The String Quartet, by Dan Hupalo (5:42)

IOD-StringQuartetToday we see that trying to do fancy text with embedded images is a bad idea.

What I gleaned about the story: Some American soldiers are watching German soldiers march along a road.

Find this book on Amazon.

Technical Note: This ebook contains four or five text passages that are included as image files instead of text. Presumably, since these were official looking documents and poetry, this was done to permit the author to control the layout. But this has horrible consequences. Many e-readers are abysmal at displaying inline images, and worse, if the reader has their e-device set to night mode, these images either don’t show up, or they appear as sudden and unwelcome attacks of blinding white in the middle of the night. In my opinion, all of the image inserts could have been rendered effectively—and seamlessly—as regular text, perhaps with the use of italics or monospace fonts to convey their more particular stylistic natures.

Note: The cover art is nice, but I have a long-standing concern about cartoon-style art on novels. I’ve always felt it signals that what’s inside is a graphic novel, rather than prose. And if I’m right, that may be hurting sales. After all, if graphic novel fans are inspired by the art to pick up the book, and then realize it isn’t a graphic novel, they’ll be turned off. And similarly, if a reader with a bias against graphic novels sees it, they are likely to ignore the book entirely, based on what they think the cover is telling them.

Note: The story opens with the trudging march of declarative sentences, but the protagonist is watching a group of soldiers march down the road, so perhaps this is an intentional device. I’ll reserve judgement for now and see what develops.

WTF #1: Headwords

Analysis: There’s an awful lot of headword repetition on the first page, with quite a few sentences beginning with either “It” or “The.” Most of these were not sequential, but then a back-to-back pair of “It” sentences appeared in the middle of the page, followed by three successive “The” sentences at the bottom.

WTF #2: Scrambled time signals

Analysis: The protagonist is watching German soldiers march by on the road when suddenly he’s talking about Tiger tanks charging up the gap. What gap? And why are German tanks attacking German troops? But it turns out to have been a reminiscence that was unclearly signalled, with only a single past-perfect verb. And since the two scenes were so similar (war time, troop movement stuff) I got confused about which scene was which.

WTF #3: Definitely unintentional trudging

Analysis: The parade of declarative sentences continued, even in the flash-back about the roaring tanks, so this was not a clever device to convey the atmosphere of marching soldiers. In addition, the tense keeps flopping back and forth between simple past and past perfect, making it impossible for me to tell what time frame I’m supposed to be in.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage, by Jackie Griffiths (6:31)
Exile's Redemption, by Lee Dunning (9:11)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.