Power for Two Minutes and Other Unrealities, by Mjke Woods (1:18)

IOD score card

Today we see that if your front matter contradicts your cover and blurb, readers are trained to mistrust you even before they start reading.

What I gleaned about the stories: Even in the future, procurement favours style over substance

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.

Note from Jefferson: That’s an awesome cover for a book of sci-fi short stories.

WTF #1: Concerning contents page

Analysis: The contents page lists a series of numbered chapters without even a title beside them. This immediately made me think of a single novel rather than a collection of separate short stories. With the book barely open, my expectation of what I was getting had already been challenged; if I’d been actively seeking a short story collection in my library, I might have changed books at this point.

Furthermore, since this was the contents page rather than a display of the NCX data, the experience was most definitely the author’s choice rather than an obscure combination of my ereader and the manner of compiling the book that had somehow slipped through proof-reading.

My faith that the formatting would support my reading experience damaged, I moved on.

WTF #2: Confusing elision

Analysis: The second paragraph of the introduction starts with: Come and explore a tangled universe, a disturbing, skin-shedding universe, a world where footwear choice is everything, a reality with… no, wait. Not like this. While ellipses can indicate that the end of a statement is missing, they are a soft—or, at best, neutral—absence; a removal of the trivial or a trailing off in thought. The harder curtailment of an interjection or immediate change in conversational direction is traditionally marked by an em-dash. Also, an abrupt change from the current description to another one is the start of a new sentence so—obscure cases aside—takes a capital letter. Thus, my mind instinctively parsed the ellipsis not as an authorial interjection, but as a mid-sentence trimming of irrelevant words. My parsing reset an instant later, but by then I’d noticed the jolt.

With a second strike against the formatting, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Engaging description

Analysis: A couple of sentences into the first story, I hit: He checked the access doors at the foot of the research centre’s North Tower, hefting the rusty padlock, an ugly anachronism that scratched and scraped at the sleek, orange and blue doors. The image is easy to picture and seems somewhat mundane; however, the implications made me want to know more: the research centre has towers and sleek doors, which suggests a big high-tech place, so why are they using such a low-tech lock? Has there been a technological disaster that removed the swanky electronic ones? Bureaucracies in the real world frequently produce a mix of the cutting edge and the cobbled together so it might be an entirely prosaic thing, but that contrast between ultra-modern and clunky makes me wonder if it’s more.

Wonder enough that I want to return to this collection despite it not lasting the time.

WTF #3: Unexpected. Sentence break

Analysis: Slightly over a paragraph later, I encountered: He calculated. An assessment of objectives a raider might target. I parsed the first full stop as the transition to a new sentence. So, the full stop after target came as a surprise; where was the verb? A moment later, I realised that, if the first full stop and capital were an error, then the sentence would make sense. With two strikes against the setting/proof-reading already, this seemed all too plausible an error.

Consigning the collection to the list of books I’d return to when I needn’t fear distractions, 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.

Just a Little Terrible, by Vincent V. Cava (1:34)
Her demonic Angel: and other short stories, by Joy Mutter (0:32)

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.