Friday, January 30, 2015

A Shot in the Light: parts I-IV (a book review post)

You can find my review for part one, "A Flock of Ill Omens," here.
You can find my review for part two, "In Short Supply," here.
I had intended to review parts three and four separately, but, before I got finished with part three, the individual parts became unavailable, so I'll be reviewing the first collection with a focus on parts three and four, since I haven't talked about them, yet.

The first thing I want to note is that the editing fell into a sinkhole or something somewhere between parts two and three. I believe that I noted in my review of part one that it was pretty clean but, by part three, it was like having the maid who doesn't do windows. In other words, the grammar and punctuation errors started getting in my way of seeing the view. Now, I will admit, editing issues stand out more to me the less I'm enjoying something or, to put it another way, I more easily overlook those kinds of copy-editing issues when the story is compelling. There was nothing here by part three to keep me from noticing every single error, some of them the kind of errors that shouldn't have existed to begin with. Example: Periods and commas NEVER fall on the outside of a quotation mark. If you look above to the links I've included, you can see that the commas, even though they are not part of the titles, are within the quotes. That's the proper way to do it. That should be a simple thing, and the increasing volume of people punctuating only outside of quotation marks is becoming troubling, and it's not something I expect to find in the work of an experienced author.

The other thing that was tiresome was the overuse of the past perfect and past perfect continuous verb tenses. I'm not sure exactly when this started happening, but I started noticing it in part three. The chapters started beginning with these elaborate thought flashbacks of everything that had been happening to the character since the last time we'd seen that character. For instance:
He'd left the apartment before everybody got up, deciding there was no better time to get the lay of the land. He'd started with Fort McPherson, an Army base he'd been to for Special Forces training twice upon a time, so the sense of familiarity had given him an advantage when he went to see what was going on.... Once he'd made his way onto the grounds, he'd stood in the trees to watch for a long time.
That goes on for almost that entire chapter, telling us everything very passively after the fact. This is the very definition of "telling" and not showing. There's no tension, because we know everything already happened from the character's perspective and he's just thinking through it all. Not to mention that passive storytelling just grows boring after a while.

 And I'm not even going to mention the fact that "army" and "special forces" shouldn't be capitalized. Oh, wait...

Now, I'm going to jump back to an issue I mentioned in part one, because it comes up again part three: the use of bug bombs to sterilize living environments. It bothered me when it was done in part one because, really? I mean, don't you think that if we could use bug bombs to kill viruses on open surfaces that we would be using bug bombs to kill viruses? By "we," I mean hospitals and health care people. For all I know, there are "normal" people out there who do use bug bombs in this way, and I bet they wonder why they still get sick. But I digress. After it happened in part one, it was possible that it was a misconception of the specific character; I didn't believe that, but it was possible. In part three, some other character wants to do the same thing, so it became apparent that it was an author issue as it seems to be common knowledge among all of the characters (who are all supposed to be intelligent and accomplished). This kind of research flub really bothers me.

And it's not the only one.

Also back in part one, one of the characters finds an office complex full of people who died from the flu. It was like they all got sick at once and died before any of them could get home. Or to a hospital. Or anything. This is after the author has already shown us other people with the flu being sick for long periods before succumbing, so I didn't understand why would have this building full of dead people. But I reserved judgement on that in case there was something else going on. However, by part three, finding office complexes full of dead people has become kind of normal, and it makes me wonder, again, if the author did any research beyond watching The Walking Dead. People don't get the flu and drop dead from it a few hours later. Employers don't keep people at work who are puking and running high fevers. This idea that there would be whole office complexes of people who died because they got too sick to leave is just.. wrong. Poison gas, maybe, but not any kind of disease. Biology just doesn't work that way.

On top of the scientific inaccuracies, one of the main ways the author moves the plot forward is by having the (supposedly intelligent) characters repeatedly doing stupid things. Like sneaking out alone. In fact, in part four, every main character but one sneaks off alone at some point and, each time, something bad happens. It became too much for me and, again, made me think of shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad where stupidity is substituted in for personality so that the author(s) can move the plot forward. That was actually the breaking point for me, that all of these characters kept doing this stuff. Actually, it was all because of one character: Sydney. She sneaks out after someone else who has sneaked out, and she has no good reason to do it. The author prompted her by giving her a "bad feeling," but it was so that she would be there to rescue Theo when the bad stuff started happening. Sorry (not sorry), but I hate contrived plot points.

