Is Life a Gamble or Just a Risk?

Is everything in life a gamble? I’d be willing to bet that anything can be gambled on. Author Mar Preston, in her second mystery novel No Dice, suggests casino gambling, real estate, and politics as examples. Another example might be selecting a title by an unfamiliar, self-published author.

No Dice offers an interesting premise presented in an excruciating way:  a popular city will soon be voting on whether or not to allow casinos. Tourism is booming, everyone (almost) is making money, but gambling will bring in even bigger bucks, or so hope those behind the push for casinos. A councilwoman opposed to the election is murdered the night the council votes to proceed. Who done it? Was it a member of the anti-gambling coalition or was it one of the “big gambling” interests? Perversely, as always, I was hoping that it would somehow be totally unrelated to the gambling issue.

Those who have seen Amadeus (1984) are sure to remember the scene in which Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) pronounces that a Mozart (Tom Hulce) work had too many notes. One criticism of No Dice travels the same road: there are too many words. It’s not that there is a defining limit to the length of a novel, but there is a limit to how many words can be used to tell a particular story well, without repetition and unnecessary scenes. Complicating this, No Dice is a compendium of typos, misspellings, poor grammar, and bad editing. Harsh words, I realize, but the book is so poorly edited that parts of the telling don’t make sense.

Regular readers of this feature know that I like sentence fragments. Really like them.  However, there is a huge difference between sentence fragments and strings of unrelated words that express nothing (although the reader may express frustration). Undecipherable fragments are but one of the problems with No Dice.

No Dice is littered with inconsistencies, improbabilities, impossibilities, and outright contradictions. Within its pages are passages that say exactly the opposite of what the author was attempting to convey. There are flashbacks that do little to support the story, too many incidents unrelated to the plot, side stories that go unresolved or are resolved in the most unlikely manner, and enough repetition that the book could have been half its 345-page length (yes,  172.5 pages are enough to adequately tell this story).  Additionally, scene changes are not distinguished by space or typographical symbols and add to the confusion.

Most readers know that it is nearly impossible to find a book without any typos or grammatical errors, and it is disturbing to find them in expensive hardcovers from best-selling authors and large publishing houses. Because many self-published authors are self-edited or use volunteer (family, friends) editors, I tend to allow them more leeway and will not comment on the editing unless it distracts from or ruins the story.

I willingly overlook a dozen errors, despite my belief that things I purchase should not need to be “fixed.” This mental “fixing” of flagrant errors forces the reader to re-assume the mantle of disbelief, thereby interrupting or disturbing the flow of the story.  (For a more detailed analysis, click here.)

Truly, I enjoy self-published books. I admire the authors for putting themselves out there, and I have read quite a few novels that were well worth the time spent on them – by both the writers and me. Unfortunately, authors are like words … there are just too many of them.


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