Saturday, 6 April 2013

Review Month - The Unknown Novel.

The Unknown Novel.
aka - Never help a hero.

Writer - ?
Publisher - ?

Around a year and a half ago I helped out on a book with a genre writer. Anyone who bothers to read my blog would probably know of him. I spent a lot of time reading and giving pointers in a subject I have experience on.

I sent it to him and that was kinda the last I heard from him. 

I am sure you are thinking that I must have been hypercritical of the book - but I wasn't. I even sent my review to a writer friend to make sure.

Looking back on it I think I was a little too complementary. I was carried away on the waves of being involved in that sort of project and helping someone out who had links to the big two comics companies.

Honestly I expected more from the book. He was a writer who I thought was pretty good and I expected something perhaps more elaborate. Less workmanlike if I am to be honest.

I wish now that I had been more honest in my review. I have heard him on numerous podcasts and in a couple of YouTube videos expounding on his amazing experience in learning about the culture and how he translated it onto the page. I have listened to him with prickly heat creeping up my neck. Waiting for the next diatribe of wrongly informed facts and nasty accusations.

What I didn't expect were the horrible allegations he associated with my speciality. I am none of what he claims incidentally and would despise those that are. Saying that, this review is not written in spite.  It is not the ramblings of someone who has been used as free advice and then ignored.

It is 100% honest.

I have tried to contact him a few times and just got a one or two word email back. I bought my own copy of the book and was saddened to see I didn't get an invite to the launch (many others did). Although to be fair he did include my 'T' in the acknowledgements. He would have to I suppose.

I even bumped into him at a party and he looked like a rabbit in headlights. I am not sure he knew who I was - I guessed at the time. (I now think I was wrong in this).

I genuinely don't know what happened. I am on occasion a little brusque. I have a 'sharpened' sense if humour. I even began to wonder if it was the fact that I knew someone (who I have heard) didn't get on too well with this particular writer. Who knows.

Shit. I even considered it was my long held aetheist views that he took exception to as he is a committed Christian. Who the fuck knows? It bothered me for quite a while.

About 6 months ago I asked him for a phone interview for a fanzine I am prepping (assuming he might go for it as it was free publicity and I might get to the bottom if what had happened) but all I got was a two line email saying that he couldn't as he was too busy. (Too busy to make a phone call??)

That final insult should have told me something I suppose.

Let this be a warning to you.

Some (not all by a long mile) self publicising writers and creatives are interested in themselves. You can soon spot them as they talk constantly of themselves. They congratulate themselves. Non fucking stop.

So  I decided to try and translate my thoughts on the book in an honest way. I have hopefully done it in a way as to hide the name of the book and the author's identity.

A Review - of the Unknown Novel.

I have now read it twice (and some sections more than that). Once before changes and once after and to be honest my opinion remains unchanged.

It's seems sparse and underwritten and I have been thinking about why it feels like that to me. I am not a huge fan of modern literature.  I like my sci-fi to date before 1981.  I like my noir to be 1970s and before.  I love the thrillers and poetry of the past. It may be that this sparse and quick style of novel is commonplace.  I hope not, but it might well be the case.

I think it's maybe because personally I want to know what a person is thinking? I want to know more about them.

His characters are in a lot of respects simple cliches. Well they are cliches of cliches essentially drawn from supposed knowledge and blended with a speed of writing (and reading) style that refuses them depth.

I think The Writer needs to pause more. Write something that is good and from the heart. Don't just concentrate on churning out 10,000 words a day to keep an editor happy.

Fill out the gaps more?

His XXXX characters are gifted with this supernatural sight. But it's a means to an end. It's not even a personality trait. It seems no more than a plot twist.  There is nothing interesting about this power.

The magic is nothing more than a plot device. It's almost as if he has to / needs to get this book written. Speed through it to the end. Get the reader there. (Possibly from pressure of deadlines is what I presumed initially). I want more from people, I want more personality and more depth.

Each person seems to be a trope. The XXXXX leads. The XXXXXX comes up with answers. The XXXXXXX XXXXX is initially angry but seems forgotten (hang on were there two?) I was honestly at a loss as to who was who at certain points in the book.

It needed more. It was like a Target Doctor Who book that just boringly quoted the storyline to you. Racing through it without the art of a greater novel.

Just having 'XXXXX does The XXXXXX' as an idea does not a book make. An idea needs to be fleshed out and investigated. These are days of instant gratification and this sort of 'Idea equals Hit' is not something that interests me. Make it real. Live in its skin.

Don't just decide its a book because its been written. Don't just then decide that you are a writer because you wrote something. Live it, feel it - there is nothing of this here. No proper emotion.

Planning the chapters then filling in the blanks is not a novel.

Art. Is Art. Is Art.

Sitting at a computer keyboard is not art.

Telling people you are a writer does not therefore make you one.

Emotional content.





Words that sing and speak and shout and sob.

This is what words that make art should be.

And this is why it fails.

Feedback session over. Must try harder.


PS. Apologies for the XXX'd out sections.  I thought it only fair that I leave out the specific details. We very rarely leave negative reviews on this page and it felt a little unusual.

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