that way. It just makes it that much more difficult for the rest of us.

  6. Ah;rg, ... some stories are so detractable they make me astringent: and I lose my sensitivities... so much... I can't stand's hoping...upon hope!...that is what I don't do: ever!

  7. Donna: Ah; this radius commentary by you filled me with gloriousness; making me hackful with humility.

  8. I certainly wouldn't have completed that read, especially as it was bad and you had lost touch with the writer anyway. Life is too short to read a bad story.


  9. You really need to stop pulling your punches so much, LOL.

  10. Anyway, he's probably charging $2.99 just because that's the lowest you can charge for the 70% royalty. Something annoying is that Amazon recently introduced an app to let you self-publish comics. I uploaded my Scarlet Knight one, which is only like 12 pages long, about half the size of a regular comic. Amazon's minimum is $1.99 so I feel kinda bad about that, though I did enroll it in KDP Select so if you have the Amazon Prime you could get it free. Or I suppose just buy it, read it, and then refund it since apparently they don't care if you do that.

  11. $2.99 is a lot for a short story... especially one that's so terrible. I'll tell you what - you're a trooper for actually finishing something that bad. I'd just stop. If they pester you, tell them this: "You've got 2 options. Either I give up in peace, or I keep going and post a terrible review. An epic, one star ass-blasting."

    Yeah, I said it. Ass-blasting.

  12. OMG you, like; have the patience of a...fat, homeless, nameless: monk. Exclamation. Point.
    Grammatical errors make this former English teacher very angry. I know writers get to take some license with fragments and such, but there's a limit to how often to do that. Sprinkling a paragraph with random commas and semi-colons is moronic! Reminds me of the joke my father used to tell (he was also an English teacher, only in Sweden)- a kid turned in a paper, and at the bottom was a bunch of random punctuation marks with the note, Pplease use these as needed."

    Tina @ Life is Good

  13. Wow, that just sounds bad. If a saving grace for a story is that it's ridiculously short, that's a big red flag. Anyone who paid $2.99 for that was robbed.

  14. Jo: Well, it was short.

    PT: Oh, man, you don't want to see what that review would have been like if I wasn't pulling my punches. I didn't go into my emotional reaction to it.
    I haven't seen the stuff about the comics; I'll have to check that out.

    ABftS: I gave the Venitar guy that option after his first chapter. He asked me to please keep reading and do the review. I really didn't want to read anymore of it, but I fulfilled my obligation.

    Tina: You know, as annoying as punctuation errors are, I'll look past them if the story structure is sound. However, when there's no story structure... well, what do you have?

    Jeanne: Yep, I agree,

  15. Good thing it was short Andrew, and that is weird about Good Reads.

  16. Maurice: Yeah, I don't get the goodreads thing. I'm sure it has something with the mechanics of the site, but, still, you'd think that at least the emails I had sent would be kept.

  17. I once knew a judge (retired now) who was the toughest, strictest judge in our state. People hated appearing in front of him. Except for me. I kind of liked him (even though he once tol me an argument I made was "the dumbest thing [he'd] ever heard in court")(in retrospect, it was a dumb argument)(but it was all I had).

    I liked him because he made me a better lawyer.

    And reading your reviews makes me worry way more about punctuation, spelling, grammar, and proofreading. I'm not going to say I'm perfect, yet, but just reading these things makes me think "Oh, man, Andrew reads my stuff, better bring my A game."

    Also: this thing sounds like a complete waste of time. I can't believe you slogged through it.

    Also-er: people shouldn't blame it only on indie stuff. I've read awful drivel from major publishers. Like David Foster Wallace. That guy was awful.

  18. Briane: It's true people shouldn't blame it just on indie stuff (I'm looking to you, Snow Crash), but it seems much more likely for people to settle for much less than their A game when e-publishing on their own. So... well, if I can inspire people to bring their best, I suppose I'm good with that.

  19. That's too bad. It's so hard to do a bad review after someone has asked you to do a review. It's even worse when they try to explain away their horrible choices, after asking you to be brutally honest because they supposedly want the truth. A friend wanted me to do that with his movie. Ugh!

  20. Kristen: I don't have a problem doing a bad review at request. Sometimes, though, I would rather not read the material earning the bad review.