Tuesday, 8 April 2014

American Prejudiced Review

I have been very busy on new books, but I had to come back to blog about the review I received for 'In Other Trenches', that I was so exasperated about.  The review is on Amazon.com which means it gets automatically copied over to Amazon.co.uk even though not written by a UK customer.  The offending extract from reviewer Sean T. Phelan says:

' ... the high amount of 'typos' and poor grammar & syntax (which made me think that perhaps English isn't Mr. Rooksmoor's primary language!) made this one a somewhat annoying read!'

To have someone say that English is not my primary language I find utterly infuriating.  I may criticise the UK, but this is the country I was born and educated in and I am proud of my English skills.  However, worried I had missed something, I rushed back to the book and checked it for grammar and spelling yet again.  I know that sometimes I use sub-clauses which can confuse, but I have always striven to keep my books' syntax simple as I know it can be a challenge for international readers.  As for spelling errors and typos, there are none.  I have looked and looked again; have run spell and grammar checkers across them.  I can only think this is an American reader who sees my British spelling as a 'typo' and British grammar as poor syntax.  Infuriating as with the book up for just six weeks now people stay away both on .com and .co.uk as it is tagged 3-star, all over an American not realising that there are a range of perfectly permissible types of English in the world.  I have tried in the past to alter my books to American English but so much of the grammar is different and not simply how words are spelt but also what words are used that it proved impossible.  It drained life out of the text and any point I missed out then really jarred.  It is not a question of simply switching your spellchecker to US English for default.

Just when I think I can lift my books off the level of being disparaged on irrelevant grounds, someone comes along with a whole new way of blowing them away.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The Books I Read In March

Fiction
'Humility Garden' by Felicity Savage
I read the sequel to this book, 'Delta City' (1995) about three years after it came out, picking it up in a remaindered bookshop in Greenwich, London.  I was intrigued by it but found it difficult to comprehend.  It is clear that I should have read this book first as through it not only are you introduced to the world of Salt, but a language of various species is built up which unless you have followed the staged introduction will be hard to follow.  Savage published the book while still and undergraduate student and it was certainly an incredible debut, painting a really rich but unnerving world that packs a punch.  The world of Salt consists of various continents sitting South of the Equator of a world, where people are known as humans, but in fact are green-furred humanoids.  They are ruled by gods on their planet, from the capital of all the lands, Delta City.  The gods turn out to be mutants from among a species of predator with a range of abilities including teleportation.

The story follows the character Humility Garden (people's first names come from their characters) as her fiance is sent to Delta City to be made into a ghost.  Artists called ghostiers kill people but trap their ghost as a statue, sending their spirits to live as decaying fish in a pool.  The ghosts are shaped into art works that give off emotion.  The ghostiers and many of the elite of Delta City are debauched.  Humility is drawn into the city's and indeed the world's politics rising through the social strata and becoming involved in coups and counter-coups.  Savage does not hold back in being unnerving.  The middle portion of the book, however, could have been trimmed as there is a lot of toing and froing, which does not seem to advance the story much, though the pace picks up towards the end.  It is a very imaginative work of fantasy fiction, but many readers will not like scenes portrayed and some continue to unsettle me now.  I guess that is the mark of a good piece of fiction and I can see why it was acclaimed at the time.  I would recommend the book, but approach with caution and with patience and read them in the correct order to avoid confusion!

Non-Fiction
'Extreme Rambling - Walking the Wall' by Mark Thomas
I tend to only buy Mark Thomas's books when I see him on tour, so there had been a gap between me getting 'As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela' (2006) which I reviewed in January and this one published in 2011.  I had not read the three books he had published in between, so was immediately pleasantly surprised by the improvement in his writing.  He was always detailed and funny, but this book shows that he has really sharpened those skills, apparent from the first page.  The book recounts his walk in two stages along the barrier which separates Israel and parts of the West Bank from the rest of the West Bank.  He walked it travelling with and meeting an incredible diversity of people.  Though the actual wall is patchy, it has caused immense difficulties for many Palestinians and indeed for some Israelis too.  Thomas is brilliant at exposing the ridiculous nature of authority and crossing back and forth meeting with police, soldiers and politicians, he simply recounts what was said to him, with minimal comment, allowing the reader to make their own judgements on the situations he encounters.  Constructing a snaking fence/wall/defensive zone, which keeps looping to put certain settlements on one side and others on the other side, running through fields and infrastructure is inevitably going to be difficult.  However, for a UK reader the passion of people insisting on things which seem absurd, can at times be humorous, but at others, very uncomfortable, indeed upsetting to read.  This is certainly the case with Thomas's book.  Children in particular seem most hurt by the situation.

Whilst Thomas does not set out to provide an explanation of the situation, he achieves it more effectively than many straightforward political commentators could.  Perhaps an absurd situation needs a comedian to accurately articulate it.  In addition to this being an engaging read which atypically for me I kept coming back to at different times of the day and stayed up to read more, it is a very good book for learning just what is going on in this highly contested region of the world and the human cost of that contest for all the sides involved.  It is not just 'them' and 'us' but 'them' and 'them' and 'them' and 'them' and 'us'.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

What If the Germans Had Developed an Atomic Bomb?

My views on this topic can be found in my e-book ‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’ It is available for purchase on Amazon:

UK readers might prefer to access it through:



What If the Allies Had Invaded Brittany in 1943?

My views on this topic can be found in my e-book ‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’ It is available for purchase on Amazon:

UK readers might prefer to access it through:



What If Germany Had Invaded Spain and Portugal?

My views on this topic can be found in my e-book ‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’ It is available for purchase on Amazon:

UK readers might prefer to access it through:



What If the Germans Had Invaded Cyprus?

My views on this topic can be found in my e-book ‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’ It is available for purchase on Amazon:

UK readers might prefer to access it through:



What If the British Expeditionary Force Had Been Eliminated at Dunkirk?

My views on this topic can be found in my e-book ‘Other Roads: Alternate Outcomes of the Second World War’ It is available for purchase on Amazon:

UK readers might prefer to access it through: