Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it.

I like this line. There's a date which is a little obtrusive, but there is wit and conflict - a revolution is flowering. I don't know who the author of Romance of the Rose is but I can google that. It is annoying though, that I have to google something in the first line. But google I do. I assume it's the book by Guillaume de Lorris, but if it isn't, whatever.

There is a lot of information in this sentence. I guess this was written back in the days when information was entertainment. Huguenots is familiar to me but La Rochelle is not. Not such a good idea to introduce people, places or things that are local, if you are trying to reach a wide audience. It could turn a lot of people off before they even get a chance to turn the page. But there is tone and conflict, so most people would read on, even if they had no idea that they were reading The Three Musketeers. It would be interesting, with some of these classics, to have people read the opening lines without knowing what they were reading, to see if it hooked them or not. I suspect that with today's TV induced coma brains, most people would fail this opening.

What follows is a reference to Don Quixote and a POV switch addressing the reader. Always annoying, unless it's Dr. Seuss.

First thing said:

"My son...this horse was born in the house of your father about thirteen years ago, and has remained in it ever since, which ought to make you love it." 

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. The Three Musketeers is number 98.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Unknown Soldier Beautiful World by Joshua Dysart

Bryansk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

"Kalashnikov's still alive in here!"

I thought I would try something a little different today. As I was pulling review copies off the library shelf, I came across some graphic novels, and thought, why not? I remember the old Unknown Soldier comics from when I was a kid. I had a friend who collected mostly superhero comics. He had quite an impressive collection numbering in the thousands, and I'm sure, since he kept the comics in excellent condition, that they are worth a lot now. I, on the other hand, couldn't collect my thoughts let alone muster the discipline required to take up a hobby. However, the one comic that I did rush to buy was the Unknown Soldier. I'd just started collecting the title, had maybe four or five issues, when all of a sudden the comic was discontinued, ending my career as a comic book collector in the process.

Since that time there have been several reincarnations of the Unknown Soldier which has led to the development of the current incarnation, a black unknown soldier in Africa; arguably the scariest version, as the stark realism and violence might be a little too much for some to stomach. I personally find the Vertigo version a little disturbing. I guess that is how it should be, what with war being a pretty disturbing business and all.

This volume (4) begins in 1941 and with dialogue. There is a footnote explaining that what is said is a translation from the Russian. Personally, I understood that without needing to be told. On the first page we have some Russians loading onto a truck when suddenly some Germans in motorcycles attack and kill everyone except Kalashnikov. On page 2 Kalashnikov explains an idea for a new type of gun that will drive the Nazis back home. In 1947 it is tested.

From there the graphic novel follows the history of the AK-47. As we read, we know were this is all leading: a bloody history of humanity, and it's mighty gruesome reading and viewing.

I won't comment on the artwork as the purpose of this blog is to determine whether there's a hook or not based on the writing. I understand, however, that comics hook not only because of the writing in the opening. But I think the writing and the story line that opens this graphic novel is good enough to stand on its own, taking into consideration the medium in which its being told.

I also like the little history lesson attached. Learning while being entertained is an unequaled experience.

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sniper's Honor by Stephen Hunter


It was a balmy November day in Stalingrad, 14 below, twelve feet of snow, near-blizzard conditions.

As this starts with weather, my initial urge is to fail it, banish the book back to the library shelf and troll YouTube comments. However, there are a couple things that attract my attention about this line, despite the weather. The use of sarcasm to establish some tone and the mention of Stalingrad. Most people are already aware of the battle that was the beginning of the end of Hitler and its brutality, so there isn't too much else to say. Setting is established with one word. Anyone interested it this plot of history will be hooked.

The next sentence is about weather too. However, from that point the story delves into details like Kfz 251's, T-34's and geography like Tauvinskaya and Smarkandskaya streets with healthy bouts of back story as a character is revealed - resume style. Nevertheless, the scene that unfolds is fascinating to read, and it's not long either, coming in at under six pages. It shows a German sniper preparing for a shot but he himself gets shot instead, which actually saves his life, as he is one of the last Germans to be airlifted out of there. The prologue ends by saying the sniper lived a long life, dying an old man with grandchildren, before adding: The sniper who shot him was the White Witch. We infer that this is a woman, as whoever it is, has a cascade of hair, bright as gold, reflecting in the sunlight. It's nice that at least women (or one woman) fighting in Stalingrad were issued shampoo and conditioner, to give them that shining, full-bodied look, that men would die for.

Chapter 1:

Outside Cascade
The Homestead
The Present

He was an old man in a dry month.

Surprise, surprise! Of course, the novel does not take place in the same time as the titillating prologue, so all those who were hoping for another epic Stalingrad battle novel, well...ha-ha to you. The only good thing about the opening sentence of this novel is that the line is short. Other than that, we have a pronoun and some weather.

First thing said:

"Not much time left, Gunther."

Even though the novel's title is simple in a non-creative way, it does tell us something about the story and that there will be something about the sniper's code and honor. So this title is important to establishing a hook.

Verdict: Fail

I suppose if one reads this genre there is a hook here. I'm tempted to read on. I liked the prologue, but beginning chapter 1 in another time and place, seriously puts me off.

Theodore Moracht

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep

The Long Goodbye

The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers.

Although there isn't much conflict here to write home about, we are introduced to a character and made aware of something about him - not only that he's drunk, but that he is in a Rolls-Royce and at a club.

In the next two paragraphs we get mostly physical descriptions of characters. Despite this, there is a mildly interesting scene that unfolds that makes me wonder about the sexual orientation of these characters and hence of the author.

First thing said:

“Look, mister,” he said with an edge to his voice, “would you mind a whole lot pulling your leg into the car so I can kind of shut the door?”

Verdict: Fail

The Big Sleep

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. 

Weather opening cliche deserves a fail. What follows is the narrator describing what he's wearing, right down to the detail of his socks. Then we get a description of a new client's house. Then another description of a girl. With all this description, this opening would get an epic fail except this is written by Chandler. He use of similes and language is uniquely his. Of course, although it was relatively fresh at the time of writing, it's been done to death by 2014. But no one does it like quite like Chandler.

