Friday, 14 January 2022

Review: Ought to be Dead

Ought to be Dead Ought to be Dead by Scott Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because of a glitch on Goodreads that didn't associate this one with his other books, it wasn't until I reached the end that I realized I'd read one of Scott Warren's books before ( The Dragon's Banker ). The same strengths and, sadly, the same weaknesses are on display here.

Strengths: this is an engaging, well-told story with a competent protagonist whose heart is in the right place (even if it doesn't beat much anymore). Garth Nix has taught me that I don't mind reading about necromancers if they're working on behalf of the living, and so I took the risk of picking this up, knowing that it could be darker than I prefer. It wasn't, and it had a gentle humour that added to the enjoyment. It's a premise I haven't seen a thousand times before, and it hits the emotional beats well in a soundly-structured plot.

Weaknesses: I got a pre-publication version from Netgalley, and I don't know how much copy editing it is going to get between now and publication, or how good the copy editor will be. But even a very good copy editor who is excellent at punctuation and has a better-than-average vocabulary will only be able to do so much to compensate for the fact that the author is truly terrible at punctuation, commits most of the other common language mistakes, and makes a lot of vocabulary errors (not only using the wrong spelling for numerous homonyms, but using the wrong word altogether in many cases). Having written multiple books, and obviously being committed to writing as a significant part of his life, this author ought to invest some time in improving his grasp of basic mechanics, because the many, many issues seriously detract from what is otherwise a good book.

It makes it to my Best of the Year list, but in the lowest tier. Without the dozens of copy editing issues, I would have rated it a good deal higher. Again, many, even most, of these may well be fixed by publication, but when there are so many, some will always slip through even the best of copy editors. Far better not to make the mistakes in the first place.

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