Shadow of the Sun – First Impression

Today I got my iPad, and the first app I loaded was Kindle. Absolutely one of the things I’ll be using this for is reading. Before I commit to paying good cash money for eBooks, however, I wanted to give a test drive with a title I didn’t have to pay for. I went to Amazon’s top 100 free books.

A surprising number of the free books are books about how to write books. I flipped through the list, and paused at Shadow of the Sun. First, that’s a good title. Second, it looked like fantasy and I like that genre. There was a respectable number of stars next to the title, and it was free. First in a series, which I’ve gone on about at length before, but I have to say that if you give me the first part free and let me decide whether I’m in for money, my anger is less intense.

[And aside here: FAIL for the newbie experience with Kindle’s iPad app. I loaded it, launched it, and poked around for fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to get a book. I read the “Welcome to Kindle” book over and over, where it promised access to 920,000 books. But how? Finally I went searching on the Interwebs and discovered that among the new “features” of the latest Kindle app for iOS was the removal of the link to the bookstore. Seems like that might be worth mentioning in the “Welcome to Kindle” message. It’s the core of the business and all. This is the kind of out-of-box startup experience that other companies get right.]

So, back to Shadow of the Sun. Speaking of out-of-the-box experience, there was a grammar error in the fourth paragraph of the prologue. I was reading on the trainer for the first time, so I thought it was just my eyes jumping that caused the sentence to parse funny. I read it again, then broke it down. Yep. Bad Grammar. Hello and welcome.

The prologue is less than a page long and is made to supply tension before a story that starts well enough on its own. Were I the editor, I’d chop it.

By “starts well enough” I mean that it’s a good setup and we get to some real shit pretty quickly. There are some problems, however. Backstory density is high, much higher than it needs to be. Gabrielle’s mysterious parentage can wait. I don’t care if she thinks she’s a good skier. The old “have your main character look in the mirror so you can describe her” trick is used. And there’s no way in hell she wouldn’t have fired her assistant by now. That’s the one piece of backstory I would have appreciated: Why is this bitch still employed? (Side bet: is she really evil or will she come thorough in the end? Really evil is favored 9:2 – my respect for this storyteller will bounce dramatically if Snoopy McBitchybritches isn’t in league with the devil.)

It occurs to me as I write this, that with my new-fangled technology I probably could have marked the grammatical errors as I read, so I could reference the choicest of them now. Not a good sign for a story when errors like that become a statistic. Were I the editor of this book, there would be fewer errors, not even counting the eschewing of the hyphen the way kids do these days. That’s an indictment of the state of publishing more than a criticism of the author, but in the current complete vacuum of editorial involvement (at least as editors), the author has no one but herself to rely on to make sure things are right.

Then there’s the whole “I work in a paranormal research facility but I can’t tell my boss what happened because he’d think I was crazy” logic. Sure, Gabrielle’s supposed to be a skeptic, but that’s the kind of reasoning a character does when she’s trying to make the story work for the writer. Generous of the character to sacrifice her credibility that way for the sake of the story. I’m willing to bet her boss will say, “You should have told me!” far too late.

We’ve met the devil now — or perhaps his lawyer — and I’m hoping he’s not as stupid as he seems. It’s all about the wheels within wheels, or at least the hope for same. Black powerful flaming-eye guy (note hyphen) comes out all big and scary and says, “don’t wake up the angels!” If I’m the devil (and you don’t know I’m not), the only reason I’d act that way is if I did want the angels to be awakened. Just calling them angels in is a blunder on the part of the bad guys; angels have had pretty good press over the centuries.

So there’s a lot of hope that the story is smart where so far there’s no reason to believe it is. Warts aside, I want this story to succeed. It’s an interesting situation, and a character I think I could like, if I got to know her more organically. I’m still reading. It’s flawed, but it might be awesome. It might be… flaw some.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this (er… free) book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

8 thoughts on “Shadow of the Sun – First Impression

    • Just last night I poked in there, got Frankenstein (really should read it since it’s seminal SF), and Plato’s Republic. We’ll see if the latter is at all readable.

      • Just read The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde for free. Started it on my Android before finishing it on my desktop computer. I will say these copyright-expired (note hyphen) public domain works published on the web could use some formatting to help the presentation/readability.

        • It occurred to me as I downloaded public-domain texts that there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from publishing my own versions. Perhaps more attention to formatting would be a value add that could eventually lead an entrepreneur to an empire of titles that no one will pay for.

  1. Somewhere in my paperback collection I have “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” and “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” in one volume, with an introduction by Steven King. It’s all very readable and I recommend all of the novels to any student/fan of the genre, but King’s comments were pretty much on the mark: “Dracula” — a clunky epistolary novel; “Frankenstein” — the overwrought product of an extremely intelligent 20-year-old girl; and “Dr. Jeckyll” — really a novella, and somewhat underdeveloped.

    But as King points out, the concepts transcended the original presentation and have become part of the bedrock of modern pop culture.

    • And we see the answer to the quandary above about how to make people want to pay money for a reissue of public-domain literature. Get a famous guy to insert an introduction.

      I propose to take this one step further and annotate the work the way Martin Gardner did with The Annotated Alice. Unlike Mr. Gardner, however, we won’t bother with research and other ‘fact-y’ information; we’ll just be snarky and perhaps stupid, and generally talk down to the literature. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get people talking — without having to pay someone famous.


      • I’m pretty sure I bought this paperback when I was in my teens, so the whole “Internet and Kindle-like devices granting easy access to public-domain literature” thing was, well, more than just a few years in the future.

        As to the snarky thing, they’re all classics of the horror genre and worth reading, so I heartily encourage everyone to download a free copy to see if they agree or disagree.

        • In no way did I imagine that the snarky an puerile commentary be legitimate criticism, it just needs to be entertaining enough that someone will notice, get pissed off, and make a big deal of it. Nothing like angry villagers with pitchforks to sell books!

          Might start with Shakespeare or some other semi-sacred writer. Shakes has a movie coming out as well, so he might be a hot topic.

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