...but she looked durable.

She came over near me and smiled with her mouth and she had little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh orange pits and as shiny as porcelain. They glistened between her thin too taut lips.

First things said:

“Tall, aren’t you?”

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Wind howled through the night carrying a scent that would change the world.

This prologue begins with weather and an epic plot promise, which is grandiose preamble. This line hints that something is probably not right with this fictional world, though is any world in any novel ever perfect? No. One can assume there is conflict in any case, or there would be no book. The only question this opening line raises is how can a scent change the world? Those who are interested will not be able to stop reading.

The rest of the opening paragraph:

A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.

Still have no conflict, just some superfluous action, you know, some sniffing and a weak description of something called a Shade, a creature we can know nothing about. Though with a name like the Shade, some may be curious. But this is very much a weak hook. After all, there is no conflict or no concrete character we can start to love or hate.

The beginning of the next paragraph:

He blinked in surprise. The message had been correct: they were here. Or was it a trap? He weighed the odds, then said icily, "Spread out; hide behind trees and bushes. Stop whoever is coming...or die."

Here we have some conflict, but it's a little confusing and contradictory. They are here or is it a trap? Is what a trap? Who are they? Hide behind trees and stop whoever is coming. How? By hiding behind trees? These kinds of questions dissipate attention rather direct it.

Chapter 1

Eragon knelt in a bed of trampled reed grass and scanned the tracks with a practiced eye.

This opening line feels like a movie fade in; it's not an effective story beginning using the written word as a medium. If you think it is - fine; nevertheless, there's no conflict. It, however, does reveal the protagonist and tells us something about him, that he has a practiced eye. This is the strength of the opening line. But is it enough to hook?

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Monday, 26 May 2014

Lick by Kylie Scott

I woke up on the bathroom floor. 

Setting with conflict that raises a question: Why wake up on the bathroom floor? The answers to the question, however, are rather limited, and honestly don't interest me much. Others might be hooked, and there are certainly worse beginnings then this, but it's a pretty standard opening especially once it's explained that the narrator had a wild night of drinking irresponsibly. However, this gets the bed opening cliche because the novel begins with someone waking up after making a bed of the floor. But points for not waking up in an actual bed.

Everything hurt. My mouth felt like garbage and tasted worse. 

How can a person's mouth feel like garbage? And what garbage are we supposed to imagine: Plastic? Organic waste? Glass? Rags? And tasted worse than what? Plastic? Moldy bread? Similes are nice but they need to be precise to be effective at creating an image, which is what they are used for. In this case saying her mouth tasted like garbage is as general as saying her mouth tasted bad. Yawn.

What the hell had happened last night? 

I don't know. You tell me.

The last thing I remembered was the countdown to midnight and the thrill of turning twenty-one, legal at last. I'd been dancing with Lauren and talking to some guy. Then BANG!


Yes, bang, tequila. Bang, bang!

First thing said:

“You okay?” a voice enquired, male, deep, and nice. Really nice. A shiver went through me despite my pain. My poor broken body stirred in the strangest of places.

Okay, got it.

Did you know that the title is a pun? That should tell us something about the level of creativity to expect in this one.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table.

This is a hard one to review with the standards we have in place. I mean, come on it's Sherlock Holmes. How can it not hook?

So what I have to do is try to imagine that I know nothing about this bloke and see what this opening line does. If we look at it objectively, it is just some guy who usually sleeps in, already at the breakfast table. So this suggests...let me see, what, the game is afoot! If anything it hints at an unusual character but little else. The only question this raises is why is this person sometimes doing all-nighters. But it is hardly enough to hook and pull a reader in. The hook is in the byline.

First thing said:

"Well, Watson, what do you make of it?"

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his list is as good as any. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the 99th best.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

These were the days when telling instead of showing was in vogue. Personally, I don't know what is wrong with telling instead of showing sometimes. Most readers will say it's boring and most publishers will say it doesn't sell books nowadays, but this is more a social comment on the reading public, then on the art of writing. Does anyone even read these kind of novels anymore, you know, the ones that are long and drone on for acres of pages? Thank god for HBO or we might actually have to read A Song of Ice and Fire.

The paragraphs are thick, layered with levels of back story and description.

And I always thought that Scarlett was beautiful, or least Vivian Leigh was. I guess the film ruined something of the novel. Overall, this is an effective way of introducing the protagonist of the novel, so points for that. It foreshadows conflict, and one wonders if the twins are going to kill each other for the right to smell Scarlett's hand. But what I like most is the sassiness of this line and the implied manipulative nature of Scarlett. Personally, I'd prefer to be shown this from the get-go rather than simply be told though. It wouldn't have required much space.

First thing said:

"I know you two don't care about being expelled, or Tom either, but what about Boyd?

Dialogue that  reveals the character of the speaker, some conflict and new people gets top marks. At least it's not something redundant like: "Hello - is anyone reading this book?"

This is the first of the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100., the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his list is as good as any. Gone with the Wind is number 100.

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.

This sentence offers little, except persons unknown who are upset looking at themselves. We can assume it's something to do with the way they look and can expect a physical description of the character. Unless an eye has fallen out, teeth are missing, or there's some weird skin disease, there isn't much conflict story-worthy conflict here. The next sentence:

Damn my hair - it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal.

A lot of damning going on and all because of hair? So this novel begins with hair conflict. For twelve-year olds this might hook. But really, how much more trivial can you get? The narrator needs to study but is instead obsessing over hair, repeating: I must not sleep with it wet, several times. I assume that this is because the night before that is what she did, and therefore the conflict in the morning. But why not have another shower in the morning? There is the suggestion there is little time, but surely the narrator doesn't just wake up and five minutes later is pushed out the door.

The next paragraph is back story, and we learn more about Kate and it's explained she's sick and the narrator has to do an interview for her instead. Even though the narrator doesn't want to do it and comes off as hating Kate, by page 2 we learn that the narrator is fond of Kate, made her some soup, brings her medicine, and is willing to do Kate a favor that could cost the narrator a degree, etc. So that damn Kate bit must have been just a joke or a little bit of melodramatic hyperbole. In other words, the opening doesn't contain as much conflict as initially implied. This is easy to do, just choose the right words and you can make someone opening a kitchen door sound fraught with antagonism:

He gripped the barren wood and with great trepidation, slowly pushed the crooked door open, as it creaked like a screaming witch being drawn and quartered. Once inside the kitchen, he started whistling "Hold me Now" by The Thompson Twins and made a cup of coffee. It was going to be a splendid day, indeed.

First thing said:

"Ana, I'm sorry."

Later we have this line:

The roads are clear as I set off from Vancouver, Washington towards Interstate 5.

She's going to Seattle, but I don't think Vancouver is in Washington. This sounds like a factual mistake, just like the one Stephenie Meyer makes on page 1 of Twilight.

Overall, we have exposition that lacks conflict. One can say it is an inciting event, but it is not an interesting inciting event. It is stalling as the character gets ready to travel to the story hook. It would be more effective if the novel begin with the narrator at the interview and use this opening as back story as necessary.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton

It was a fine day for a funeral.

While opening with a funeral is not strictly speaking, a cliche, it is used a lot. I think in our 300+ review run so far, I've come across it only a couple times. Of course, there are many more books and films out there that begin with a funeral. The reason for starting with a funeral holds one obvious advantage, someone just died and this creates conflict for those characters fortunate enough to remain alive at t.he beginning. Some writers are attracted to the idea of beginning with an ending of sorts.

Next line:


I won't bother writing out the entire weather report.

Later we learn, and it's a little unusual, that the entire village is attending this funeral. Then we get a rundown of everyone attending, names and body size or feature for future reference. At this point I don't much care though. I'm more interested in who the person was who died. This is the question this opening raises, the kernel of a hook, and while it remains unanswered, I'm pulled along, but obviously not for long. It is not revealed on page 1, nor does it need to be. Instead, it's revealed on page 5, which is a lot of words to get through for my fragile attention span. In fact, I'm not ashamed to say that I skipped much of the description or whatever on page 3 and 4 just to have my curiosity satisfied ASAP. Once I know this, I go back and read page 3 and 4. For some reason, back story is more interesting when we have some story context.

On the plus side, the characters that are introduced prior to the dead man, who oddly is a complete stranger to the villagers, are a little eccentric, like witches, widows and a supernova wife. This characterization is illustrated in the first bit of dialogue on page 4.

First thing said:

"Mrs. Bunting is going to fly straight over the church if she doesn't let go of that umbrella."

Overall, this opening has all the makings of a good opener, tone is established, characters are introduced and some personality is revealed. But it lacks conflict happening to a specific character. In addition, as this is a mystery, I need a crime front and center to pull me in, unless the byline on the cover says Agatha Christie. The Dame is allowed to waste my time.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Dynamite Flynns by Leslie McFarlane

The "Iron Mick" was well past sixty, but he hadn't forgotten how to skate.

Finding Leslie McFarlane books is not so easy these days. This one I found in a ratty pile of books at a laundry mat, and rather than offering to buy it and risk being refused, I simply took it. This book is about hockey. The opening line introduces a character who is interesting from a hockey point of view. An old man who can still skate and presumably still play. The nickname of Iron Mick is revealing too and with that one line, I think we get a pretty good first impression of this character. However, there is no conflict yet and even though the opening begins with a scene it is merely of some kids playing some old school hockey.

First thing said:

"I'm coming lads!"

Verdict: Pass (barely)


A howling November snowstorm swept the prairies.

So begins another hockey book.This one begins with weather, but it's weather that establishes setting, that of wild and cold Saskatchewan or thereabouts. It reminds me of the times before global warming when there were snowstorms in November in Canada. Nevertheless, there are better ways to begin a book. Indeed, beginning just about any other way other than with the weather is a better way.

First things said:

"Can't I have the car tonight, Uncle Simon?"

Verdict: Fail

The Tower Treasure

"After the help we gave dad on that forgery case I guess he'll begin to think we could be detectives when we grow up."

Some of you may be wondering why I added this book to a review of Leslie McFarlane's work, but I have for a good reason as it was Mr. McFarlane who wrote the first several Hardy Boys books back in the 20's, 30's and 40's. Although the general ideas and outlines came from Edward Stratemeyer's company, it was McFarlane who wrote the books and though there were guidelines in place, he had a wide measure of freedom to write them as he saw fit.

So the first Hardy Boys book opens with dialogue. A bit of a no-no these days, especially in this case as there is no dialogue tag to identify the speaker. It could be Tom Swift for all we know.

The next paragraph is of another unidentified person speaking.

"Why shouldn't we? Isn't he one of the most famous detectives in the country? And aren't we his sons?"

Why is this kid asking his brother these (hopefully) rhetorical questions? It's redundant. However, the author has a reason: to clumsily insert back story.

Of course, one must assume that these are the Hardy Boys talking to each other, but which one is saying what? As I have read a few of these books in the past, I declare that Joe the younger speaks first in the series and Frank the elder second. But there have been fist fights at conventions and an attempted murder over this very question, which goes to show how passionate old men are, who were fans of the books growing up as kids fifty or more years ago. Sadly, all this could have been avoided had this been better written.

This opening goes on to describe the boys as both being bright-eyed and having the same firm mouths. In general not the kind of opening that would succeed in today's market. No wonder some of these books were edited. The "new" version of The Tower Treasure, edited in 1959 by Harriet Adams, which you'll find today in the bookstores begins thus:

Frank and Joe Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car. It was careening from side to side on the narrow road. 

"He'll hit us! We'd better climb this hillside- and fast!" Frank exclaimed, as the boys brought their motorcycles to a screeching halt and leaped off. 

It the edited version Frank speaks first, which is as it should be as he is the oldest, and both boys are clearly identified at the beginning of the scene. Plus, there's conflict. On the down side, in the edited version the language is a little melodramatic; thus, some of the charm of the original is lost.

You be the judge as to which one hooks more. Although, good luck finding a copy of the original text.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

New Pretty Town

The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

This is sort of about weather, but presents it in an interesting and more creative way. However, unless cat vomit sky color is the conflict that moves this story forward to a satisfying conclusion, it isn't the best beginning as it is ultimately setting. Stories should start with conflict and character, not setting. Though this could be an example of pathetic fallacy, therefore revealing some character.

The vomit weather theme is continued:

Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right. The scudding clouds did look a bit fishy, rippled into scales by a high-altitude wind. As the light faded, deep blue gaps of night peered through like an upside-down ocean, bottomless and cold.

So the weather is explored. For some reason the author thinks that his novel needs to begin with a weather report. Whatever. It continues (since I read it, you have to, too):

Any other summer, a sunset like this would have been beautiful. But nothing had been beautiful since Peris turned pretty. Losing your best friend sucks, even if it’s only for three months and two days.

So here we have an inkling of conflict with a glimmer of the dystopian premise.

First thing said:

“Good night.”

Verdict: Pass (barely)

This gets a 50/50 meh for the striking opening line.

Theodore Moracht

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

Janie finished her essay.

The end. Not. We should be so lucky.

After a thorough academic analysis, we may with confidence conclude that this line does not hook. How could it be expected to pull a reader in? It does not introduce conflict, nor does it even foreshadow conflict. All it does is introduce the protagonist and let us know by way of inference that this person is a student. Yawn.

The next paragraph makes an effort to force some useless conflict down our throats:

She never knew what grade she would get in Mr. Brylowe's English class. Whenever she joked, he wanted the essay serious. Whenever she was serious, he had intended the essay to be lighthearted.

There is an easy way to fix this kids: Pay attention in class! Next paragraph:

It was October.

Next paragraph (though why we need to start a new paragraph, as we are still on the same topic of season, is beyond me. Could it be for dramatic effect, even though there is nothing dramatic about it being October in itself?):

Outdoors throbbed with autumn.

I appreciate when writers try to be creative, but there is a fine line between success and failure, genius and stupidity. This fails and/or is stupid, take your pick. The outdoors, i.e. weather/season throbbed? It sounds funny and just a little disturbing. Imagine this conversation:

Mom: Go outside, Janie.
Janie: Ah, Mom, do I have to, it's throbbing outside.


"Hey, Bob, can you take a look out the window and see if it's throbbing out. Thanks, man."
"It is."
"Okay, so should I wear a striped shirt, or do you think flannel is better when it's throbbing outdoors?"

The paragraph goes on about the pulse of the sky and leaves being wrenched off twigs, before ending with:

She felt like driving for hours: taking any road at all: just going.

I think those are colons. They could be semi-colons; in any case, they are wrong. So the last sentence of that paragraph has nothing to do with the beginning of the paragraph, describing the weather. Since writing is usually determined good or bad at the paragraph level, we can safely call this bad writing.

The next paragraph has a shocking twist: But Janie can't drive yet! That's right, she's only having driving fantasies (so this only fantasizes about the car opening cliche) because of dinner last night. Enter flashback: A scene in which we learn that Janie's father doesn't want her to drive but her mother does. Her father thinks she's too young and says that he hates all this growing up (she's 15). I can just imagine him saying to Janie while she's writing essays: What are you doing? Stop growing up; go out and roll around in the mud like my little five-year-old used to do. I mentioned essays because I now have no idea why this book had to begin with essays and then steer off course with weather, seasons, driving fantasies and serious hair.

Serious hair? Yeah, as weird as this sounds, as the father is talking at the dinner table, he: ...wound some of Janie's hair around his wrist.

It's creepy enough for a father to sit at the dinner table and play with his fifteen-year-old daughter's hair with his finger, but wrapping her hair around his wrist? What the...? However, never fear, this is the author's "clever" way of introducing the world to Janie's hair and how her friends say: Janie, that is serious hair.

Which makes the beginning of chapter 5 make a little more sense:

The kiss was long.

And serious.

Serious like my hair, thought Janie. She stared amazed at Reeves's cheek, which was pressed against hers, and with amazement brought her lips together to kiss him again - to start the second kiss, and to choose when to end it.

I'm not sure I'd compare a kiss's seriousness to hair. Anyway, that line tells me that this Janie is very self-absorbed and a bit of an idiot. Here she is sharing an intimate moment with a boy and all she can think of is: That kiss is serious like my hair. What, is the kiss about her and her hair? Is that all she can think about when kissing: her hair?

The other thing that makes no sense, is how does one stare at someone else's cheek when it is pressed against one's own cheek? What does it mean: she stared amazed? Maybe: she stared amazedly? Or: She stared and was amazed? Could she be staring off into space and is amazed at staring off into nothingness? Is Reeve's cheek amazing her? Personally, I think she's more dazed than amazed.

Plus, closing your lips to kiss is what one does when one is about to kiss grandma, not a boyfriend/girlfriend. I'm confused: is this girl fifteen or five?

The next paragraph begins thus:

Very slowly her hands crept [Like Wile E. Coyote?] around his face, finding the back of his neck where his hair lay thick over the pulse.

So this dude has a throbbing pulse on the back of his neck? He might want to get that looked at - it might be a tumor.

First thing said:

"She's just a baby."

Verdict: Epic Fail

So this book and writer has earned a place on my private blog: Horrible Writers Club.

Rudy Globird

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

It's the first day of spring 2001 and Maxine Tarnow, though some still have her in their system as Loeffler, is walking her boys to school.

Not much here, but I really wasn't expecting the first sentence from Gravity's Rainbow, as awesome as that is: A screaming comes across the sky. 

Bleeding Edge leads with season and date, which could have been made a subtitle to the chapter or placed somewhere else. It certainly isn't worthy of beginning a novel with. The season is followed with a character and a slightly unusual idea in that people think of Tarnow as a Loeffler, but we can assume that that is the difference between a married and a maiden name. This may be foreshadowing or a little unobtrusive back story, take your pick, or better yet read on if this hooks you. For myself, I don't much care what it's about, which is a blunt way of saying this opening page does not hook me.

Then there is a subtle mention of weather, so I will add the weather cliche award to this opening.

First thing said:


The most interesting thing about this dialogue is the punctuation.

Anyway, the bottom line is that as this is Pynchon, he can do whatever the hell he wants. The hook is in the byline. But I don't read bylines.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The African Safari Papers by Robert Sedlack

Thursday, August 11
7.23 p.m.
In Flight - Paris to Nairobi

Dad has us sitting in different parts of the plane.

This little bit of exposition reveals something about character, something slightly off kilter. Well, the fear of flying is not unusual, but the response to that fear, in this case, is. The rest of the first paragraph expands on this sentence:

It's in case we crash. He has a plan for everything. This way, one of us will presumably survive, proudly pick up the fallen torch and carry on.

The next paragraph introduces the narrator:

I hope it's me.

What follows is a scene on a plane with some foreshadowing and other hints that things are not right between characters, in other words, that there is some underlying conflict. Instead of coming out with conflict right away, the writer shows us how the characters coping with one another's weirdness, thus creating tension between the characters, which can be conflict enough. In any case, the reader is pulled in by the arguments.

Then the narrator goes to smoke in the airplane bathroom and we learn a neat way to smoke on a plane without setting the alarms off.

First thing said:

"There's nothing to be afraid of."

Verdict: Pass

Theodore Moracht

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Doll by Taylor Stevens

Palms to the glass, watching the lot from his office window, Miles Bradford saw her topple.

Character and conflict is about all that is needed in an opening line, and this line has both. It begins right away with a scene of someone falling.  At first Miles thinks that the person will get back up and they will laugh about it but the woman does not get back up, so he rushes out.

Back story is inserted painlessly and sparingly on a need to know basis and doesn't slow the pace of the forward narrative allowing the reader to be pulled in without noticing the book in his or her hands.

Of course, if you're not a fan of this genre, you may not like this no matter how it's written. This is not classic literature that alien anthropologists will be studying thousands of years from now once humanity has destroyed itself, but it's a good time killer until then.

The title is weak though. It's ambiguous and could mean many different things and make readers associate to the ends of the earth, which the writer might prefer they didn't. For example, I think of Tim Thomerson and the Dollman.

First thing said:

"What the hell was that all about?"

Verdict: Pass

Rudy Globird

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart

Chapter 1
An Elephant, a Funeral, and More Bad News

As the hail bounced on the carriage roof, Mink suddenly wondered whether she ought to buy mourning knickers.

So begins the opening line of chapter 1 after the table of contents, cast of characters and a well-drawn map.

Three words in and we have weather. The only reason it would be necessary to mention the hail is if it's because the hail made Mink wonder about knickers. Personally, I don't see the connection between hail and knickers. Of course, some people will undoubtedly be turned on by the mention of knickers in the opening line, so by all means rush out and buy this one.

The fact that they are mourning knickers foreshadows a death, which usually incites conflict in a story, but we understood there would be a death anyway from the title of chapter 1. I like when opening line and title work together but in this case opening line and chapter 1 heading sort of cancel each other out, at least as far as a plot point goes. In fact, the best thing about this opening is the title given to chapter 1. The title of the book is all right too, as it contains the word mystery.

What follows on page 1 is some description of the setting.

First thing said:

"Ratakins is the name, ma'am."

Verdict: Pass (barely)

This achieves a 50/50 pass for the interesting foreshadowing of mourning knickers. If the weather had been left until later rather than having it lead the opening, this might have scored higher - as it is well written. Well, actually probably wouldn't have scored higher; in the first few pages, besides brooding over a funeral and the death of a father, there isn't much else happening.

Theodore Moracht

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer

I never believed a book could save your life. 

A fairly strong opening statement, at least in theory. I don't like the POV switch though. Why would the narrator not believe a book could save my life? However, as this line introduces a book, I read on.

It makes sense that Conner Joyce would be the one who changed my mind about that. The story of how one book saved me while another nearly killed Conner began, appropriately enough, in a bookstore—to be more precise, at Borders in Bloomington, Indiana, where I saw a poster with Conner’s picture on it. By then, I had nearly forgotten Conner. I had figured I was done with books. 

This is preamble, discussing what the story is instead of just telling, and reads like the once upon a time style of opening. The rest of the first chapter goes into back story before ending with a short scene that sets up the next scene, which is where the story actually begins.

Nevertheless, the back story is interesting, at least from a writer's point of view and probably from a well-read reader's point of view as well. There is a discussion of reclusive writers like Salinger and Pynchon. Before long I found myself on page 50. The plot points that make this suspenseful, however, do not really start until then. So if you can manage through the first fifty pages, you will be rewarded.

First thing said:

“Who’s that person you keep staring at?”

Verdict: Pass (barely)

For me this is a 3.5 star pass for the simple reason that the novel is about writers and books. I understand though that this will not hook everyone and that this probably should, as an opening, be a fail.

Theodore Moracht

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Prayer by Philip Kerr

St. Andrew's Cathedral,
Glasgow, Scotland
April 5, 1988

It was a bright cold day, but as if it were midsummer, I had given up my usual gray clothes of lambswool and thick flannel, and had been dressed for innocence in white cotton like all of the other children in the cathedral.

I don't know about you, but this does not hook me. Maybe the tediousness of typing it out had something to do with putting me off. It opens with weather and is actually worse than: It was a dark and stormy night... Succumbing to an explanation of what a character is wearing is a natural and non-creative way of complementing the weather motif. The only story worthy information given is that this opens in a cathedral.

What follows in the next paragraph is a bit of plot in the form of foreshadowing: This narrator is trembling because there was a mortal sin in the heart - or so imagined. We must read on to find out which. Unfortunately, the next paragraph describes the cathedral, and I start to lose interest, as the scene that is supposed to be taking form is stalling.

