On Walling Kindle Samples

Sorry guys, mishit the time for the post to load when I was tired, now it should be up!

I prefer physical books, when I can get them. I like being able to easily flip back and forth between pages, and my eyes feel more rested by print on a page than on a screen. But darned if samples don’t make it easier to judge if something’s going to be what you like to read.

The other day I hit no less than seven in a row of things I’d downloaded because they looked interesting, that definitely were not what I want to read.

So I’ll lay out a few things about what I do not want to read.

If your main character’s supposed to be a villain seeking redemption, and he doesn’t at least show me one Pet the Dog moment in the first few pages, I’m gone. (God’s Demon, I’m looking at you.)

If you’re writing a book on Norse mythology for a layman, remember that not having a degree in your field does not mean your readers are idiots. I know darn well that “going a-Viking” was an occupation, not the name for the whole Norse people. And making that exact same point using the exact same language four times in the space of ten pages implies you think your reader is an idiot with the attention span of a goldfish. Walled.

But the worst offenders in this lot were the two book samples in The Lost War series that I’d downloaded at the same time. There was violence. There was gratuitous sexual assault, apparently just to prove how icky and horrible the local species of orcs are. (Can’t we just have orcs that kill, pillage, and burn? Isn’t that bad enough?) And possibly worst of all, there was rampant main character stupidity.

I’ll give you one example from each sample, because more would make my brain melt down. First book – you’ve just figured out your whole SCA-style event has been isekai’d, because up there are two obvious moons. At least a few of you are combat veterans. What do you do?

I’m going to guess that all the readers of this blog would say something other than, “Let’s go back to our tents without even posting a watch and deal with it in the morning.”


Second sample – apparently most of the characters have survived the past few months, and they’re now trying to build up supplies of food in advance of winter. They’re not starving, but they are hungry. And they also need to practice with the magical abilities some of them have gained. One guy is levitating rocks. What would you use to put between the rocks so he has to maneuver things with a fine degree of control or crunch?

I’m going to guess, again, that your answer would not be, “Raw eggs that could be cooked and eaten!”

Seriously. If you have to have something fragile, poke a hole in the eggshell, drain the contents, and cook them. The empty shell is fragile enough.

…And then the rock shatters, and nobody’s thought of things like safety goggles or “minimum safe distance”, and it just seemed like more gratuitous gore and injury to squick the readers for funsies. Ugh.

So. There are some books I definitely won’t be reading. Hoping the next batch of samples is more friendly!


31 thoughts on “On Walling Kindle Samples

  1. Orcs that merely kill, pillage, and burn aren’t as evil as humans are known to get, when going to war and not caring about the opinion of a LG deity. But I suppose that’s one of those ‘acceptable break from reality’ things.

    I find myself wondering how tellurikinesis dude managed to get the eggs away from people who are noted as hungry, without being mobbed by hungry people demanding hard-boiled egg for breakfast. But the author seems to thing that ‘gritty setting where bad things can happen’ means ‘people do dumb shit’, so I guess the question is answered.


    Liked by 4 people

    1. Especially since doing “dumb shit” has never been “using food as training” in any survival setting I’ve seen… Food being the first thing you usually think of when you’re stranded.
      You want stupid death or gory ways of hurting your characters? People are more likely to die from eating something poisonous in this context. Get hungry enough and you’ll stop worrying about “is this plant toxic?” or you could eat an animal which has a dangerous parasite because you haven’t cooked it…
      But this? Yes the guy should have gotten mobbed way before the point he hurt someone during training (with an egg. An egg. Seriously).
      I won’t ask the title of this book (if it’s been said I’ll forget it!) ^^

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I mainly work on recommendations, which range from “Okay, that is indeed awesome.”(The Goblin Emperor. Which is a very nice book, though there are definitely some scenes that are rough emotionally, it’s not the tone of the book or how it ends) Or “Okay, not my thing.” (Winter Tide, which ends up on a lot of favorites’ lists, but has enough of my pet peeves that I don’t enjoy it even while admiring the craft.)

    But I am going to be so glad when the grimdark goes away, I was tired of it years ago.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You have the goblins of Goblin Slayer, but even then, they are meant to be hate sinks like that, and the story does have other espacts and worldbuilding.

    -and it did inspire a writer of fantasy webnovel to have a goblins slayer of their own, the goblins of said webnovel are NOT the irredeemable evil veriety, and the goblin slayer is a goblin in disguise, who is wearing armor and helmet with closed faceplate and learend to talk in the common language, pretanding to be an adventurer who goes looking for goblins, pretends to go slay them alone, while in truth, he gets them to hide and evacuate to a secret community deep within monster territory and away from main roads or towns. (anyone familiar with a webnovel called ‘The Wondering Inn?’ very good example for a well done isekai story, and one that is actually free)

    the part about going back to their tents, if it was a single person alone, i could understand-he does need to sleep at some point. but when its more then one, especially more then two, setting watch, or if not at least traps or tripwire that will wake you up if someone gets close, is the kind of thing that is done anywhere unless there is real familiarity with the location, and you know its a safe place.

    as for rocks, are there any adults around? ones that are smarter then stereotypical american idiot depicted as? safety goggles could be dificult to get, but safe distance-or at least have the practitioner keep distance from the others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And here, I was just about to use The Wandering Inn (which I just found, and stuck out through the end of the first chapter) as an example of walling. The story left me with mixed feelings, which is why I stuck it out that long, but by the end of the first chapter it had become obvious that “this isn’t just the characters’ beliefs, the author’s using this to preach something dangerously stupid, with purposely obscured setting details just so there can be ‘so there!’ moments towards the readers who actually react to the given information in reasonable ways, and let the author sit high on his moral high-horse while ignoring the fact the bait-and-switch leaves the high-horse as a zombie trojan gift.”

      To be fair to TWI, the author’s managed to do what I thought impossible, and portray the actions and thoughts of a dangerously naive and incompetent modern city-bred young adult in a way that actually _feels_ like such a person (spend time on any college campus, and you’ll have plenty of examples to compare) instead of like the caricatures most of these stories make. The main character was doing stupid things, reacting in stupid ways, and most of the first chapter I was thinking “wow, I actually believe that’s a real character… while simultaneously cringing at the fail”. Normally, these sorts of stories either feel like caricatures, or they feel like the author’s doing the stupid “well, I don’t want my character to be accused of being a mary sue, so I’ll take a bunch of blatant but easily countered flaws to balance all the powers/etc that I’m going to give the character. After all, flaws mean it’s not a mary sue, right?”

      Now, for the negative, the author’s clearly got a goal with the story, of writing a “so there” towards standard fantasy story tropes, and is willing to dues-ex-machina the _setting itself_ to ensure it happens. As reliant notes, the goblins are being treated as potentially able to be good guys… but you only find that out when the main character decides “they must secretly be good guys, and it’s just because they’re weak and getting pushed down that they have no other choice”, which the author then proceeds to make “actually true” in his setting. This, despite the fact that he’s already made it clear that these goblins are of the “rape, then torture just to be thorough, then kill and eat once that’s lost its fun” variety, not just garden variety “kill and steal”.

      And that’s a key point here, the author appears to either believe, or at least be writing the story from the perspective that, anyone who can claim to be a victim in any way is inherently incapable of being at fault for anything bad they do _and_ that everything bad they do is inherently “necessary” as a result of being a “victim”. The main character appeared to just be overly sensitive and naive at first, but by the end of the first chapter the author had revealed “oh, the main character was right all along”, in deciding that “the guardsman hunting and killing rapist cannibal monsters to protect you” was the one at-fault, and that those rapist cannibal monsters were “just poor misunderstood weaklings, acting as best they can with all the world against them, and if someone would only treat them nicely they’d turn out to all understand eachother and be able to sing kumbaya together”.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. There was gratuitous sexual assault, apparently just to prove how icky and horrible the local species of orcs are. (Can’t we just have orcs that kill, pillage, and burn? Isn’t that bad enough?)

    I can see reasons to have sexual assault–depending on how the orcs are designed– but in that case, as history makes it clear, slavery would be much more common than rape-during-raid. (The totally-not-orcs in Butcher’s Roman infantry meets Pokemon series had a similarly gratuitously nasty scene, though that was cannibalisms.) Having it on screen is not especially useful, unless it’s really well justified.

    From what you mention for the rest, it does seem to be “people being stupid and having horrific results to show how serious this is” which is definitely not my thing. Too ‘Game of Thrones’.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. From your description I sampled that “Lost war” series and walled it so hard I removed all records of it. You gave it more of a chance than I did – I never got to the preparing for winter part. Although a quick check of Amazon doesn’t produce a series of that title that I recognize.

    In the department of characters who are behaving stupidly but holds reader’s attention, I offer Catskinner’s Tale by Misha Burnett. I kept thinking, the character wasn’t that bright, but within his limits he knew what he was doing, and, even better, he knew when to listen to others.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, by the way, when I get my first trilogy finished (which features a teenage boy from Earth who starts out somewhat Wrong Genre Savvy), hopefully around the end of March, could I get your opinion on if it doesn’t suck too badly?


    Liked by 1 person

  7. I read the first Lost War book and I guess I’ll probably read the second (I haven’t gotten very far with it) but most of the people in it are soooo stupid. (Not in the same way they would actually be stupid.)

    Wisdom skills of Scadians are… divergent… but honestly, there’s a pretty good mix of skills and thoughtfulness. Intrigue for the sake of intrigue, or for power, is the real danger. (To be fair, the author does use this pretty well, but he doesn’t really portray it very well. It’s more like, “Things happen, and then the characters find out they were dumb for not predicting the intrigue.” I mean, geez, way to skip most of the characterization of the intriguers.)

    There’s never a lack of organizers, and there’s never a lack of spontaneous initiatives, in the SCA. Since a lot of camps already have a sort of night watch, and since there are site security volunteers and fire watch volunteers, what would actually happen is that the fire and security guys would definitely have set up a night and day watch. Duh.

    The same thing with the medical situation. The distribution of medical skills and paramedics is pretty high, in real life, because even folks who can’t normally get away on weekends would be present at a “war.” Engineers would be chock-a-block, as would veterans. Tons of people can cook, sew, etc. There would be a fair number of people who have lived in Antarctica, for God’s sake! And probably some people would be members of multiple historical reenactment/fun groups, with skills from other historical periods (and maybe even their stuff, if they were careless packers).

    But yeah, the Goblin Slayer type of grimdark was a bit over the top, to say the least. Didn’t really improve the story. The “Earth humans have more magic than elves” was weird – I mean, first we say human tech is mostly useless, and suddenly human magic is useful?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *Nod* the spread of skills, or lack thereof, was another thing that struck me as not right, “Murder at the War” by Mary Monica Pulver showcased the SCA well, and – heck, they’ve got everything from surgeons to cops!


      1. I was just reading/hearing on YouTube a story from the Tales from Security reddit. This guy worked security for a park with a village and a concert venue. One year, they accidentally scheduled a jazz festival with free wine, at the same time as a black powder reenactors festival. Both had separate areas, but both were using the village.

        So when one of the ladies attending the jazz fest collapsed with a massive heart attack, three muleskinners were instantly there: a local paramedic, a Mt. Sinai cardiologist, and a cardiac surgeon. Security guy calmed down the husband, loaded up the befurred pros in the ambulance, and held their long guns until they came back. 🙂

        That’s the SCA I know, as well as the Civil War and black powder guys.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Y’all are making me slightly interested in isekaing a bunch of reenactors.

    Though, my bunnies are suggesting that in the grim darkness of the far future you could have Stalingrad reenactors.

    So, at least they aren’t providing plot, characters, and isekai worldbuilding with that suggestion. Because the combination of good and bad events that could make the Europeans have the luxury margin and the shift in perspective to be doing that mystifies me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Argh, as soon as I articulate that and finally go to bed, I get a few answers.

      It actually fits nicely into my four Earths isekai scenario.

      If you try to make the AU from now, you need a lot of invention.

      But if the Soviets could have gotten entangled in supernatural evil, they would have. If the Soviets fall after an American clergyman inadvertently exorcises Stalin in the 1950s, the Europeans can start really healing a lot sooner. Totally plausible in one of my four Earths, which is the one where the early protagonists were isekaied from. So, all I need is them to be Isekaied from a re enactment of Stalingrad in the 2020s or 2040s. I know more about those characters, and I know more about why they might be inclined to work together.

      It isn’t a true ‘bunch of re enacters isekaied’, because it is a video game transfer event that does players with very powerful wizard builds, but if my core group of players was also at stalingrad, it is almost as good.

      Plus, I can have a mix of ‘adults of no particular ancestry’ and Japanese teenagers. Re enactment, in a timeline where Japan was given more freedom to come to grips with imperial japanese history, might be a way to socialize disturbed nerdish Japanese kids. Fairly standard sports anime plot arc.

      That highschool club re enactment team did so well that they got to go to Stalingrad. Like a baseball club team going to Koshien. But at Stalingrad, they were going as Hitler Jugand and Deutsch Madchen Bund, instead of IJA irregulars, because the former were technically troops used on the Eastern Front during that war.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. the iue of goblins in ‘The Wondering Inn’is just one of the long plot themes that unfold throughout it all, very slowly, you get examples of it being one way, and then ten chapters later strong example of it being different. and then it moves to something else, and five chapters later a hint that there is much that we, and the MC as well, dont know about goblins, a mystery…

    and also, the entire goblin issue is an overreaching plotline, like one of several things that a series investigates as part of multiple seasons, with many breaks and other issues dealt with between (like someone disappearing in season two, and only appearing in season six, with a search, or hints to the disappearance intermingled with the plots of all the seasons between).

    Erin Solstice is written in a way that combines cringeworthy moments AND stuff that makes you thing may be stupid, but is acceptable as a mistake a normal person from our world who woke up in fantasy would do.

    I suggest trying to read farther until you reach stuff thats NOT about goblins, before making decisions. or try skipping a chapter or to to see if it gets better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When it was just “the character is cringeworthy, but feels _real_”, I stuck it out. But when it became obvious “the _author_ is also cringeworthy, and writing the story for ‘so there!’ gimmicks, _and_ purposely lying about the setting in-story, _and_ the author is trying to promote some dangerously wrong philosophies”, that’s when I walled it.

      If we were merely given “evidence” that could be mistaken as one way, and later got evidence that “oh, that was a mistaken impression, you didn’t see the full details at the time”, that would be one thing, but instead we’re given later data that is directly contradictory to the earlier data, and the earlier data is sufficiently blatant “this _is_ how it is”, then the author’s outright lying to the _readers_, not just hiding stuff from us, or using an unreliable narrator. And when those lies about the setting are done for the purpose of pulling a “so there! you were wrong!” twist on the _readers_ (not just on the character), then it’s a case of the author attacking the readers, which is not the same as the author working _with_ the readers by setting up a character that’s wrong and then giving us the fun of watching the character learn it is wrong.

      If it were merely the character being cringeworthy and naive, well, as I said before, I was actually impressed by how realistic the character felt (despite constantly cringing at the character’s actions and thoughts). But it also became clear that the _author_ agreed with the character, and was trying to promote a similar philosophical view, when the author pulled out his “lying to the readers about the setting” gimmick. I’d been wondering about before then, because too many things were going in ways that just didn’t quite make sense if things were really as we were shown they were (more like the setting was the caricature, rather than the characters in the setting being caricatures), but that part finally confirmed it for me, especially with the end part of that chapter. And that philosophical view is one that’s not just wrong (logically it’s self-contradictory, besides simply being counter to reality), but actively harmful. The view that everyone who does bad things does so _only_ because they have no better option because stronger people are making all other options unavailable (in that case, why are the strongest people doing the bad things that leave the weaker people no other option???), and that everyone would be good and nice and rainbows and such if other people were nice and gave them options (there are plenty of people who prefer to be mean, even when given options).

