Saturday, 15 September 2012

Review: Dead on Demand

Dead on Demand by Sean Campbell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dead on Demand is a crime novel describing the repercussions of one single person's desire to see someone dead.
Main character is Edwin Murphy, editor of a London based news paper. He's always put work before private life, and has been living on his own for some time when his wife finally files a divorce. Not only does she want half of his money, she also wants to move to New York with their little daughter.
Edwin cannot let this happen, so he devises a clever murder swap scheme to get rid of his wife, and later the woman who killed her for him, and more, until no connection remains...
Will the baffled police be able to see through his plans in time before he moves to Vancouver for a new job?

Dead on Demand was a project of two brothers. They wanted to see whether they could write (+ advertise + publish) a crime novel together in 90 days. Obviously, they did. Was it worth it?
I've been pondering this question almost since I started reading the book (I got the Kindle version for free), and I still can't say for sure. The problem is that I don't really understand the goal, or maybe it's the definition of "novel" I'm missing here; of a publishable novel, that is.

The story the Campbell brothers created is intriguing, at least for most of the book. It kept me reading. Nevertheless, I could never recommend Dead on Demand to anyone, at least not without mentioning that it's been done in 90 days, because it shows. As I said, the story itself is fine, but the writing is of a quite low quality.
I've seen worse, it's true, but I can't imagine this novel making it to a book store ten years ago. Without eBooks and self-publishing, this would not have worked. Is that a bad thing, though? I don't know. All I can say is that, if you don't mind typos, relics from rephrasing and other mistakes that could easily be repaired by another round of editing, but you would like an interesting plot, read it (especially if it's still free).

For most of the book, I was pretty sure I would give it three stars in the end. At 94%, I had to change it to two. I'll give you three reasons for my rating, one for each missing star, if you want.

Mistakes (in general)
One advantage you get with eReaders is that you can easily mark mistakes and can count them later on. I've marked around 70 instances - real mistakes (like the wrong time used), needless word repetition, lack of comma and stuff that could have been worded better. 70 mistakes on 351 pages means one on every fifth page. A bit much? I think so.
If you want, I can give you some examples, but I don't want this to get too long now.

In the first chapter, Julia is described as an unwilling prostitute. She gets her customers in her own flat, has a pimp and does heroin. She also has a boyfriend, who is not allowed to know about that, and additionally works as a barmaid.
About halfway into the novel, she is killed. From my perception, this can only be a few months after that first description of her. Now, though, she has been living with her boyfriend for two years (they've known each other for four) in that same flat. There is no mention of her pimp, nor of drugs. What happened? I don't know.
At first, I thought there were two women named Julia, but the name of the boyfriend is the same. I don't know if it's just me who doesn't get it. I don't know if I've missed something. Maybe the guy whom Julia wanted to have killed was her pimp? But even then, she's been living with her guy for two years before that happened! How, when she's selling herself to men in there without him knowing?? If there is an explanation, it should be in the book, I think.

The Mistake at 94%
Since Julia was only a minor character and the story went on well afterwards, and since I've managed to live with the mistakes, I still intended to give the novel three stars. After all, it's been done in 90 days, so what could you expect? As I said, I changed my mind to the end of the book. There was this one, absolute terrible mistake.
Actually, I quite admired the Campbell brothers before that. They were playing with a huge number of characters, and keeping the overview must have been hell throughout (it's even difficult for the reader at times). They managed, though.
Right until they confused the name of their Chief Inspector with that of their main suspect. David and Edwin. Very alike, huh? That was the major turn off for me.

Dead on Demand is a crime novel written in 90 days. The lack of time put into it shows in the style. A lot. It also shows in the story at the end. They had to finish it, so they rushed to a final twist. The twist was a nice addition, the rush just sucked.

The characters show little development. Everybody seemed to be quite talented at killing, which I found weird. I never really understood Edwin's motivation, either. OK, getting rid of his wife, I get that, but afterwards...

I've said it before: read it if you don't mind the low quality, but don't expect it to be as good as a book from a professional publisher.

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: Soul Music

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Soul Music, first published in 1994, is the next novel in the Death storyline. Death has, once again, problem with his profession and leaves to seek forgetfulness. He couldn't have chosen a worse time...
His talents are transferred to his granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, who didn't know of her heritage since her parents, Ysabell and Mort, had a dispute with Death when she was small. Susan has difficulties with her new tasks, since she grew up to be a very sensible abd realistic person and just doing the Duty won't do for her.
At around the same time, a young harp player named Imp y Celyn tells his parents that he wants to be the greatest musician in the world. He leaves home and ends up in Ankh-Morpork, where he starts a band with a troll and a dwarf, whom he met at the (too expensive) musicians guild. When the troll accidentally ruins Imp's harp, they find him a guitar in a mysterious music shop. All of a sudden, music comes alive and brings fame and riches to the Band (With Rocks In). But don't the famous die young? It's all Susan can do to keep Imp, aka Buddy, alive and singing...
In the end, Death has to return to save the day, the discworld, and his most faithful servant.

I've read Soul Music in German before, but enjoyed the English version more. Translations can only get you so far (although I've also heard that 50 Shades of Grey is better in German)...
Anyway, Death is always an amusing character to read about, especially when he tries to be human, and it's almost sad that the main focus of this novel is on music, the Band and CMOT Dibbler making money (and failing horribly in the end). It lacks the usual philosphical component of Death novels.

Again, what I admired most about Soul Music was the continuity. I think it's amazing how Terry Pratchett doesn't make mistakes, even though he is working with only remotely connected storylines in his different discworld novels. There are always connections, guest appearances from characters of older books, and it always fits. J.K. Rowling didn't even manage that in seven books for just one story.

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