Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not dark enough, hmmmm, and other updates

My publisher just called to say he has to run an urgent 2nd printing to supply the National Library, and unfortunately, he has to use back the old cover, without all the review and endorsement snippets I want to put in. I asked him if he could wait...but apparently not. He has supply within the week, and making new films would take at least 2 more weeks.

So we agreed to limit it to the minimum print run - 1000 copies.

You see, I really HAVE to change the cover and the blurbs, to avoid not meeting expectations like these:

This came out in the Star today. Took me totally by surprise because it's so late.

Not dark enough

Dark City
Author: Xeus
Publisher: Midnight Press, 353 pages
Reviewer: Anu Nathan

I PROCRASTINATED ... hugely, with this book. My only excuse is that I was given the book during the month of the hungry ghost and due to the heavy diet of scary movies, Dark City was left to languish a lot longer than I had expected on the shelf.

Then one day, it dropped from the bookshelf onto my foot, reminding me of its existence. This, I thought, was spooky enough to get me to turn the pages. (If this were a movie, here is where the howling wind sound effects would be played to great effect).

Tagged as “12 psychotic and twisted Malaysian tales”, Dark City promised more by saying, “expect only the unexpected.” The back cover meanwhile screamed, “Tightly plotted with sophisticated savagery, this is a homicidal descent into a labyrinth of bizarre dimensions.” After this quite over-the-top introduction, it was with some trepidation that I flipped the page, only to ... yawn ... because Dark City doesn’t quite live up to these lofty guarantees.

The twisted here didn't necessarily mean warped. In some cases, it was merely an ending with a twist but to those of us (in this case me), weaned on a diet of Edgar Alan Poe and Roald Dahl (his short stories are the epitome of twisted tales, plus September was Dahl month which meant I had been re-reading a lot of his stuff), Dark City was not quite the promised and in turn expected “howl”; in fact it registered just a notch north of “whimper.”

Xeus is an adept writer, weaving the darker elements of society, serial killers, the dangers of a woman walking alone at night, to greed, lust and their five accompanying sins with great effect to tell her “tall tales.” Unfortunately, it didn’t thrill me that I could guess the endings to some of them, in particular the one about the dog and that of the crippled beggar boy. These seemed the likely two that the author had alluded to in her introduction as the ones based on urban legends. I was also peeved by spelling errors (what on earth is “nice dugs” in reference to a woman with ample mounds) and verbose text.

Still, the author deserves credit for trying to tackle a particularly difficult genre, because it is not always easy to work a credible twist into a story, especially in this era where we are inundated with first class movies like Sixth Sense and a mountain of excellent literature in this popular genre. Plus, Xeus gets an extra bonus for publishing her collection, which is in itself a brave act.

I may have not bonded with all of the stories in Dark City, but I did have my personal favourites and these are “Psychotic” – never mess with a lady with a big bag, “One if by Land” where a prisoner finds that his sure-fire way out of jail only leads to another sort of internment, and even though I knew how it would end, “Coup of the Century”. Now, you’ll just have to get the book to see if you agree with me.

Hmmm, I can still take some quotable quotes from this, but there really is such a term as 'dugs', just in case anyone out there doesn't know. It's a vulgar term for breasts. And there are NO spelling mistakes whatsoever, that I can ascertain. (Typesetting mistakes, yes, but not many.) Right, my esteemed editor?

Then again, you see how important the cover and blurb is to manage expectations? That's why I really got to get that 3rd print run sorted out. If there ever will be a 3rd print run after this review.

On to other news:

1. MPH really is going for the Bloggers' Breakfast Club.

This is what I got from them:

The Bloggers Breakfast Club is a support group for book bloggers. Each session is held every fourth Saturday of each month from 11am-12.30pm at our new MPH outlet at Bangsar Village Phase II. This meet will be an informal session where book bloggers can get together and discuss latest happenings in the book world. The first meet is scheduled on 27th Feb, 11am-12.30pm, and will feature Yang-May Ooi and Sharanya Manivaran, two successful bloggers-cum-writers.

So, go for it guys!

2. Malay translators needed!! Since my 2nd Malay translator fell through, I've phoned in a few Malay friends to help with the DC Malay translation. And apparently, my publisher is also looking for one for his other books. Anyone interested? It's quite good pay, so I'm told, especially if you're looking for a little sideline.


Ted Mahsun said...

At least the reviewer didn't think it sucked outright. Oh well, can't win 'em all...

Bloggers' Breakfast Club? Bloggers' Brunch Club more like :D

Doey said...

chill, xeus. u need fair criticism to livin' up the atmosphere. arguements leads to hype which ;eads to awareness and again leads to more sales!! :P

i'm sure every review goes a loooooong way.

say are u going for the bloggers club? why they always choose overly strategic locations? anyone going from subang jaya? need a ride lar...

Xeus said...

I guess you're right, Ted and Doey. It's just that I've been kinda spoilt by the press already since that last NST review which wasn't so good either. It's been 6 months of nice stuff from Thai Oasis and so many other magazines and then whammy, a bad review.

I will try to go for as many bloggers' club activities as I can since I live near the area. And I've been invited to speak at the March one.

Anonymous said...

I believe the date of the bloggers' thing is February 24, 2007 which is the last Saturday of February.

Xeus said...

Beats me, I just cut and pasted it :) I'm sure MPH will announce it as the time draws nearer

Lydia Teh said...

Xeus, the bloggers breakfast with Yang-May and Sharanya is on Jan 27 Sat. Feb 24 is the next meet. It's on every 4th Sat of the month whereas Writers Circle is on the 3rd Sat.

Don't feel bad. It's not a totally bad review. At least you've got some positive comments from it. But I know such reviews can really spoil our day. Chin up.

Xeus said...

Thanks Lydia. Worst review I ever gotten. You are right. Maybe we'll stick to writers' endorsements next.

tunku halim said...

Any publicity is good publicity. You should have seen some of the negative reviews I've had over the years. You can't please them all!

With the really bad reviews, I reckon it says more about the character of the reviewer than the book being reviewed.

Alas, we have to take the rough with the smooth. Such is a writer's life . . . and life in general!

Anonymous said...

Tunku Halim, you are right. I guess what upsets me is that the reviewer shouldn't say it's a typo if she didn't understand American slang. And it's Star, the very newspaper I write for! I feel so....blah. Xeus

Anonymous said...

Believe me, most books receive both good and bad reviews. I think this is a healthy sign. Don't fret over it!

Xeus said...

Dear Anon, thanks :) If I get any healthier, I won't need surgery anymore :)