Thursday 28 February 2008

Guerilla copy editing

I just finished reading John Scalzi's The Android's Dream, lent to my husband and me by the same friend who afflicted us with Cormac McCarthy's The Road. (Yes, dear Andy, you are forgiven.)

The Android's Dream is a novel about the nature of sentience, racism/inter-species relationships, and governmental corruption; it's also an action-packed romp that is extremely funny at points (hell, the book begins with a 30-page long fart joke - what more could a reader ask for?). I didn't laugh out loud as much as I did with the first two Hitchhiker books (to which Scalzi's book has been compared), but I did spend most of the time I was reading it either smiling or chuckling.

That said, what keeps this book from being a show-stopping number is not its dearth of belly laugh-inducing moments but the sheer volume of typos. In all my years of reading like there's a book famine going on, I've never seen a book in such desperate need of some guerilla copy editing as this one.

Guerilla copy editing is a term invented (as I recall) by our friend Guinness who is a proponent of always carrying around an ample supply of permanent markers and pens in order to spontaneously (and illegally) fix the numerous grammatical and spelling errors afflicting traffic signs, posters, ads on the subway, etc.

I was distracted away from the story of The Android's Dream literally every 5 pages by some glaring typo that any copy editor or proofreader worth his or her salt (even if drunk and being beaten by ninjas from hell) would have caught. And because I wasn't reading as a copy editor but as a reader (like one expects to do when not getting paid to read!!!), I have to assume there were about 10 times more typos than I actually noticed. It makes me want to copy edit this book and then send it, along with a strongly worded letter, to Tor - you'd think that the biggest publishers of sci-fi in North America could afford to pay someone competent to look their stuff over before it goes to print! Shame on you, Tor - SHAME!!!!!

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