R. Malcolm Dickson,
(1994; 1stbooks, 2001)

1st Books is a new kind of publishing venture. Printing on demand, they can afford to give a chance to authors who might have been ignored by traditional publishing houses.

And it would seem they print anything, even high school-level manuscripts like Malcolm Dickson's Europa. Without benefit of editing.

There's so much wrong with Europa that a good harsh editing would have repaired. There are the odd quotations, the bizarre hyphenations that send the book back to the 19th century, the teeming overabundance of adverbs. Verb tenses leap about with no warning, commas and apostrophes fall down on the job, and dialogue is segmented, clunky and desperate to claim its speaker.

But forcing an editor through the labyrinth of bad writing here still wouldn't have saved the plot. Europa seems patterned along an old episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits -- one of the dull ones that has you predicting every plot development miles in advance and then bludgeons your skull in with a heavy moral. The cast of Hero, Love Interest and A Bunch of Extras to Use as Cannon Fodder fight through a drawn-out morality play, ending with a battle in cyberspace -- using, of course, cyber-helmets. Not that this book relies on clumsy science-fiction cliches.

I wish luck to publishing ventures like 1st Books. The current way of publishing and distributing books could use some change, and print on demand might be the answer. But there are reasons why so many manuscripts never get a chance from traditional publishers, and Europa displays several of them.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 15 February 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.