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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

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Charles Stross
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The Complete Plays and Poems
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Clan, David P. Eliot - The Review

Clan - David P. Elliot

I won this in a give-away here on BookLikes and even squeeed about the fact in an earlier post, but I rather regret both.


This book is horrific, which you might think is a good thing in a supernatural tale about black magic and bloody history. Unfortunately, despite it being a gore-fest, the aspect I consider most horrific is the writing, which starts off appallingly bad and claws its way up to merely bad in the first 40 p or so. I spent the first 10 p wondering constantly if I should just give up and the first 150 p wondering intermittently whether I should give up. Around that stage I realised I had some masochistic streak in me that felt obliged to finish the thing and review it, because the author had given me a free copy.



The problems are manifold but the most constant and egregious are single-sentence paragraphing, echoing and repetition and punctuation errors.


Single sentence paragraphing is like giving the reader a mental slap in the face.


It's too abrupt.


It prevents flow.


It bugs the hell out of me!


It's possible to use this effect to advantage - look at the last paragraph of a cliff-hanger chapter in many a modern novel. It's often a short, punchy sentence making a revelation. Eliot even does it himself a couple of times, but it just doesn't work in normal narrative. Additionally there is a problem with the new paragraph indentation being too big - by approximately a factor of two. It's as if an indent suitable for an A4 (or "letter"  in North America) page has never been adjusted for the book page. It's really visually annoying, which is a great shame because every other aspect of the book design is excellent.


Echoing of individual words and repetition of phrases are school-age errors. I know D.H. Lawrence turned repetition into an art form but I can't think of anybody else who gets away with it. The punctuation problems intensify during points of climax in the story. It's as if the author is so excited he can't get the words down fast enough and consequently is taking less care. I did feel throughout that such errors are more by way accidental mistakes left uncorrected than an incomprehension of basic grammar.


So is there anything positive about this book?  Yes, relatively speaking. Some of the characterisation is good. Some of the minor villains are well drawn stock characters. They don't need to be any more than convincing examples of stereotypes and they succeed because their actions and dialogue exemplify their characters as described. Everyone else, however, is either a blank slate or a character that never really acts according to their described character.


Another positive is that the author does generate some narrative tension at times despite all the distracting technical problems. The plot is serviceable. I would have liked  less obvious telegraphing of the ultimate solution and less Deus ex Machina and more agency for the protagonists as well as a more rapid wind-up after the denouement, which could be achieved probably by just moving some scenes around.


This tale of Scottish history, legend and folklore could have and should have been an at least basically competent horror thriller but all hope of that died when the author failed to get professional help with the editing - but if it had been me, I might have held out for a co-author credit in return for trying to turn this ugly duckling into a swan.