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Sunday, June 13, 2010

BALLANTINE BOOKS -- I WANT MY MONEY BACK!

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a book sabotaged by ineptitude. I've been an avid reader all my life. Never, in all those years, have I come across a story that falls apart because the author was sabotaged by his editor, proof reader and publisher -- until now.

The Passage is the first book of a trilogy of vampire stories, for which $1.75 million advance is being touted in the media. There was also a $3.75 million movie sale to Ridley Scott's production company. With that kind of money involved, you would think that someone would have bothered to proof read the damn thing.

First let me say that I was really enjoying the read. Justin Cronin is praised as a literary writer, whatever that is, in all the publicity for the book. Now he's supposed to be a commercial writer, and this is supposed to be THE beach read of the summer. Save your money. Beginning on page 268 of the 700 plus page tome, typographical errors cause breaks in the continuity of the story that were enough to make me throw the book across the room in disgust.

Storytelling in book form requires that the narrative flow be uninterrupted by insane distractions in the text. That's what happens in this book. Apparently sentences or whole paragraphs are dropped. Sentences are repeated. A sentence ends on one page and the next page begins at the end of another sentence (paragraph?) with the word "up?" This happened several pages in a row and I quit reading.

At first I tried to read through, but as these repeated errors occur at the outset of a new arc in the narrative, it became too damn distracting. No wonder there are all sorts of horror stories about the state of American publishing. Is anybody doing their jobs anymore? Somebody certainly screwed the pooch on this one. This is a book, not a blog!

I have no idea how something like this is fixed. Do they recall all the books from the bookstores and reprint it? What a waste that would/will be -- resources, money, ecology.

George Stephanopoulos touted it on his morning show. Obviously, he did not read it. Stephen King called in to praise it during the broadcast. He must have read the galleys. (In any case, this book is not "The Stand". It seemed to be going more like "The Postman" when it fell apart due to the errors -- though I have no idea where it actually goes, story-wise,)

I feel bad for Justin Cronin -- unless he didn't proof his own galleys. I feel worse for anyone who plunks down $27 for this book.

Too bad. I was really getting into it.

17 comments:

  1. Sour grapes, much? Yes, there were typos (wretch does not equal retch, among others) but dropped sentences? dropped paragraphs? I saw no such thing. I read as many as three or four books a week, and there were no more typos in this book than in any other.

    And seriously this book--both the writing and the story itself--was glorious.

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  3. I'm trying to figure this out, Rebecca. Did you read a book from the bookstore or galleys?

    Today, when I returned the book to Borders, the clerks checked every copy in the store. Every copy was the same. The store manager took every copy off the shelf, and actually took one out of the hands of a woman who was about to purchase it and showed her the problem pages.

    The typos happen at the bottom of 268 to the top of 269, bottom of 269 to top of 270, same thing between every page until 272 -- when I gave up. Take a look at your copy.

    Btw, I'm a former book reviewer for Knight Ridder -- the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald. I've never seen anything like this before. This is hardly "sour grapes". Please open your book to page 268 and see what I'm talking about -- not spelling typos at all.

    I agree about the storytelling being good. I don't blame the author and make this clear. There must have been some post-proof reading screw up at the printer. That's all I can figure.

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  4. The muck up at the bottom of 268 to the top of 269 is the least of the errors. It's a repetition of text. But it does get worse. It happened 5 pages in a row and that was enough to turn me off to the book.

    It is supposed to be a page-turner, no? So if I'm forced to stop and try and figure out what's missing for 5 pages in a row, after reading nonstop for 4 hours, it's no longer a page turner as far as I'm concerned.

    This is no reflection on the author. Somebody should have read the gathered pages before binding. It's a damn shame.

    Of course, if the publisher pulls the book and reprints -- and I wonder if this will happen in the age of blogs, emails, and twitting -- it will create more buzz about the book.

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  5. I see more than one comment in the Amazon reviews complaining about crappy editing.

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  6. Try calling Ballantine Books or Random House ( corporate parent) and getting connected to a real person. Good luck. I kept getting recorded messages telling me to call another number, where I got more recorded messages. The main office is closed today, according to that recorded message. Maybe they're closed for Flag Day?