      Tho, looking at the table of contents, I see I was wrong about how far I went (and the terminology they prefer). I finished reading through 1.20 (so about halfway through the first volume) before I couldn’t go any farther.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, there’s a difference between playing fair with the reader _while_ playing games of unreliable narration, distraction, hiding clues in plain sight, etc., versus lying to the reader and providing nothing but false information.

        It’s even worse if Mary Sue lectures you about how you only believed the writer because you are racist…..

        Liked by 1 person

  10. K, I ran a version of the set-up past my husband– who got to hang out with SCA a bit as a teen– and his best defense was “uh…. maybe they just happened to miss all the guys who know anything?”

    Barring that, his summary was “wow, has this guy ever been to an actual SCA camp?”

    …which, honestly was my impression– but I’ve only been exposed in the last like 5 years, and noticed that the folks who actually had a camp spot were the insane nerds who knew EVERYTHING to rebuild the entire @!$@$#@ world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Does studying that stuff really qualify as insane? Because it is really neat.

      also, kinda depends on how loosely one defines rebuild the entire world. There are a lot of little technical specialties that would have to be reinvented as needed, because human brains can only acquire and store so many skills. (And if you are collecting technical databases, once you’ve solved storage and retrieval you have the problem of how you plan to get documentation of all the obscure little arts that no one has written down properly. I’m pretty sure you run into issues of never hearing about stuff, and not being able to track down the documentation before you reach those, but…)

      Nerd love and nerd rage are excellent inspirations for story telling.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Only vs TV normal, as best I can tell– I don’t think of myself as medically inclined, but according to my husband (whose dad has been an EMT for ~40 years now) I am basically an EMT who doesn’t know the language. I think I’m a ranch mom. Who has a vague idea on how not to kill people.

        Thing is, folks go for the “from the dirt” level growing stuff are kinda crazy, and are crazy into it.

        The logical response to “I’ve been isakaied” would NOT be “go back to sleep.” IT would be “nuke it to the moon.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, you’d be bound to miss something, or have somebody who only knew the theory as a vague background.

        (I’m still stunned by Alma T.C. Boykin’s description of how saltmaking from sea salt got better when they started rinsing the salt in blood! Sheesh! Not something you’d just invent for yourself!)

        But OTOH, you’d have pretty good coverage. Prioritization would be the real battle.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Btw, I am watching a Very Cool 2013 documentary called “Breaking the Maya Code.” It’s pretty open about stuff that people got wrong vs. what they got right in the field, and how come it took so long to decipher the glyph system. (“The Maya were peaceful” was That One Guy, who was in WWI and didn’t want to hear about war. And since he didn’t retire until the 1960’s, and since he was right about so much else and was the leader in the field, nobody really got to argue…. I hate to say it, because groundbreaking guys are great, but the worst thing for any scientific field is to have only one leader.)

    Anyhoo, it turns out that one of the major players was an architecture major named Tatiana Proskouriakoff. She couldn’t find work in her field in the Depression, and she saw a flyer looking for an artist to go down to Piedras Negras and draw Maya stuff. And not surprisingly, an architect has both drawing and drafting skills…. So yeah, it worked out pretty spectacularly.

    I am enjoying this a lot. I knew something of the story, but I love learning more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Holy crud, this documentary is so good. Everybody in Maya stuff seems to be in it. And they point out again and again how weird the backgrounds of people were, and how explosive the developments were, once people could pool all that knowledge more effectively.

      So yeah, real romance of social science stuff.

      Btw, Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer is great stuff too. And it’s interesting to finally hear more about who his students were, because they’re a freaking cornucopia of people who have been pretty important in literary and linguistic studies. I’ve been dissatisfied with most of the biographical stuff except Shippey, and this is a really good addition to Tolkien info.


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