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UK freelance journalist and author Sean McManus

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Re-reading University of Death

23 September 2008

Book cover: University of DeathI've just finished reading 'University of Death'. After it was published, I left it alone for a while. To be honest, I'd spent so long editing and writing it, that there were bits I could virtually recite by heart. I didn't want to read it.

But over the last couple of weeks I re-read it, from the start to the end. The point of reading it again was to pick up any errors that need fixing, and I found a few including one obvious counting error. While I will be fixing those errors for subsequent copies, I won't be tampering with editing any copy now, however tempting it is to refine the odd sentence.

Given that so much time has passed since I wrote it, the experience was as close as I can get to that of a real reader. It was always going to be a bit weird, though, because as I read the book, part of me knew that I'd written it. From my limited experience, reading my own novel felt like watching myself on TV - I came up to a bit that made me feel uncomfortable, and I would sort of squint through my fingers at it, even though I knew loads of other people had already seen it.

I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten. Some of my favourite bits this time around were the passages I couldn't remember writing, perhaps because they were the bits that I had read less during development and so had less chance to grow tired of. Maybe also because they were the bits that had been polished less, and so were a bit more energetic.

Having some distance from the book changed my perception on it. The bits I was worried might be weak stood up surprisingly well. The bits that were my favourite at the time of writing were fine, but not consistently among the strongest sections.

I think there are some Easter eggs in there for people who re-read it. Some of the central relationships seem different second time around when you know how the story ends. There are a few continuity gags (Marian misinterpreting band names, how Silent But Violent is described) and there are some jokes that people have told me they missed first time around (why the woman working in Starbucks was so grumpy, who Marian sent to chase Simon and Fred out of the building). They're not always set up as proper jokes, but I'm pleased that I didn't draw too much attention to them and just left them as amusing discoveries.

As a whole, I was pleased with how the story was structured and how it all came together at the end. I enjoyed the journey that the characters took me on. It was like visiting old friends.

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