Into Autumn, by Larry Landgraf (2:40)

IOD-IntoAutumn On very rare occasions, a book will defy common publishing practices for brilliant effect. This is not one of those rare occasions.

What I gleaned about the story: Lars Lindgren has arthritis and his daddy’s rifle. Not much gasoline though, and he likes to say his own name a lot.

Find this book on Amazon.


Note: I don’t normally comment on the data authors provide when they submit their books, but this one bears mention, as it was the first data point I got for what would emerge as a pattern. When asked for a link to the book on Amazon, I got a link to Amazon itself. Not exactly paying attention to detail, but hardly worth a WTF. Then in the field asking for the genre, I got: Fiction novel (a little bit of everything – unique). There are only 4 fields on the form, and two of them were filled out unhelpfully. I take this as a truly inauspicious start, and at the very least, it suggests a lack of attention to detail.

Note: The book begins with a list of characters in the front matter. I don’t mark this as a WTF, but it does give me the chance to share a theory. In my experience, books that begin with a list of characters or “Dramatis Personae” are almost always books in which I find that the author has done a weak job of establishing the characters, thus necessitating the handy list. But maybe this will be one of the exceptions to that rule, so I continue.

Note: After the cast list, we are then given a preface in which the author explains the meaning of the book’s title. To me, titles are like jokes: if they have to be explained, they don’t work, and if you explain them when they don’t require it, you insult my intelligence. Either way it seems a bad idea.

Note: We then reach an “Introduction.” But instead of being an author’s introductory essay, as you might expect, it’s actually part of the story. That’s four times now that my warning bells have sounded and I haven’t started reading the story yet. Not a good sign at all.

WTF #1: Grammar problems

Analysis: By the end of the first paragraph I’d hit three or four minor grammar niggles. And I do mean minor for the first 3. In the first case we got: He rubbed his hands together and winced a little at the pain of arthritis, which seemed to get a little worse every year, as the cooler weather set in. It’s a poorly anchored modifier. Is he saying that his hands hurt now as the cool weather seeps into them, or that he only notices the increased pain each year when the cooler weather arrives? It seems pretty clear that the annual increment interpretation is the correct one, so I made the call and moved on.

Two sentence later we get: Lars looked at the calluses on his hands, then rubbed his hands together, to produce a little warmth, and touched the palms to his face. The echo of “his hands” felt a bit repetitious, but again, it was so minor that I just hitch-stepped and kept going.

Two more sentences and we get: Lars hated getting up early, but these days, he could never sleep in. TO me, there’s a disconnect in the logic here. “Sleeping in” implies sleeping later than your normal wake-up time. So this reads to me as: Lars hated getting up earlier than normal but he couldn’t sleep later than normal. So what happened to the option of getting up at the normal time? And why does his inability to overshoot the clock mean than he has to get up before the clock? The intended meaning of this line baffles me.

Finally we get: The lever action 30-30 needed cleaning badly, but no matter how much he scrubbed and oiled, the gun would never be new again. It belonged to his dad. So if it belongs to his father, why is Lars cleaning it? What has that got to do with anything? Then I realized that it had been his father’s, but it belonged to Lars now. So the lack of past perfect led me to an incorrect read of the situation.

The first three of these issues aren’t enough to call errors—they’re just very minor stumble points. But the first paragraph should be smooth like silk dragged over a baby’s tummy. These wrinkles, minor as they are, feel like bugs in the teeth while I’m trying to get up to speed. One or two can be written off as an annoyance, but four or five is enough to call the whole ride off.

WTF #2: Echoing headwords

Analysis: Each of the first three paragraphs begins with “Lars.” Then, looking forward, I see that the next two do as well. I’ve reached the point in IOD where I’ll let a single echo slide, or even a pair of them if they’re reasonably spaced. But five in a row, plus two or three sentence-level echos? The first page is holy and there’s way too much sacrilege going on in this one.

WTF #3: Missing past perfect

Analysis: I’m not even at the bottom of the first page and once again I’m tripping over temporal miscues due to the lack of proper verb tense. The second paragraph is talking about the electricity going down and presidents coming and going and a lack of groceries and gasoline. It appears he’s talking about a societal collapse that took place some time ago, but it’s interspersed with references to what he thinks now, and I got shaken loose by the temporal turbulence.

The Natural Order, by R.J. Vickers (13:20)
The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town, by Gregory Miller (3:46)

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.