Friday, February 27, 2009

Slap your editor, Harry

I came home from the library the other day with two books featuring mammoths on the cover. One was The Breath of God by Harry Turtledove. (This is the other one, in case you were wondering.) Obviously, everthing goes better with extinct megafauna. I tore through most of my non-fiction selection, then got down to reading Turtledove's work.

Now, I didn't have a lot of preconceptions about Turtledove. I've never read any of his Guns of the South books, because... well, I just don't give a crap about the subject matter. I was born and raised and still live in Canada. So I don't have that American gene that makes people obsessed with the (US) Civil War. When I read some 19th Century alternate history, I'm more likely to go for something with Mounties in it (disclaimer: by a friend of mine).

But this looked like something more in my line. I'm sick of fantasy novels that just use Generic Medieval Europe + Magic + Elves. Anything with an Ice Age setting gets my attention.

Unfortunately, The Breath of God contains a few glaringly ugly sentences right up front. Check out page eight.
"Life is full of surprises," Ulrik Skakki said, which would have been funny if only it were funny.
They not only herded wooly mammoths, as the Bizogots had for centuries uncounted, but rode them to war, with lancers and men with long, long lances on the beasts' shaggy backs.
Seriously? If lancers aren't men with lances, then what are they?

I read another ten pages from that point, far enough to determine that those weird, awkward phrasings on page eight seem to be anomalies. But Turtledove and his editor ought to have taken a harder look at that section. Ouch.

No comments: