Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Automat / Cristina Martin

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Thriller / Crime

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Cristina Martin was born in Miami, Florida. She earned a degree in Criminal Justice from Florida International University, then moved to New York where she began a career in investigations for the city.


Horace Gray lives a mundane life. He hates his job and is bullied by his wife. Everything is routine. Until the day he sees a pair of beautiful eyes staring back at him through the slot of an automat…


This was an incredibly frustrating story. Horace Gray is a very dull man. He lives a very dull life. His wife hates him, there are shades of domestic abuse around their relationship. He has an awful job. Then one day a pair of eyes change his life and he obsesses about them. That’s about the sum of The Automat really. It’s tedious and I struggle to think of a single redeeming feature.

Unfortunately the author makes several fundamental and huge mistakes. In an effort to demonstrate how dull his life is the story is dull – we don’t need to see everything he does to understand this, but nevertheless this is precisely what happens. The same with Horace’s character, there is nothing likeable about him. He’s an utter wimp. Once he begins to obsess about the girl at the automat this becomes excessive too.

Then there are the other characters. The wife is brutal to the extreme, far too much. Another example, Detective Bones, a homicide detective who apologises for his surname and says how inappropriate it is – yes really. I very quickly had no affinity for the cast at all (it’s worth noting it took 13% into the book to learn he’s called Horace and 18% before his surname is revealed which doesn’t help either).

Also the author will tell you several times what the character is doing, e.g.:

I walked closer to the automat and its old neon sign grew larger as I drew nearer to it. It flickered as I walked closer and closer.

It happens over and over. Then there’s an incredibly high use of repeat words within sentences and paragraphs. Here are a couple of examples:

On this unusual day I went to the coffee station to get a cup of coffee and then to the window to get my coffee cake. I inserted the coins in the slot and watched as the window opened. I reached into the window to get my coffee cake as usual, but when I did the back door opened. What was unusual…

I went downstairs and turned on the television, but it was hard for me to watch the television with my wife mixing drinks in front of the television. She would stand there, obstructing my view to the television, mixing up a gin and tonic…

This happens many times.

The dialogue is also poor and stilted. It just sounds like nothing anyone would say. Finally, there’s no sense of place. I couldn’t tell it was in New York, I only learnt this from the author’s bio.

All in all a tiresome, frustrating novel that I struggled to see the point of or care what happened to anyone.


Nothing of consequence.

Format/Typo Issues:

Many paragraphs in bold.

Rating: * One Star


Anonymous said...

Keith Nixon has a bad habit of ignoring the advice most mothers give children in heir youth. To wit, "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all." Mr. Nixon seems to revel in dealing out bad reviews. Whether deserved or not, he enjoys taking the review one step further into borderline character assassination, which is downright ride and disrespectful. Constructive criticism is one thing, outright hate is another. Recently I had the opportunity to read some of Mr. Nixon's work. After reviewing a few chapters, I can see where the hate and jealousy originate. He doesn't like others whose writing skills exceeds his own. I would suggest to Mr. Hixon that he concentrate more on his own craft that tearing apart the work of others, especially when said tearing apart is undeserved and unwarranted.

Unknown said...

Really, Karen? You think the "Pals" should only write reviews for books they enjoyed? That seems to me the antithesis of a review.
I review books on this site, and just like Keith, I try hard to find stories that I can love reading--stories that I can write positive words about. But sometimes I fail to pick a gem. And sometimes, I pick a story that isn’t good at all. Sadly, not all the stories submitted to the site are well written.
What use would the site be if we didn’t tell it like we see it?
The views of the Pals are their own—that’s clearly stated. Now, if you think Keith is wrong about “The Automat.” If you think this work is of high quality, I suggest you go ahead and write a positive review. But please be sure to support it with a number of quotes from the text (as Keith has). Back up your findings.
I read all of Keith's reviews. If he had any inclination to be disrespectful or hateful, I would have noticed and commented. But he hasn't. And I'm just one of the reviewers. Al would never allow a biased reviewer to contribute to his site. That's why his site is respected.
Good books are a pleasure to read, and their reviews are a delight to write. The most “inter-office” emails I have with Al are associated with stories that I’m writing a negative review about. I hate to write negative words, and want to be sure they’re warranted, and so does Al, and so do all the Pals. Including Keith.
The only non-constructive criticism I see here is yours. If you think you know what Keith’s mom told him when he was younger—well, that’s an unforgivable POV slip. And if you don’t enjoy Keith’s writing, what the hell has that got to do with “The Automat”?
But if you’re considering writing a negative review of anyone’s work. Firstly, make sure you read the whole novel, and secondly, be sure to back up you opinion as Keith has done with his review of “The Automat”. Or no one will take your words seriously.