Honestly, it was a struggle for me to get through part four of A Shot in the Light. I only did it because I had previously stated that I would give it through part four. All of the issues with the story that I mentioned in my first two reviews are still present along with the issues that have been added in. So that's it for me. I won't be continuing to the next part or collection or whatever is next.

I will point out again, though, that the writing is fast-paced and there's a lot going on in the story. For most people, the grammar/punctuation issues are not going to be a problem. And, maybe, details like the bug bombs won't be an issue for most people, too. Based on the other reviews for "A Flock of Ill Omens," I have to assume that that is so. I do have a mild curiosity as to what is going on "big picture" in the book, but it's not enough to prompt me to struggle through the rest of the series.


  1. Yes, truly, the grammar mistakes kill a book for me. I have a TBR that is weeks long. If a book isn't's gone. I sometimes drop a note to the author explaining my issues (usually if this is a new or indie author) but I move on, with haste.

    I also loathe scientific/medical inaccuracy and anachronism. I recently read a book where the author made a big deal about how rare the O neg blood type was. It smacked me over the head. That's a Google search. That's 7th grade biology. It later turned out to be NOT EVEN IMPORTANT to the plot. I was like, "Um, why did you waste time with crap that's WRONG, and then not need it anyway?" It tells me the author is lazy.

    I'm a fussy reader. I admit it.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Veronica: Part of my problem is that I tend to check facts that I know I know before I put them into print, just in case I'm wrong about knowing what I know. Most of these things are simple searches, so it seems... I don't know what word I want to use.

  2. Sounds kind of strange. It's a shame it seems to have ended up disappointing you. In Great Britain, periods and commas are outside the quotation marks. Some countries just have to be different. I've been kept at work when I was puking and running a high fever (worked in a doctor's office). Just kidding, but we were expected to come in even if we were dying.


    1. Janie: Yeah, some places are like that but I'm pretty sure if 80-90% of the staff was deathly ill that there's no place in the US that would keep the employees locked inside until they died. Because that would mean locking them in for days. People who die of the flu usually actually die of dehydration.

  3. I remember you mentioning this a while back, the earlier parts. Sounds like it hasn't gotten better. Not going to add it to my list.

  4. I guess the author should be glad you read the whole thing instead of quitting. Or maybe not.

    1. Pat: I didn't read the whole thing. There are something like 12 parts in all; I only read the first four.

  5. Aw man, that verb tense choice would drive me nuts! Why would one do that?!!!

    Stupidity substituted for personality... Ha!

    1. TAS: Yeah, it's pretty safe to assume that if I'm noticing the verb tense then something is wrong.

  6. That's too bad about all the grammatical issues. I have a a hard time overlooking them, especially if there's too many. I will say (having done a little research lately in this very subject) that influenza has been known to kill within a very short period of time. During the epidemic of 1917/18 some people died within 12 hours of showing signs of illness and others dropped - literally - in the midst of what they were doing, one minute up and about, the next in agony. But I would also think if there were a lot of dead people lying around they'd mostly be in hospitals or at home if they couldn't get to one.

    1. mshatch: Yes, but they didn't drop dead. And, if people were dying in your office, would you stay around to see if you got sick, too? It was just the idea of fully staffed office buildings with everyone dead... I can't buy that.

  7. As I commented on GoodReads, I found your review to be immensely entertaining, but probably what bothered you would not bother the average reader. I'm sure there is a clinical name for this, but when I read I tend to read past most grammatical errors of the type you mention. Something would have to be blatant to the extreme to catch my eye and that's probably why no one would hire me as an editor.

    Some of the things you saw as inaccuracies might also slip by the average reader and maybe that could fall under willing suspension of disbelief. I guess I'd probably have to read this for myself to see how I would respond, but I'm thinking that my review of this might be less harsh (if that's even the correct way of describing this review) than what you presented.

    But I will say that this review is certainly a lot more fun and entertaining than most of the reviews I read on Amazon or other reader sites and at least you provided some solid examples to back up what you were saying. I find it annoying when somebody just says something like, "this is a really good book," or, "I didn't like this book," and doesn't tell why they said it. Crap, was my placement of commas and quotation marks correct in the preceding sentence?

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  8. Lee: Your punctuation was... adequate. >grin<
    I would like to think of my reviews as less harsh and more critical. When I think of "harsh," I think of name-calling at the author and what amounts to personal attacks rather than just dealing with the manuscript. I try to only ever deal with the manuscript.