Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Review on Amazon

And it's an interesting combination of perception, and misperception:

So let's lay out the points:

Jonah's thoughts on his family (or lack of them) are a real weakness in the book. I would do it differently if I had to do it over. Although they don't figure in the narrative, it would definitely have helped his characterization to have more about them.

I don't think the dialogue is poorly written. There's just way too much of it. It should've been cut way back, and info introduced more seamlessly.

BUT (you knew there was one, didn't you?) -

God is not mentioned on every page. (Fifty times in 200 pages, to be precise - I checked.) But, if you don't like the name of God, then I guess that must be a burdensome amount. And you live on a different planet if you think that people would not be mentioning God constantly when corpses get up and start walking around.

Sex is mentioned like Mr. Rogers would? (A funny dig, I admit.) There's a nice little love scene in the middle. Lots of kissing and vulnerability and stuff. I like that. I have been amused and shocked at how adolescently phallocentric so much horror writing is, even stuff that I think has some talent and literary merit. I've read several books now, good ones, where the protagonist wakes up with an erection, gets another one when he sees his significant other, another one when he sees an attractive woman (just sees her, mind you, and boing!), and then the villain gets one when he's beating a woman up. Okay, okay, enough, we get the point - the protagonist is virile beyond belief, and the villain is a sadist. As I say, it's just juvenile.


Blogger KPaffenroth said...

The Amazon reviewer sent this very detailed critique, which bears consideration on many points. I still dispute some of the word count assertions, and I've already granted some of the criticisms of dialogue. Plus, it was nice to see some of what the reviewer judges good points! (Which, I think, are mostly matters of tactics and logistics, which are probably not my strong suit, but I do think they make a big difference in how a scene, esp an action scene, is pereceived and whether it's enjoyed.) All comments below are the reviewer's. - KP

On another page you correct my assessment that the word God is on nearly every page - by pointing out that its only used 50 times (in 200 pages), and not as I describe.I don't know about you - but I've read my share of realistic novels depicting horrible circumstances, and in none of these is the word God on one in four pages. I doubt if the word God is on 25% of the pages in The DaVinci Code. It was an awkward choice - and came off unrealistically. That doesn't make it 'hated' (feel persecuted much?).If you feel it was justifiable and realistic, why you would feel it appropriate to mention (again, on the other site) that the word God is only used twice in the sequel novel? I assume, though I could be wrong, that you reread your book and felt it was awkward in this respect as well, and that you sought to improve your writing.

I'm not sure if a more religious zombie book is going to appeal - as the religion in this book didn't seem to benefit the story (though it provided a different entry point for the 'mystical' themes)- but I'll certainly take a look and I wish you the best in your work!

-------- As for the Mr. Rogers jibe - writing about sex doesn't have to be 'phallocentric' to be realistic and natural sounding. I am a little confused by your wonderment at a man getting an erection when he sees an attractive woman, however... its this kind of odd Ned Flanderishness that I find in DTL when the subject of sex arises.

The dialog, I still believe, is a really weak point. When Jonah tells Jack about the helicopter - Jack barely pauses to think, talk to others (the insular and disconnected treatment of the 4 or 5 main characters in the settlement was a fault, as I think you'd probably agree), no - he speaks almost immediately of a fully formed plan of attack. Such an important course of action takes more than one person more than a few seconds to formulate. The afterward was tacked on and rushed - and it contradicted some of the resolution of the previous chapter when Milton says he'll return again someday (might as well say that he'll 'return again to judge the living and the dead', which is intentional I'm sure). Then a page or two later you say that they see him as often as they did before he started stuffing the prison (your one dimensional tribute to the Marquis De Sade) with zombies to met out their gorey vengence on everyone there (whether they were complicit in the torture of the others or not).

I hope that your writing about the prison wasn't inspired by R. Kirkman's from The Walking Dead - he handles the people there with a lot more thoughtfulness and realism. You paint it as a hellhole, but not in a believable way.. like, say, the brutish hiarchy Steven King created in the city of Blaine the Train - also cartoonish, but less one dimensional. There was a danger to the boy in question there as well, and it was handled more effectively by not putting so fine a point on it. Your scenes contained at least 50% more references to raping boys than were needed to get the point across. It read as a bit of an obsession - not your intention, I don't think. Themes don't need to be spoken or rewritten over and over to make them more poignant, if done properly the first mention should do the trick, and all subsequent reference can be handled with a lighter touch. This is true also of all the mentions of God - it starts sounding more like terets syndrome and less like dialog (internal or otherwise). It got to a point where I would glance at the next page and count the 'God's there because they stood out (being capped within a sentence and starting with an open letter). The whole 'the old ways don't count anymore' speech by Copperhead regarding sex with Tanya is really strange too - white men and black women have sex all the time (and I don't think this book takes place 40 years ago in the deep south) - again, the black men outnumber the white men so much in prison that any mentions of race (especially reference to blacks as any kind of exception) read as aberration.

While I'm nit picking: Why were the biscuits always burnt? Surely the cooks would learn to cook them less after having worked hard on the first batch.How does Jonah go from saying a prayer over the dead and getting their wallets, to growling 'Die Bitch!' within a couple of pages? Why would no one brush their teeth? Cloth and water can handle the basics of this routine.

Here is a not atypical section of sloppiness:He climbed up on the guy I was fighting, holding onto him and biting his forearm, as he plunged a shard of glass into the guy's neck. I was showered with blood as it shot from the guy's neck and came flying off the shard as it repeatedly slashed up and down. The guy screamed and staggered backward. You refer to someone as 'the guy' four times in three sentences. There are other word choices that would have made it read better - like 'he'. I'm sure your editing process was grueling and that you had to cut and move things around until it made you dizzy at times - but examples like this strike me as amateurish and perhaps a downside to independent publishing. It would make me crazy to reshape my work over and over as is required by most writers - I don't envy that process - but I think another generation or two of edits would have served this book really well.

Okay - now let me get specific about the parts I LOVED - and there were a bunch. I'm seriously not trying to be a dick about the other stuff. I'm only critical in this way of the things I enjoy - I wouldn't waste the time if I really disliked it (an exception being my March of the Penguins review on Amazon).

• I loved the deer stand/treehouse logic, and the attention to scent being a factor.

• Your treatment of the pregnancy/infection senerio was, I think, better handled than the Dawn of the Dead remake - with particular brilliance in that horrifying moment when she starts clawing at herself to get to the baby.

• The bridge location dynamics were a nice touch.

• Transporting the baby safely with the rope line at the hospital was a great logistical touch.

• The Fran(nny) nod.

• The frontier house drinking (reminds me of the scar story scene on Jaws). I liked the telling of 'origin' stories.

• The locked room at the top of the hospital, the horrible one - made me think of a better version of the room scene at the beginning of the original Dawn of the Dead.

• A museum as refuge, and the comments about choosing a place that charges admission. Nice.

So - you know, take any and all of this as you will. Its intended to be constructive - because I am a fan of the genre, and writers.

Your comment about having to be from a different planet if you think people wouldn't be talking about God in this situation - indeed, but its the way they talked - the timing and the prioritizing God-talk over anything practical and immediate (like "I sure miss my wife and kids - what if they are alive out there somewhere, should I check her mom's house - am I crazy for hoping?" or "Could you introduce me to the dozens of people here that I've never met?"). Consider other horror fiction geared towards overt religious themes - The Stand, The Exorcist - the "God" count in those is well below 25% of the page count, probably less than 5%. DTL read like it was written as ministry - something the aforementioned Mr. Rogers did every day on his TV show without mentioning the word God once - and I found it heavy handed and distracting.

9:17 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home


Triumph of The Walking Dead