by Raymond M. Coulombe
I read a lot of e-books from the Kindle Unlimited section. Generally I get good value for my membership.
When reading for pleasure my standards aren’t all that high. I don’t mind a few editing goofs, the occasional plot hole, and whatnot. This is consumer reading, light entertainment, the cotton candy of literature. As long as it’s tasty, I can overlook its low nutritional value.
So there I was, reading some mindless alien invasion tale. I was not expecting high art so I was entertained. Then it happened: goofs so big they kicked me completely out of the story for good.
Here’s the scenario: four people are traveling by sailboat. With all the other humans being abducted and all, they have plenty of choice. Speed is of the essence, so they pick a fast boat. By the way, only one person has any sailing experience at all.
They select a fast schooner and zip down the coast at 25 miles per hour. Okay, I can easily overlook the fact that boat speed is not figured in miles per hour, but in knots. After all, most of the people on board are not sailors, so they’d probably think in miles per hour.
The real howler for me is that there isn’t a single hull schooner out there capable of 25 mph. There are crazy expensive multi-hulled racing boats that have achieved those speeds. There are only a handful of sailboats in the world capable of doing so, and that’s with a large professional crew using cutting edge technology. Oh, and with ideal weather conditions.
If you know nothing about sailboats, maybe 25 mph seems like a reasonable speed. 25 mph feels slow in a car. However, in a 55 foot schooner with an experienced crew, 10 miles per hour would feel crazy fast. Sailing was a big part of that section of the book. Everything was wrong. If you are going to make an activity important, you owe it to the readers to get it at least halfway right.
Even cotton candy reading can’t have chunks of road gravel in it.