Every month a new ‘Prime Reads Chapter Sampler’ comes out at work with the first four pages of four books, and every time I read it I want to rip it apart and set it on fire. I can’t possibly understand why these books are published at all, let alone honoured as ‘Prime Reads’. Here’s some bits I picked out of the latest one:

…a solid wooden door…
What do they mean by ‘solid’? Do they mean that it’s neither a gas nor a liquid? Do they mean that it’s made of nothing but wood? Do they mean that it doesn’t have gaps in it? Can’t it just be ‘a wooden door’ and all these things would be implied? In any case a moment later they mention that the door does have gaps in it, so all claims of solidity are for naught.

…silhouetted in the blazing wind…
???

They made it to the gates, and stopped the car…
When someone uses the term ‘made it’, this implies to me that some kind of struggle was involved, or a challenge, or something. “I was running from the man with the knife and made it to the bathroom.” However, in this instance they’re using it when all they mean to say is “they reached the gates”. There was no suggestion of them not ‘making it’ to the gates.

…driving them inwards to land with a crash…
In other words, ‘to crash’.

“You could do with a glass of water to drink…”
Of course. Not to wash your hair with.

…sudden, distant roar of the wind.
The roar of the wind has been going on for the last three pages. It is not in any way ‘sudden’. (I understand that if I referred to a ‘sudden’ roar of wind the way this writer did I’d probably mean it as an abstract synonym for ‘urgent’, but the reader isn’t necessarily going to see it that way, which reminds me that I need to be careful with that sort of thing)

Pinkas Synagogue, Prague, Czech Republic
2nd January — 10.04 a.m.

Nice use of the em-dash, but why give the precise minute at which the book starts? Because you’ve read other books that start by giving the precise minute? Haven’t you ever asked yourself if they need to do that?

Instinctively, he glanced up…
In this instance, not instinctive at all. Conscious, deliberate.

…two feet across and a foot wide…
In other words, two feet wide and a foot wide. Simultaneously.

And so on. These things might be perfectly sensible to the author but on the page they look wrong to me. While I was reading them a guy came in to deliver his CV, which of course was exaggerated so that having done a minor favour for his mates sounds like the equivalent ten years worth of work experience (It taught him the value of time-management, for example). This juxtaposition gave me the idea that CV writers are similar to novel writers in that they expect their audience to be stupid and not see through them, and yet to be honest would be to jeopardise the likelihood of success.

I just remembered another pet hate: books with ‘prologue’ where they mean ‘chapter one’. The two are not synonymous.

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