Monday, August 07, 2006

Though I originally started this blog to recommend books, I've found it's so much more fun to not recommend them. If I like a book, I feel that's all I have to say--read it, you'll like it too. But if I don't like a book, well then I have to tell you exactly why!

And Odious thinks I should share my outrage (since I shared it with him) concerning a fantasy novel whose reviewer had the gall to deem it "in some ways reminiscent of the Newford stories of Charles de Lint". Ha! I'll readily admit that Charles de Lint may be somewhat lacking in elegant prose and flowing style, but at least he has the knack of creating characters with whom I want to be friends, and neighborhoods in which I want to live, and stories that can be completely captivating. Not so David Herter.

I shudder to think what his first novel must have been like, as one assumes authors get better as they go along. Evening's Empire is his second attempt, and I really can't imagine what the editors at Tor Books were thinking when, first of all, they chose to publish this book, and second of all, they apparently fired their copy editors.

When I first read Ruth Rendell's excellent story, "From Piranha to Scurfy", I could immediately relate to the main character, whose self-employment consists of buying newly released hardbacks, reading them for errors, and writing polite letters to the authors to inform them of all mistakes. I sympathize now even more. My first inkling that David Herter might be overrated came when his protagonist mentioned that he was writing an opera to be produced in Santa Fe on March 17.

Only if he didn't actually want anyone to come to it!

As anyone who's ever been to the Santa Fe Opera knows, the opera house has no walls. The front of the building is completely open to the outside, which is marvelous and stunning and great fun (I still remember the coinciding thunderstorms during Janacek's "Katya Kabanova"). It also means that the opera season runs June-August, for the very good reason that nights during the rest of the year are far too cold for outdoor performances.

So it seems Mr Herter has not done his opera homework. And Tor Books needs to hire more copy editors. Indeed, they seem to have allowed this book to be published without editing of any kind. Useless conversations, sentence fragments, and clumsy style abound, but it wasn't until I read the description of a woman "gliding ebulliently" over the dance floor that I nearly threw the book across the room.

I'm currently composing the first draft of my letter to David Herter: "Dear Sir, Please stop writing." And my email to Tor Books: "To Whom It May Concern: I would like to offer my services as a copy editor." I'll keep you updated.


Larissa said...

Give 'em hell, Katie!

David Herter said...


Ouch. It's not been a good day. Outside it's pouring rain and it's just begun *hailing* and now I stumble upon this. Geez.

All I can say is: I'm sorry. I'm sorry about the Santa Fe screw-up. I'm sorry you paid good money for the book. And I'm sorry that I didn't take your advice and have kept writing.

Even worse news: I have a new book out and it's -- *cringe* -- about a composer: *On the Overgrown Path*, a dark fantasy novella about the great Czech composer Leos Janacek.

Research-wise, I hope it will satisfy any nitpickers. I've been listening passionately to Janacek's music and reading Janacek's writing for the last eighteen years or so. In 2004, I spent several weeks in Brno, Moravia at the Janacek 150th Jubilee, heard most of the operas performed in the very theater where they premiered (it's definitely roofed). I also spent several wonderful days immersed in the Janacek archives, next door to Janacek's house, holding in my hands the Maestro's own manuscripts, speaking to scholars, soaking in the mise-en-scene, for what I hope is a glitch-free representation.

My blog's at


David Herter