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  7. I have my copy in my hand (not an ARC, ordered it from Amazon), and there are no repetitions of text from page to page in that run you cite.

    As a former bookseller I can attest to it being a not uncommon phenomenon for there to be a batch of books that all have the same print errors that you mention. I, however, did not receive a book out of that batch.

    Now, in my opinion what the editor should have picked up on was the difference between "wretch" (the wrong word in the several instances it was used) and "retch" (the word Cronin wanted). Sigh. Oh, they might also have suggested a few synonyms for the word "subsume," a perfectly wonderful word but not one that should be used no fewer than FOUR times in a single work...even if that work is 766 pages...

    At any rate, I'm really sorry you had a bad experience reading this book. I picked it up precisely because of all the buzz--something I very rarely do, but it's a genre I truly love--and could not have been more pleased.

    Sorry for the sour grapes comment. I'm not sure what I even meant by that. Think before you hit post comment next time, Becky.

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  8. Thanks for commenting again, Becky, and for answering my question about your copy. I enjoy the vampire genre myself -- which is why I picked up the book.

    I'm wondering if the publisher used printing plants in different parts of the country to save on shipping etc, much as some newspapers print in different places. Maybe that's why this happened -- somehow a screw up occurred at one plant and not the others. That would explain a lot. Of course, that's pure conjecture on my part.

    I was a little over the top in my response. This was probably due to the fact that I was into the story and had the rug yanked from beneath my feet, so to speak.

    I hope it sells a couple million copies and that very few copies were printed this way.

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  9. So, I've bookmarked you. Over the top is okay, I think. In fact, my reaction was a little over the top to your reaction, precisely because I really loved this book (and am feeling a little self-conscious about it, because of the above-mentioned buzz factor), and so was defensive.

    If you ever want to stop over, I, too, am a blogger, about books and the bookish life.

    http://thebookfrog.blogspot.com/

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  10. I'm not an editor, but an engineer. I just found the same errors, and an internet search led me to this site. I find it pretty frustrating to have to pick my way through someone else's mistakes to piece the story together.

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  11. Same here. Ordered mine from Amazon and it does have errors starting on 268. Extremely frustrating.

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  12. I bought my copy from CostCo for like $17 and was reading at lunch today when I got to this part. I was like, what the hell? I kept thinking I flipped two pages, or that I must've missed soemthing. So I skipped over the first one, and then found more. So yes, for like 5 pages of a fairly imformative key point in the book I have no idea what is going on. I tried to re-read and piece together the parts, but it is confusing and a disgrace that this many errors of this type were missed...

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  13. Another frustrated reader here. I've found the same frustrating typos and gaps that are described here. Bought my copy at Borders in PA. Last time I saw something with this many mistakes was was Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. So is there a site that fills in the gaps? I'm off to the Ballantine web site in the vain hope they posted the missing parts.

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  14. Same here, so glad I found this page I thought I was going crazy! Or that is was some newfangled way of storytelling. Bought my copy in Santa Barbara, CA...I guess I'll return it to Borders?

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  15. Yes, thanks for this blog. I just hit page 269- how frustrating! Bought my copy at Borders in MA. I emailed Random House (oversees Ballantine) Wondering if they'll respond?

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  16. Frustrating is the word, yep. Following the suggestion of someone in an Amazon comment thread, I've written to ecustomerservice@randomhouse.com to ask for a PDF of the affected pages. I haven't heard back yet (the commenter said she got the PDF within 5 minutes of sending her query); I suppose since I'm so late to the party they might not be tending to this problem as vigilantly as they were a couple of months ago.

    For what it's worth, I work in Desktop (glorified typesetting, yay) for a really big publisher, and we certainly DO still take care what we're doing. I have no idea what happened to generate this problem, but I can guess that someone under pressure to rush the job might have used two separate passes of the original InDesign files to make the final-to-printer PDF. Doesn't excuse the mistake, of course.

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  17. Well, this page is still getting linked to in google. I was searching for "justin cronin passage publisher recall printing error" - as these have kind of become a collector's item. They were recalled from bookstores and pulped. So if you've still got a copy that has these errors and it is in great condition, try selling it as a "true first" edition, prior to the corrected reprints...

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