Friday, September 26, 2014

A Flock of Ill Omens (a book review post)

"A Flock of Ill Omens" is the first part of the 10-part serial release of A Shot in the Light. If you decide you want to try it, you should pick up the compilation of the first four parts of the series because it's the same price as part one all by itself.

Having done a serially released book myself, I have a soft spot for the idea of serials. I think they have a lot of potential. As a first part of a serial, I think this does its job adequately. In that, I mean it draws in the reader and makes him want to know what's going on. As in me.

However, with me, that's not all a positive. There are some things I just have questions about. Technical questions. As in, "Is this part of the story or did the author fail to do adequate research?" So, basically, I'm holding my breath and waiting to find out. It would be normal for things to not make sense at this stage in the book, so I'm reserving judgement on the things that have caused questions for me.

Oh, except for one thing, because I'm pretty sure it was a one-off. At one point, one of the characters wants to decontaminate a house. He's afraid of a bio-hazard (which could just be a flu virus), and he's trying to eliminate it. He opts to buy a bug bomb, the kind you can buy at the grocery store, under the assumption that it will kill all living things in the house, including viruses. Um... That's not how bug bombs work, and the character should have known that, considering his profession. I get that the bug bomb made for a convenient way to "zap" the house, but unless they've started making some that actually irradiate their immediate environment, a bug bomb's not going to do more than get rid of some roaches and fleas. Maybe a mouse or two. Maybe.

The writing is pretty fast paced, possibly a little faster paced than I'm actually comfortable with. Things frequently felt rushed to me while at the same time having no actual results. I think that's probably in line with current conventions, though, so most people will probably feel very comfortable with the pacing. What I'm saying is that the writing style is probably a plus in a general sense. It wasn't a negative for me, but it also didn't do anything for me.

And, because it's me, the editing:
The editing was pretty good. Mostly, there aren't any issues. Except for the one that is my current pet peeve: the misuse of dashes. I've talked about dashes before, so I'm not going to go into a whole rant about them other than to say that I wish people would actually learn what dashes are for rather than using them by feel. But, then, when you have someone like L'Engle using them to start paragraphs, I suppose it's understandable that there would be confusion about the purpose of dashes as punctuation. [Just to point it out, starting a paragraph with an m-dash is like throwing your commas at the beginning of your sentences. It's just wrong.] Anyway, other than the dash-abuse, and that wasn't rampant like I've seen in some books, the editing is pretty tight. Definitely well above average for a self-published book.

I already have part two set up on my Kindle, so, see, I'm still reading. However, considering that I'm also still reading L'Engle's time books, I don't know if that actually says anything significant. But these are way better than those. I mean, I'm willingly going to read part two, not out of some weird obligation to finish like I have with the Time Quintet. For the moment, though, I'm giving this a C rather like I did with The Skin Map, because I need to see where it's going and what's going on before I can make a better judgement than that. If it hadn't been for the bug bomb thing, though, I might have gone with a B.


  1. Hart is going to stress over that bug bomb now...

  2. I'm having trouble figuring out the plot of the story. Is that why this review is about form and inaccuracy? Because the plot is too murky to describe?

    If that's the case, I'm not gonna pick up a serial. I like a well-defined character (or couple) with defined goals, and a defined problem. One that can withstand the disjunction of stage release.

    Right now, I don't see it. *shrugs*

  3. Serials sometimes betray me...I don't mind a teaser, but many give me an incomplete story in the book in hand.

    But - let me just say that I am an abuser of both dashes and ellipses. Sure, I could have chosen street drugs or alcohol, but neither give me the pleasure that uneducated grammatical tomfoolery provides.

    I went to a nursing school. That's my only excuse.

    Thanks for the review!

  4. Alex: Well... A bug bomb is a bug bomb.

    Veronica: Well, no. I'm just not sure what the actual plot is, yet, so I didn't want to get into it. And I don't really do plot summaries since you can get those from looking at the book blurb.

    I'll let you know how it develops as I go along.

    Cherdo: Serials should give you an incomplete story. If it's a complete story, or a series of complete stories, it's not a serial (it's a series). Many of the greatest works of literature were released serially.

    I wonder if there's a 12-step program for punctuation abuse...

  5. As a consumer SErials are like comics in that it's too expensive buying them one piece at a time. I'd rather buy one collected edition.

  6. Pat: I can understand that. Personally, I like the comic book format in a general sense. They are, now, too expensive, though, for that to be viable. However, $0.99 is not very expensive, especially when there are only 10 parts.

  7. I've never liked the serial format. I much prefer to have my books all complete in one hit.

  8. That bug bomb thing is hilarious! Too bad it's probably not supposed to be... I love me some em-dashes! I really have to keep a tight rein on myself, otherwise they'd be everywhere -- except at the beginning of sentences. lol

  9. Having to question whether something is intentional or a lack of research is, well, an ill omen. Although this sounds like a lack of research, another bad sign.

  10. Jo: Well, maybe, she'll collect them into one volume; however, all the parts are out, so, essentially, you could read them just like a single book.

    Lexa: I don't know what it is with the dashes or why they started annoying me so, but it's probably because they're everywhere. It's like people do their punctuation as if they were drawing a picture.

    Jeanne: There are some things that make me think the things I'm questioning may be intentional. I'll just have to find out.

  11. I think serials are a great idea. I wish I could write as fast as Hart. She worked her butt off getting those stories published.

  12. You know, I've never actually read a serial. Maybe I should try one out. :-/

  13. L.G.: The key with serials is to have most of it written before you start publishing it.

    Misha: If you want to actually try the serial experience, you need to find one that's active, not one that's finished.

    TAS: I know! And they don't even really work all that well.

  14. TAS: Or the ant dance, but it's better to have a five-year-old with you for that one.

  15. You don't like dashes? What next, are you going to rant that people use semicolons too much? THIS MEANS WAR.

    I love me some dashes, is my point. My god, my writing must bug you no end sometimes.

  16. PS:

    All he would've had to do was add some antimicrobials to the bug bomb and have them sprayed around. Pesticides won't kill bacteria and viruses but antimicrobials will. Or bleach. Bleach kills just about everything. In an update have the main character add some antimicrobials into the bug bomb mix and that'll fix the technical glitch.

  17. Briane: I don't dislike dashes; I dislike mis- and over- used dashes.
    I love semicolons; I wish people would learn how to use them. The art has gone out of them.

    I don't think you can actually get into a pressurized can to add anything to it. And the character in the book skipped over bleach in favor of the bug bomb.

  18. My problem is that I like the concept of a serial, but when I have to wait for the next one, I tend to get lost on the way. I have a short attention span. So then I end up giving up and waiting for a compilation of all the pieces to come out.

  19. Shannon: Maybe your attention span is longer than you think, because serials tend to be really good fits for people with short attention spans that want to read in short bursts.
    It sounds more like you have a short memory problem much like my own.