What I gleaned about the stories: Ordinary people face the same level of horror as classic heroes, but lack the experience to deal with it.
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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move onto the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.
Analysis: The scene starts with the protagonist’s children toasting pop-tarts (with a hyphen), then one of them grabs a pop tart (without a hyphen). While Pop-Tart is the name of a trademarked product, so should be capitalised, enough people commonly use brand names for the wider class of things that the error didn’t flag. I potentially wouldn’t have bounced on the lack of a hyphen either. However, the use of one then the other in quick succession highlighted the words, so I glanced back a line to see if I had imagined a difference, then started actively considering which was correct.
Once I became aware I was considering the abstruse issues of diminution of trademark rather than the book in front of me, I moved on.
Analysis: Later in the collection, I encountered scary-looking. Previously Allen had followed the rule that adjectives ending in y don’t take a hyphen in a compound phrase, so this reignited my previous issue with hyphenation, turning a potentially obscure issue of trademark into a more general distrust of punctuation.
Analysis: Further in, I encountered the line “Better than eating dead cow. Or―old pussy.” An em-dash sets off a subsidiary clause or represents an interruption, neither of which applies here, so I stumbled to a halt trying to work out what stage business the dash was intended to indicate. I realised almost immediately it should be a pause, but had already lost my rhythm.
With three punctuation niggles, I pulled the plug.
Analysis: Each of the stories opened with a strong, realistic portrayal of a real person; and each of them was both different from the others and facing a plausible conflict.
Based on this, while I anticipate more issues with horizontal punctuation, I will be returning to this collection to finish the stories.
[Note from Jeff: I’m just popping in to give vigorous thumbs up to the cover design.]
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