We’ve all run across them – typographical errors in books that unintentionally alter, sometimes comically, the significance of a sentence. As a book reviewer, I read mostly advanced reading copies (also called "uncorrected proofs" for a reason!) and most of those have at least a few typos – some may even have dozens or hundreds. The ARC I’m reading now (which will remain unidentified) had a pretty funny typo. In the story, a psychologist is talking to his patient, a disturbed middle-aged woman, about her females needs. Except the sentence reads: “Women have certain seeds…” That one wayward letter changes the conversation dramatically – instead of exploring sexual repression, we’re suddenly talking about farming.
Last summer when Cherie Priest was finishing up the revisions to her stellar steampunk novel Boneshaker – the first installment in her Clockwork Century saga – she accidentally described the eponymous drill engine as Bonershake numerous times. It may have been a simple Freudian slip but I laughed out loud when I heard about it…. and I’m still laughing today!
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, after the novel was released in the fall, the bookstore at the University of Washington printed several rounds of placards promoting it as Bonkshaker.
I make typing errors all the time while writing reviews, most of which I catch later in the edits. I graduated with honors from the illustrious One Finger Typing School of New York so, over the last 15 years, I’ve come up with some classic oopsies:
• Frank Herbert’s Dune was the first novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula Award. It is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s the beginning of a saga that has sold more copies than any other science fiction series in history. Here’s what I wrote when I reviewed it in 2000: “Originally published in novel form in 1965, Dung is arguably the most famous science fiction novel ever written.”
• When Kat Richardson released her fourth Greywalker novel, Vanished, last year, I loved it, and wrote this: “But here’s why I love Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series: every new novel is better than the last. Her latest, Varnished, is simply a genre-transcendent masterpiece.” Varnished? There was no woodworking whatsoever in that novel!
• In 2006, Jim Grimsley released The Last Green Tree, a “science fantasy” about a planetary struggle between insectoid predators, human revolutionaries and a race of sentient trees that enlist and genetically alter humans to serve as symbionts. It was an interesting read – except that I originally called it The Last Green Tea.
• Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s riveting debut thriller, The Rule of Four – a masterfully complicated mystery, a powerfully touching romance and a cultural account of the Renaissance as well as a bittersweet coming-of-story about Ivy League seniors coming to grips with their imminent place in the “adult” world – would’ve been irrevocably flawed had its title been The Rule of Fur.
So, the next time you run across a typographical error in a novel, try to stem your irritation – the typo may be more entertaining than the original content!
What's the funniest typo you've found (or typed!)?
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