What Looks Back by Zachary Adams (0:53)

IOD-WhatLooksBackToday we see that the time saving of using find-and-replace can be a false economy.

What I gleaned about the stories: Some people are aware of food having flavours that they can’t describe. This is probably a metaphor for a greater insight.

Find this book on Amazon.

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 on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Typo in the copyright page

Analysis: The ‘all-rights reserved’ declaration is followed by the sentence:

For permission requests, write to the publisher, adDr.essed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email adDr.ess below.’

A single typographical error before I am into a book stands out, so two on the copyright page filled me with a feeling of dread that almost made me give up without reading on. While not everyone will read the copyright page, the class of readers who do will contain a high number of people who really care about accurate language, so – even ignoring issues of law – this is a painful error.

To make it worse, the book opens on the cover not the body. I prefer to start from the cover, so would usually consider this a saving of the flick needed to go to the cover, but in this instance it ensures that every reader will see the copyright page. So even those who don’t usually read the front matter might catch sight of the error in passing.

Kudo #1: Great opening paragraph

Analysis: The first story opens with:

There are five tastes, or is it six? Salty, sweet, spicy, bitter—mint? Is mint a taste? No. But what about that Asian taste? The cheese taste, meat taste—the taste of blood. Not quite salty, but full and bold.’

This immediately gave me a strong image of the narrator. I not only got a solid feel for their voice, I know that they know a little about food, but don’t take it too seriously and they like mint. The little, potentially irrelevant, detail of liking mint made them feel more like a real person.

WTF #2: Another typo

Analysis: A few paragraphs into the first story I encountered:

Condensation on his water glass Dr.ipped similar to the saliva on the roof of his mouth as he watched waiters in tuxedo shirts and black pants carry large husks of meat and carving knives.’

I am more forgiving of a complex sentence than some readers, so this slightly bulky simile might not have tripped me usually. However, the capital and full stop in ‘Dr.ipped’ befuddled my sentence parsing enough that I thought it was the several sentences an editor might recommend, but couldn’t fit them together.

By the time I realised it was a single sentence, the momentum that might have got me past its complexity was gone. So I moved on.

WTF #3: Echoing typos

Analysis: At the end of the first line of the second story I hit ‘adDr.essed’. While readers of this report might have already noticed the pattern, this was the moment I noticed every instance of ‘dr’ in the book was rendered ‘Dr.’

As I hadn’t noticed any other errors, I wondered if it were a deliberate effect and flipped back to the start of the book. I couldn’t find any immediate sign of why it might be.

I also realised an uncontrolled find-and-replace carried when the author discovered a lower case ‘Dr.’ while proofing was a much more likely cause.

Back at the start of the book, with the expectation I would keep having the same niggle pushed at me, I pulled the plug.

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.

Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, by Jeffrey Cook (6:43)
A Wizard's Gambit, by Ryan Toxopeus (5:52)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.