Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two-Chapter Review: Captain Canuck - The Terror Birds

I seldom wrote reviews on the previous version of this blog. I described the contents of books frequently but seldom expressed an opinion as to the quality of that content. Not only is quality a very subjective thing but having never published anything myself, I don't think it's my place to criticize those who have.

With the relaunch of this site, I wanted to be a bit more vocal. I won't review every single item I read but if one specific aspect of a book can illustrate a point I consider to be potentially valuable to creators, then I shall comment on it. It's just a different method by which to be supportive, but one I find very tricky, frankly.

And with this in mind, let's take a peek at the Captain Canuck: The Terror Birds novel.

The title of this post is quite literal. I've only read two chapters of Terror Birds. Yet I've already come across an issue that seems to be becoming more and more common; A lack of proper editing.

Did every editor on the planet suddenly drop dead? Is there no one out there available to point out errors in punctuation and/or grammar and/or spelling anymore?

Hey, mistakes happen. There are probably a couple in this post! They seem to be more and more frequent in the material I read these days, however.

I've been told that finding errors is not the purpose of reading books. Of course it isn't. I know this. I don't WANT to find them. That's exactly why this post is being written.

Here's why I consider these small errors to be an issue, even as just a fan.

  • They're distracting. Imagine watching a movie and the screen goes black for one second every minute. Would that not partially prevent your from being totally engrossed? Can you really enjoy a song when the recording skips? Errors have the same effect.
  • They can cause the story to be unclear. One story I read recently (not Canadian, mind you, just used here for the sake of example) used the word "hanger" instead of "hangar" repeatedly in a chapter. They are totally different things, aren't they?
  • They can make you look second-rate. Your delivery can take away from your content. When you read a comment to a newspaper article from someone who can't get "there/they're/their" sorted out, do you not question the writer's credibility just a bit?

Here are a couple of examples from Terror Birds.
...Redcoat tried to unsuccessfully to conceal a yawn.
Obviously the underlining is mine. This is probably a matter of attempting to improve a sentence after it was written and inadvertently going in the opposite direction. Later, a sentence begins "Their current was position was well outside...". Probably an easy mistake to make.
He always did Mr. Bobo had no problem with authority he was very susceptible to praise.
Wouldn't punctuation have made the above sentence far more clear?
The creature tore out a draw.
Or a drawer, rather.

Here's a big part of the problem; spellcheck won't draw your attention to that error because "draw" is a word. Someone attentively reading your work should be able to point it out to you.

The following sentence is in reference to a heated debate in a First Nation council meeting.
It was this warrior's name that in the end quieted the descent. 
I believe that the last word should be dissent, a synonym  for disagreement. In context, "descent" makes very little sense here.

No one expects perfection. But these are four examples of a variety of errors within the first 30 pages. There are several others but they are similar in nature.

So all that being said...
  • Do I regret buying this book? Hell, no. I love that Chapterhouse is using as many methods as possible to tell their stories. 
  • Do I think Neil Dougherty is a terrible writer? Of course not. I can tell in only two chapters that there's a cool story building here. 
  • Do I think Chapterhouse released an inferior product? Not really. There is no editor credited, however. I think it's more accurate to say that I think they skipped a step in the process. 
Here's what I do think; Spellcheck is NOT equivalent to an editor. Spellcheck can't tell when you mean "descent" and when you mean "dissent". I thought it would point out the missing apostrophe in "...when she read the senders name..." but perhaps not.

No matter how good this book turns out to be, it would have benefited from another set of eyes. If you're currently working on this type of project my suggestion, for what little it's worth, is to find that set of eyes prior to release. You're about to present yourself to the world, find someone willing and able to tell you when your fly's down. You don't want a number of small errors to distract from your wicked story.