As well, that last comma is a mistake as what follows "and" is part of a compound predicate and not the beginning of a fresh independent clause.

Chapter 1:

From the outside, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart resembled a prison.

This opening line, while not very promising, is an improvement over the opening line in the prologue. We get a setting of a church that is compared to a prison. The first paragraph goes on to describe the setting. The paragraphs are long and thick on page 1, as they are for most of the prologue, with little dialogue and lots of back story, indicating from the get-go the pace one should expect throughout the rest of this novel.

First thing said:

"You do it like this, Giles."

This is back story talk, what someone had said once upon a time. At least we know the narrator's name now, not that I particularly cared. Although, if  the name had been something unusual like Uranus, then I would care more.

Verdict: Fail

Overall, I must say I'm disappointed. I love reading the Berlin Noir series. However, I can't say I'm surprised, as most of the Bernie Gunther books do not have remarkable opening sentences either. I've picked up Dark Matter, also by this author, several times but can't get past chapter 1.

In my mind, what separates great writers from very great writers is the treatment of the opening. After all, once a book gains momentum 50 pages in or whatever, most stories become enjoyable to the end, once the reader is finally hooked and sympathizing with the characters. This is why we stress that our reviews are not necessarily a reflection of the work as whole. However, what separates a good book from an awesome book is the beginning. Only the best of the best begin well, continue well, and end well. That kind of writer is a rare breed - and after gleaning the best seller lists, it seems they are an endangered species.

Theodore Moracht

Monday, 12 May 2014

Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer

His wife had held him in her arms as if she could keep death away from him.

This is the opening line of To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in the Riverworld series. I am ashamed to say that I first learned about this story only after watching the pilot of a failed TV series that is now released as a movie with a gaping cliffhanger. I was pretty upset that nothing else was made, thinking I would never learn what happened next. Fortunately, I came across these books so I can find out how it all ends.

The opening line hooks in that there is the conflict of death. It raises questions like why and how this person dies. The pronouns are annoying, but as one reads on, the faceless characteristic of the characters adds to the mystery of death and the afterlife.

The next paragraph and first thing said;

He had cried out, “My God, I am a dead man!”

This is a little melodramatic. I hope all the dialogue won't be so over the top, complete with an exclamation mark!

The door to the room had opened, and he had seen a giant, black, one-humped camel outside and had heard the tinkle of the bells on its harness as the hot desert wind touched them. Then a huge black face topped by a great black turban had appeared in the doorway. The black eunuch had come in through the door, moving like a cloud, with a gigantic scimitar in his hand. Death, the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Society, had arrived at last.

Blackness. Nothingness. He did not even know that his heart had given out forever. Nothingness.

So right in the opening the character dies with some rather harrowing description and then:

Then his eyes opened.

What follows is a bizarre and confusing description of the after life in which the person finds himself in a floating cocoon. Many questions are raised, which is what a good hook is made of.

Verdict: Pass

Rudy Globird

Sunday, 11 May 2014

London by Edward Rutherfurd

Many times since the Earth was young, the place had lain under the sea.

There's a preface, but I skipped that. This is the opening line of chapter 1.

So, this opening begins with setting, in point of fact, it begins with the beginning of setting, the creation of setting - in short - geology. It's nice that the author does this, as it warns me what to expect. There is no way I will keep reading this mammoth book that begins with the geological history of the setting of a story. By beginning at the beginning of time this could be nothing more than an epic epic.

On a positive note, as this novel is titled London, we can infer that the city itself will be treated as a character in itself. So in a sense this novel begins like David Copperfield, only with a place and not with a person. It's the ultimate back story dump.

The next paragraph goes on to explain how England was formed four hundred million years ago, moving along to the ice age, to the Roman Empire etc.

On page four, after we get the gist of the first four hundred million years, we are introduced to a boy.

First thing said:

"You needn't worry."

Overall, the beginning looks like a well re-imagined history of London and people who like history and time travel should be turned on by this.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles


"If a man is forced to choose between the truth and his father, only a fool choose the truth."

Starting with a quote from someone else is not a good way to begin your novel, unless you've made up the quote yourself. In this case, the quote is unusual enough to interest because it is obviously wrong.

The next line:

A great writer said that, and for a long time I agreed with him.

Personally, I think only a great fool would agree with whoever that great writer is, so inadvertently we have some character being revealed - that of a dummy wising up. The paragraph continues by explaining that that quote at the beginning is not so wise after all.

The prologue then swings into a huge two-pound back story dump with characters once saying things...

Part One, 1964-1968:

Albert Norris sang a few bars of Howlin' Wolf's "Natchez Burnin'" to cover the sounds of the couple making love in the back of his shop.

Do people really use that term making love nowadays? That's hardly what I would call it after reading on and learning some more about the situation. Anyway, this opening line attracts some attention and leads the reader into action and character right away. The conflict seems to be that a white woman and a black man are secretly meeting in the shop and other white folk are on the verge of finding out. Since they're in the South  and it's in the 60's, it's an awkward situation, and we can't help but read on.

First thing said:

"Five minutes!"

Verdict: Pass

Rudy Globird

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

It seems that the primary function of this sentence is to establish tone, not setting. However, as we may surmise from the cool title, the galaxy has many places to visit and other forms of intelligent life schmooze with. Beginning with us being in space and being insignificant and "unfashionable" foreshadows conflict to come.

The opening page quickly zooms in on Earth before moving on to other funny things like galactic books with titles like Fifty-three more Things to do in Zero Gravity and Where God Went Wrong.

Chapter 1:

The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village.

This sentence would be of epic fail proportions if it wasn't for the ending of the prologue:

It begins with a house.

Actually it is still pretty bad. The first paragraph decides to describe the setting, as if we should care or as if it should have something to do with the plot, as it doesn't since we learn at the end of chapter 1 that the earth has only 12 minutes left. It then goes on to describe Arthur Dent, the weather and how he is spending his Thursday morning, you know: Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn. [Author's words, not mine]

First thing said:

"Come off it, Mr. Dent, you can't win you know."

