Research and the Author: A Fail

I want to review books because it means that I read wider and I am appallingly narrow in my reading matter. I keep getting distracted by romantic novels which I am not reviewing mainly because I keep skipping the steamy bits so I couldn’t do the book justice. For a change, I thought that I’d be a smart alec and have a look at research type books. I thought I could show off a little. Instead I found myself wincing.

I found The History of Spices by The Papyrus Author sort of interesting. There’s a lot of information in there, it’s quite well laid out and logical, but it does read like a paper from a really good High School student. It’s an excellent paper, and would get an A+, and it covers a lot of information. Unfortunately, as it covers from ancient times to the modern day and takes a global perspective, it doesn’t go into much depth. Let’s take one paragraph:

Run Island and the Nutmeg Trade: One of the most notable episodes in the English pursuit of spices was their claim over Run Island in the Bandas. Though smaller and less known than its neighbours, Run Island was rich in nutmeg. This possession became a point of contention between the English and the Dutch.– The History of Spices by The Papyrus Author Chapter Six The Age of Exploration – Quest for the Spice Islands

For someone wanting an overview, this isn’t a bad start. For someone who wants to write books, this is awfully dry. I had a quick look at Wiki, and the battle for Run Island was an epic tale. The island is part of what is now Indonesia and the area was the main source of nutmegs until the nineteenth century. The natives feared the Dutch and so signed a contract with the English to take over instead. The Dutch were incensed and laid siege to Run Island but were held off by 40 Europeans and their native allies for just over four years. When the English leader fell, the English retreated and the Dutch moved in. They slaughtered, enslaved or exiled every man, woman and child on the island, destroyed all the nutmeg trees and allowed cattle to roam free. The Dutch even came back every year to make sure that no-one had tried to resettle the island when they weren’t looking.

That is an epic story! You have to ask – how did it feel to be one of those European defenders, so far from home? How did it feel to be one of the native islanders who tried to make a deal with the least bad invader? How did it feel to watch the Europeans sail away, presumably taking the guns and cannons with them, and knowing that vengeance was approaching? What would have happened if any of the natives had managed to survive that vengeance? How about a pirate base or a curse or lost magical items left behind after that dreadful punishment? That’s where research should lead. I’d recommend it as a resource as I hadn’t even heard of Run Island before this, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a main resource.

I wouldn’t recommend Emperor’s Kitchen: Wholesome Recipes from Ancient Rome by Ava Taylor much at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that the author knows more than me, but I found the whole thing confusing. It felt a little like it was translated from Latin to English by a Martian. There are recipes there that are interesting, but they assume a lot of background knowledge. The formatting is a little crazy as well. It’s a shame. The Feeding the Crew:A One Piece Cookbook by the same author is awesome. It’s based on a manga series called One Piece and there are some great recipes in there. I quite fancy trying some of them.

Perhaps one of the problems I’m facing is that when I’m looking to review a book, I’m looking for recent publications. I suspect that AI may be happening. I also had a quick peek at Fragrant Pages: The Story of Perfumery Through History by Oriental Publishing. Any High School student would be proud to hand it in to an expectant teacher. It suffers from the same defects as The History of Spices. It’s strangely written, not particularly well formatted and irritating. It’s not a bad place to flick through to get places to start research, especially if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and don’t have to pay extra for it or give it shelf room. However it may be worth looking at works that date from before the AI explosion. If you’re looking for a background on perfume, Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel seemed quite fun when I dipped in, and it’s also on Kindle Unlimited – and makes sense.

So looking at recent non-fiction books for research at random was a fail. On the bright side, while I was having a wander around Kindle Unlimited, I spotted a few books about coffee. I’m sure that I can make use of that in my fiction.

2 thoughts on “Research and the Author: A Fail

  1. I tried the same having received a beginners hydroponics system last year as a gift. At least 7 out of 15 in the top twenty Amazon charts for hydroponics and similar gardening (I was restricting myself to KU) seemed to have all been written mostly by ChatGPT. There were sections in many that were even identical (especially when talking about how the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were the first hydroponics) including the diagrams. Thankfully these were KU and therefore no money lost. The 8th one I read was original content and was actually so good I bought it. I find myself hunting for reviews first now, then trying the books. Cuts out the ChatGPT dross (although there is a chap that built himself a “chatGPT book creating engine” that churns out a huge number and some of them are not a bad read)

    1. There are worse things, I suppose. They’re a start if you’re wondering about, I don’t know, cheese in Ancient Greece, and you can look at what they have and then dig deeper. But if you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, those AI books make the haystack a lot bigger.

      Good luck with the hydroponics. Thank you for commenting and I feel your pain.

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