Back matters

Beside one of my bookcases lies the Pile of the Unread, from which I pluck the next book to devour (yes, I still read dead trees). I don’t chomp through them nearly quickly enough. I’ve just finished one, Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson, that’s been in the pile for a year or so.

This isn’t intended as a book review, but the long and short: the ideas in the book are scarily plausible — unsurprising from an author with a PhD in Robotics — but it took a while to hook me, as it flits between apparently unrelated characters a little too speedily for me early on. When the stories began to join up I became much more reluctant to put the book down.

The ending came as a minor surprise. Not for any plot-based reasons, but because I could still see a good twenty pages left in the book (this is the 2012 paperback edition from Simon and Schuster UK). I’m used to stories ending with one or two pages left, usually adverts for other books. Robopocalypse has full-on Extras: sadly no author’s commentary (I’d love to see this for some books), but a two-page Q&A and then an extract of Wilson’s next book, Amped.

I didn’t read the extract — after finishing a book I like to let the story settle rather than plough straight on into something new. I appreciate the tactic from a marketing perspective, even if I chose not to fall for it. Maybe I should adopt it.

The introduction to the extract made me laugh, for no other reason than it seemed to think it was in an ebook or a newspaper. It mentions Wilson’s “exciting new thriller, Amped, publishing in June of this year.” How very odd, I thought, to reference “this year” in a printed book, which might rest in a pile or on a shelf in a bookshop or library for years. If it were me in the publisher’s purple braces I’d write that sentence time-neutrally, to make it relevant and accurate for a reader at any time. Perhaps: “Read on for an extract of Daniel H. Wilson’s next exciting thriller, Amped, published in June 2012”.

It reminds me of the sign in the window of an empty office nearby, headed, “We are moving”. Must be a hell of a job, they’ve been moving for over a year.

I’m such a pedant.

The Q&A has a more unfortunate timing problem. One question starts: “Your book is being adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg…” with an interesting answer. The next question: “When is the film out?” Answer: “It’s slated for Summer 2013”.

Oh dear. I don’t remember a film version appearing last summer. I went to Wikipedia: there’s a page for the book, obviously, with a section about the film adaptation (caution: the page has spoilers). The film had a cast, it had financing, it had a release date of April 2014, but in January 2013 Spielberg shelved it: the script wasn’t ready, and it was too expensive. Will it ever be made? My guess: no.

Forever, that edition of Robopocalypse ends with its excited author promoting a film that in all likelihood will never have existed.

In a sense, that’s culturally fascinating: a snapshot of Wilson’s expectations at time of publication, with a hint of an alternative future that never came to pass.

But mostly I want to tell the publisher how daft it makes them look.

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