Literary Deja Vu

I was reminded today of a bit of oddness I encountered a few years ago (see? Contrary to popular opinion, I do have a sense of time outside of the broad categories of 'the other day', 'today', and 'later'.)

I had just picked up the latest in a series by an author, quite respected, who has written many, many novels in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I had stopped following him for a while, and decided to catch up, so I had just finished the next to last book in the series the day before.

The author uses a standard formula for this particular series. One hero, one heroine, one warrior, one monster, and one witch all go on a quest from point A to point B, encountering various obstacles and creatures along the way. Really, it works very well; the books are amusing, raise some interesting philosophical questions, and are usually enjoyable (although the first is still the best of them). Around the middle of the book, during one combat encounter, I had the oddest sense of deja vu.

I knew I had seen this chapter before. I'm not psychic; a quick comparison showed that the author had lifted a chapter, verbatim (as in 'word for word'), from another book in the series, changed the pronouns, tenses, and character names to match the new book's particulars, and dropped it into the new book otherwise unchanged.

I must admit, I wasn't angry; I was mostly astonished. Did his editor just not notice? This was a big publishing house, right around the time that we started hearing about the death of the midlist and the death of the mentor-editor. Perhaps his editor wasn't paying enough attention to him, and this was his way of retaliating. Or maybe he wanted to see if any of his readers were paying attention. Or maybe this one was ghost-written while he was convalescing on the French Riviera (something I hope to be able to afford some day -- the Riviera, not the ghost-writing). Or maybe... there are too many to list, the point is, I have no idea why. A casual google search doesn't turn up much more than a few people complaining the books were too similar. No mentions of the Identical Chapters at all.

I still wonder what was up with that, sometimes, even though I've long since stopped following that particular author. That was actually the last book of his I purchased, now that I think of it.


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