Verdict: Pass (barely)

This gets 2.5 stars on the strength of the prologue, not on the opening of chapter 1, which is a solid fail.

Theodore Moracht

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Bell by Iris Murdoch

Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him.

We are almost up to 300 reviews of novel openings and in that time we have yet to come across the perfect opening line, opening paragraph, etc., with only 23 getting four stars. Time and again, we are confronted with cliched scenes, melodramatic syntax, vague pronounology, preamble, ramble and babble. The great writers are slowly dying off and being replaced by wannabe celebrities and PR wizards masquerading as writers, (after all, anyone can put words to paper, right? So why don't you be a writer, too!) who are clogging up the New York Times bestseller list. Manipulated consumers are eating it up, their brains slowly corroded by TV, as our standards deteriorate. I don't know, maybe writers are trying too hard to hook, mistaking their opening to be nothing more than a marketing ploy rather than the beginning of a character's story.

The above opening sentence of The Bell by Iris Murdoch illustrates just how easy it is to craft an opening sentence that hooks. It's almost sublime. We have two characters, conflict, foreshadowing and back story - in that they were married but aren't anymore. This sentence not only raises questions but it also introduces the psychological landscape of two characters. However, it is the question this sentence raises that hooks: Why is she afraid of him? There are no cliched scenes, no mere pronouns, no preamble, no weather, no pretty words painting a printed landscape, no pompous insinuations of ideas an author believes only he or she is privy to - just a character with a problem: fear.

The very next sentence in the novel contains the first plot twist:

She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason.

I love how sentence 2 in the novel turns the plot upside down. This line raises more questions, as it doesn't make much sense. Why be afraid to be apart when she was afraid to be with him? In these first two little sentences there is a juxtaposition of action which suggests irrational internal conflict, and that someone is overwhelmed with fear - stuck in the damnable position of being damned if they do, and damned if they don't. How could this not hook? Two sentences in and readers are sympathizing with Dora and by the end of the first paragraph we learn that Paul is haunting her with letters and phone calls and imagined footsteps.

First thing said:

"Don't stay."

Dialogue comes late. I would prefer it sooner. Dialogue on the ninth page suggests that what came before is either description or back story or philosophy. In this case it is back story, beginning at the second paragraph as we are eased into the violence of her husband. Fortunately, it is back story fraught with conflict.

If it hadn't been for the large back story dumps (despite being well written with some interesting details) so soon, and a bit more showing instead of telling, this would have been the perfect five-star opening. The opening paragraph, taken by itself, is five stars.

Verdict: Cool

I chose this novel opening to review today because I'm tired of reviewing crap. I was browsing through the new releases at the library and found two books beginning the exact same way. It's exasperating and becoming so repetitive, that I begin to dread cracking open the new stuff.

Theodore Moracht

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Bestiary by Nicholas Christopher

The first beast I laid eyes on was my father.

If we consider the first sentence of a story as the flagship sentence of a tale, then this opening line is an excellent example of what a flagship sentence should be. It has character, establishes a narrator; there's conflict and foreshadowing, and it is unusual and striking, setting the tone of the novel.

It continues with the second paragraph:

At all hours his roars reverberated, breaking into my sleep, rattling the windows.

So the impression we get early on is that the first sentence is not weakened by being a mere metaphor. Despite this short first chapter at a little more than a page being back story, there is conflict and questions are raised. This is the best kind of back story - back story that raises questions, and not back story that answers questions and makes everything clear on page 1.

Before part 1 begins, there is a brief one-page, one-paragraph insert that begins with ellipsis, indicting this is the end of some text. It explains the little known history of a book that seems to have been lost by 1368, called the Caravan Bestiary, a natural history of all beasts that were on earth at God's creation, including those that did not make it to Noah's Ark. As this is  now a book about a book, I'm easily hooked. Others, of course may not be, but a mystery about a lost book with secrets is enticing.

First thing said:

"It scares away evil spirits when I'm at sea."

Verdict: Cool

Theodore Moracht

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins

Investigator Vissarion Lom sat in a window booth in the Cafe Rikhel.

The names in this opening line indicate a foreign or even alien setting. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a name sitting somewhere. The next sentence succumbs to a weather report:

Pulses of rain swept up Ansky Prospect, but inside the cafe, in the afternoon crush, the air was thick with the smell of coffee, cinnamon bread and damp overcoats.

I like how setting is established using the sense of smell. It is an underused technique. This is the power of the written word: it can put our nose anywhere. In this case it gives us a little more about the cafe, though not much and nothing I personally care about. Nevertheless, it is conflict that is story and not setting, which in this case is little more than landscape painting with black ink.

Dialogue comes next:

"Why don't you go home?"

It soon transpires that two characters are watching someone, waiting for something to happen. I suppose you could say they are waiting for the book to begin, but in the meantime, while these characters and us readers wait, the author fills us in on a little back story, some of which is said by characters, which only barely lessens the pain. In general, when characters are speaking to one another, reviewing each other's back story, it sounds fake and forced, not that this is the case in this novel, but it is noticeable on page 2.

In addition, more setting is inserted for no real reason other than to unhook anyone who may have gotten themselves accidentally hooked by this.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

Monday, 5 May 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Nerve thrum and screaming blood, wild and churning and chasing and devouring and terrible and terrible and terrible-

A sentence like this is what is called purple prose. It sounds sensational, filled with tension and conflict, but readers have no way of connecting these verbs and adjectives to a character and so ultimately wonder, who this is about and why should they care? The only question this raises is how does blood actually scream? Put this way, such a question reveals the ridiculousness of this sentence and its style.

After this opening sentence we have the first thing said;

"Eliza. Eliza!"

The opening dialogue introduces a character, or in point of fact, a name, which isn't really that awesome. It does not reveal characterization or move plot forward, so is in essence superfluous. On the plus side, it is nice that there is dialogue so early on.


