Never mind the quality, feel the width

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

ExilesExiles (The Progenitor Trilogy, Book One)
Dan Worth
Kindle £1.49 ($2.99)

This self-published space epic would make a fat book. I don’t know how many pages there are because I’m reading a Kindle edition. A lot. It should have been 30% shorter.

It makes a promising start: two xeno-archaeologists, human and alien, discover a floating derelict. The ancient warship throws a new and disturbing light on the history of one of the Galaxy’s oldest and most advanced races. Before they can publish their research they are accused of espionage and find themselves on the run from the security forces of two planets. Meanwhile war looms between Earth and the K’Soth empire, and at the centre of the galaxy an ancient evil stirs…

Some of this may sound familiar (including the apostrophe in the middle of the bad guys’ name). The recipe calls for generous helpings of Babylon Five and Deep Space Nine, with a dash of Ian M Banks and a pinch of Frederik Pohl. Perhaps a soupçon of Arthur C Clarke. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best. It doesn’t matter – Dan Worth’s imagination is wide-ranging and vivid and he pulls together a number of classic SF themes with enthusiasm. He slips confidently from the detail of alien cultures to monumental space battles and the interwoven story lines are enough to satisfy the most demanding space opera buff.

To me, though, the book reads like a draft rather than a finished novel. Not the first draft by any means, but not the final one either. There is a touch too much detail. Some of the descriptions of aliens and their planets read like travelogue rather than fiction. The battles last a plasma bolt too long.

The same goes for the writing: there’s sometimes a sense that paragraphs are a sentence too bulky, sentences sag under the weight of too many phrases and phrases are overloaded with adjectives. There are several fine action sequences – Worth can certainly do it if he tries – but a good deal of plot development is handled through dialogue, with the characters explaining to each other what is going on.

There are also a lot of errors – I counted about 40 without looking very hard. Most are typographical, a few are spelling mistakes and a couple are real schoolboy howlers. Wake up at the back there! Worth, explain the difference between principal and principle.

Like a number of self-published authors, Dan Worth hasn’t quite managed to sever the cord. The story is still partly in his head. One more draft might have allowed him to look at it more objectively, from a reader’s point of view, and cut away everything that didn’t serve the book.

In his About the Author note he says that he writes for his own enjoyment. Other authors have made similar comments. Terry Pratchett’s claim that he lives in constant dread that someone will discover how much fun he has writing, and stop him doing it… well, that about sums it up. But if you’re going to publish, it’s the reader’s fun that counts.

Exiles Amazon (UK) Amazon (US)

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Deja Vu The Last Man on Earth Club

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