Review of DEAD(ish)

13 May

I wasn’t sure whether to put this review on the blog, and then when I did I wasn’t sure whether to highlight it as a daily post. The author may not thank me, but in retrospect, I committed myself to reviewing self-published and small press authors this year and I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I suppressed the not so good ones. And also, to put this review into context, I thought the author showed real promise, I just don’t think she did her book justice. Anyway, here is is:

DEAD[ish]DEAD[ish] by Naomi Kramer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have real mixed feelings about this book. Where do I start? Ok, let’s look at the positives. At the heart of DEAD(ish) is a great idea. It’s quirky and it’s different and it’s quite original. I wasn’t 100% convinced of the narrative twist where the ghost of Linda finds out what happened to her body, but I was convinced enough. It just about worked in an offbeat, Chuck Palahniuk kind of way. And it’s fair to say that Naomi Kramer can write. She has a great style which flows well and has an edge to it. No typos, no awkward turns of phrase. Technically speaking it’s written very well.

The big problem, though, is that this book to me doesn’t work as a novelette. I don’t have a problem with short work, but when something is this short I would expect it to cover only about a third of the narrative this one does, and to be a lot more densely written. What I mean is, DEAD(ish) covers a lot of ground. The framework is there not for a sixty or seventy page short but a fully formed two hundred page novel. Because it whipped through, because the chapters were so short, I was left feeling like this was an outline for a good book rather than being a good book. An early draft of something which, if worked on, could have been great.

Going back to Chuck Palahniuk (who Naomi Kramer reminds me of in some ways) – his novel Fight Club initially started out as a short story. DEAD(ish) reads as I would imagine that short story did: ie. really interesting, but in need of fleshing out. If Kramer had let some of the narrative ideas develop a bit more on the page, lengthened them out a bit, and if she had explored the characters a bit more, let their stream of consciousness build, this could have been really really good. As it is, I think it’s just ok. I didn’t waste the forty minutes it took me to read, but I came away a bit frustrated that it didn’t match its potential.

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7 Responses to “Review of DEAD(ish)”

  1. Naomi Kramer May 14, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    Hey Neil,

    I don’t usually respond to reviews, because I don’t want people to worry about author reactions when writing/publishing them. But since you already did worry a little… 🙂

    First – Good on you for not suppressing the not-100%-positive. Potential readers need honesty.

    Second – I appreciate your review, and the points you make. Thanks. 😉

  2. Neil Schiller May 14, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Naomi, thanks for coming and leaving a comment. That’s very gracious of you. The review is, obviously, just an opinion and I saw lots of others on Goodreads really enjoyed your book. We all look for different things in what we read, there’s obviously no right and wrong to it, just different, subjective perspectives.

    I do genuinely mean the comment about your style and your imagination/approach. I thought those things were great and I do intend to check out more of your work as I feel like I might be missing out if I didn’t.

    Anyway, thanks again.

    • Naomi Kramer May 14, 2011 at 1:55 am #

      Neil, no worries. I like to see thoughtful, well-written reviews, regardless of positive or negative slant. Plenty of people on Goodreads have hated DEAD(ish) too, with a passion. If I got upset every time someone disagreed with my self-imposed genius status, I’d be dead from a brain aneurysm by now. 😉

      I’m glad you didn’t find my technique lacking, at least, and that you didn’t feel you’d wasted your time. I’ll be interested to see what you think of other books of mine, if you do read and review them.

    • Naomi Kramer May 14, 2011 at 2:35 am #

      I meant to say in the last comment (damn my leaky brain!) that you’re not the first to opine that DEAD(ish) could do with some serious expansion. While I like the series as-is right now, I certainly won’t rule out changing my mind in the future, with more writing experience under my belt.

      • Neil Schiller May 14, 2011 at 9:36 am #

        Naomi, I have to say your attitude is impressive and inspirational. You’re absolutely right, of course, reviews are there to take note of but you can’t let them dent the passion you have about your work. Ultimately, all you can aim for is being happy yourself with what you have done, and if you are then that’s the true result. You can’t please everyone and nor should you try to – that would just lead to very weak, compromised writing.

        Hahah, yes, I saw DEAD(ish) had divided opinion a little bit, but on the positive side the negative reviews were mostly in reaction to bad language which, in my opinion, is a ridiculous reason to not like something. I often think that when something polarises opinion, that probably means there’s something to it. Most of the books I love are like that. I put out a critical thing on Bukowski a few years ago and the response was evidence of how Bukowski is perceived – a few 4 and 5 star reviews and just as many 1 star ones. Nothing in the middle. It is what it is I guess, you just wryly look at it and move on.

        And of course reviewing is so subjective. Not just opinions, but the way people score too. Some will give 5 stars to anything that they enjoyed in any capacity and some only to things that they feel sit in the top 1% of everything ever written. I’ve seen 3 and 4 star reviews that glow with greater praise than the 5 star ones around them.

        Looking back at my review I’m struck with the feeling that I might have been a bit harder on your book because I saw something in it that I thought was greatness trying to get out. I’m not just saying this because we’re talking directly, but I definitely came away with the impression that at some point, next book, or the one after that, you are probably going to produce something not just good but genuinely exceptional. I don’t know what you feel about Chuck Palahniuk – you may hate him – but there was something in your writing that brought him to mind, and I think it’s entirely in the realms of possibility that you could end up emulating the breakthrough success he had.

        Anyway, I’m rambling on now so I’ll shut up. Thanks again for coming over here Naomi and for your gracious response to my humble opinion, which is what it ultimately is – there’s no reason you should pay it any more attention than any of the others. I’m going to go and watch some old Tom and Jerry cartoons with my daughter for a bit now as I promised her I would (and she doesn’t let me forget the things I promise her) 🙂

  3. Naomi Kramer May 19, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Hey Neil,

    Sorry it took me a while to get back here… just had a wacky couple of weeks. Two days in hospital with weird (but non-threatening) chest pains. Turned out to be bronchitis. Then Amazon made DEAD(ish) free, and that sort of thing makes life a bit crazy. 🙂

    Thanks so much for your comments, and I hope my writing does improve a lot over the years to come. *grin* I’m certainly working on it.

  4. Neil Schiller May 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Naomi, sorry to hear you’ve not been well. Hope you’re feeling better soon. And please do keep writing, I’ll definitely be looking out for that ‘knock me over’ one, coming soon… 🙂

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