A voice. Bright light, and Eliza fell awake.

So this opens with the dream cliche. No wonder blood is screaming. However, these lines read more like poetry or a rap than prose, which is a style that is popular today, but is nothing more than melodramatic mobile textspeak, as if the author is depending on syntax to create tension and emotion and not on concepts like conflict and character. It's almost like intentionally dumbing it down.

The rest of the first page introduces another character as they discuss Eliza's screaming style.

I love the title, but that isn't enough to hook me.

Verdict: Epic Fail

Theodore Moracht

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

7:37 a.m.

The corpse opened his eyes.

Five words that work a hook. It is as simple as this.

In this line we have a character in the form of a corpse and because it's a corpse, we have conflict and because the corpse is opening its eyes, we have questions that need answering. This corpse is confused and disorientated and this short one-page prologue ends with:

Who am I?

The next section is titled: Five days ago. So, presumably that little prologue has something to do with the climactic moment that comes later in the novel. Sometimes this works, adding a little bit of dramatic irony. The reader now knows that someone is going to experience the prologue, but of course the characters don't know this in chapter 1. Always a neat trick to create a little bit of tension or suspense.

First thing said:

"He's cyanotic."

Here we have an example of opening dialogue on the second page that moves a plot forward.

Not much else to add, this opening speaks for itself and should hook most people.

Verdict: Cool

Theodore Moracht

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Landing Gear by Kate Pullinger

I went to Dubai from my home in Pakistan because I heard I could earn good money.

This novel has been timely released  - just after that incident when the kid travelling to Hawaii, I think it was, in the landing gear of a plane.

This opening sentence and paragraph, however, is not very remarkable. What follows is a little more interesting, discussing why this person decided to go abroad to work. At the end of this short one-page opening we learn that ...[it] was not as simple as I thought it would be. Which is a way of using words to replace an ellipsis, which I so desperately want to add at the end.

The chapters are short, the first three are all one page but chapter 4 or whatever it is, is a poem and I jerk my head away. I vowed after high school never to read poetry again (unless it's Rilke) and am annoyed at being tricked into some. I thought I was picking up a novel. I scan through the pages to see how many other poems are here: Not many, but there are more. I prefer my prose like my vodka, neat. I'm sure there are tons of people who would disagree with me and are lining up to buy this one, though.

First thing said:

"Am I dead?"

This is an interesting beginning for dialogue and moves plot forward. It comes at the end of chapter 5 or section 5, which I discover is a prologue as after that begins Part 1:

Later, much later, after it was too late and Harriet had too much time to dwell on it, she realized that it was all the fault of the planes.

Except it was the fault of the volcanoes. This is really preambling exposition, something that is learned and later forgotten after taking some random writing course.

Verdict: Pass 

I will give this a pass, as the narrative in the prologue is short and interesting, filled with conflict as the character gets into the landing gear of an airplane. Despite the poem, the writing is good and should hook.

Rudy Globird

Friday, 2 May 2014

The River Burns by Trevor Ferguson

Quite early on a splendid summer's morning, as sunlight shimmied across the treetops or sashayed within a mischief of breezes to brighten patches of farmers' fields and meadows below, while streams navigating the hills remained wholly shaded and residents of Wakefield stayed asleep or tottered through dawn's familiar routines Dennis Jasper O'Farrell caught himself having a moment.

This sentence bugs me. It was hell to write out. The whole time I was thinking what is the point of it all? Sunlight doing this or that, and residents doing this or that. Simply put, this line is overwritten. It reminds me of either the opening to an animated Disney film like Bambi or the opening scene of season 1, episode 1 of Brickleberry.

If we minus the bloated description of setting and just say it was a beautiful morning, the main thing is that Dennis is having a moment. This is were the hook lies. Many people will read on to find out what it means in this novel, to be having a moment.

A closer look at this opening line and I begin to suspect the writer went to extra effort to let the fireworks of language explode here. That is to say, he probably understands the importance of the opening line. Unfortunately, this is an example of reworking a sentence to death. The rest of the first page does not have the same feel as that opening sentence; the lines are shorter with more simple wording focusing on character and conflict and not on a glossy setting.

Next, we learn that Dennis is having a moment while driving. Paragraph 2 begins by telling us how he'd been in bed, awoken by a crotchety alarm, which is to say there is a little bit too much personification in this opening for my taste, what with all the shimmed and sashayed sunlight, the navigating river and now the crotchety alarm. Then we discover he'd been dreaming but that upon waking he'd forgotten what he'd been dreaming about. The only thing this tidbit reveals is that the pace of this story is going to be sloooooooow. Why say someone was dreaming before they woke up? That's what most people do. Unless the dream is important to the plot, but it's obviously not as the character forgets what he'd been dreaming about.

First thing said:

"Holy sh--!"

Verdict: Epic Fail

This opens with three cliches on page 1: Weather, car and waking up.

Theodore Moracht

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

Everything comes to an end.

Beginning with philosophical preamble is not creative. The opening line is followed up with these:

A good bottle of wine, a summer's day, a long-running sitcom, one's life, and eventually our species. The question for many of us is not that everything will come to an end but when.

Even though this opening touches on old age questions, it fails to hook. There are better books where death and the general end of things is discussed. The opening continues beating around the bush by breaking down the concept of wine, summers and sitcoms before we get to the end of the species by introducing an asteroid that might hit Earth - the first inkling of story-worthy conflict.

Below the title page is the subtitle: Now with 50% added subplot. I don't like the sounds of that. Subplot is nice and all, but I don't really like being made aware of it. Here it suggests that at least half this book is not about the main story conflict. Of course, it could be a joke, but dark humor does little to comfort me - in this case.

First thing said:

"I never thought I'd get a second."

Verdict: Fail

If there is any hook in this opening it is in the title. The title is unusual and raises some questions and makes the book sound like a fun read. Unfortunately, the opening paragraph contradicts that impression.

Theodore Moracht