Friday, October 08, 2010

Someone Didn’t Care for One of My Reviews

This guy didn’t think much of my review of The Way of Kings (and a bunch of others). He makes some good points, some that I can agree with and some that I don’t. But, it sucked me into another one of those recurring discussions in the blogosphere about blogging. If you’re curious, join in, if not, I don’t blame you.

19 comments:

Patrick said...

Personally, I think that guy is fishing for hits and comments by generically calling out several of the most established bloggers out there.

Granted some of his concerns are valid but reviewing isn't so simple. With the internets affect on attention spans you can only really get 500-1000 words.

Not to mention the fact that excessive examples and detail often leads to spoilers.

I thought the piece was very vague itself, offering generic complaints (everyone knows FantasyPat's numeric scores are meaningless) and no clear direction on what he thinks would be better.

Neth said...

there could be some of that for sure.

Well, I've given this version of a repeating conversation my 10 minutes of attention. The weekend awaits.

Larry said...

I was amused that he didn't bother to read my review carefully enough. I wonder if he'll notice that my comment is equally nuanced :P

Gabriele C. said...

Larry, nuances are lost on the masses. ;)

SQT said...

I agree with Patrick and think there's some fishing going on here.

It's so easy to pick on a reviewer that liked a book that you didn't. We're not going to agree on everything. But I think it's safe to say we've read enough of your reviews to know you're honest. What else is there really?

Adam Whitehead said...

I feel I got off lightly compared to others, but it does raise an interesting point on length of reviews. My blog originally began as a place to coallate my reviews in other venues, most notably Amazon, hence why almost all of my reviews are below the 1,000 word mark (Amazon.co.uk used to strictly not post reviews above that, although now they seem more relaxed about it).

Whilst that's enough to get a decent amount of info in, it's not enough to critically dissect the book in the manner that say Larry does. At one time I was considering longer critical essay re-assessments of books, especially ones where I felt my opinion had changed over time since the original review but then ran into the time management issue.

The notion mentioned elsewhere that reviews are affected by the book being an ARC or not is an interesting one and may be worth looking at more closely. Most of my reviews this year have been of books I bought rather than ARCs, and I wonder if the reward of the financial investment makes me more likely to give a good review (certainly I've given a lot of high marks this year, although this has been a stellar year for quality books). Things worth thinking about, certainly.

Val said...

So based on four reviews that don't particularly agree with each other and certainly are not all rave reviews he decides to spend $25 and, when the book fails to live up to his expectations, he blames this on the reviewers? I certainly hope he doesn't read Amazon reviews, before you know it he'll end up reading Terry Goodkind :P

Grasping for the Wind said...

Did this guy actually read my review? I mean, I was making such comparisons because I think Sanderson creates systems well, just like the authors I mentioned.

I have liked no epic fantasist in a long time as much as I like Sanderson, and my review reflects that. Of course I'm going to be superlative!

Our tastes are probably different, leading to differences of opinion.

But if one has an opinion about something, one should take issue with the book, not the reviewers.

I'm not a literary critic, just a guy who likes books, and my reviews reflect that. If you want me to be a literary critic, would you give me a salary so I can spend a more appropriate amount of time reading books and writing reviews?

Besides, there must have been a million reviews of this well-publicized novel. Why am I being taken to task?

K.C. Shaw said...

I saw that earlier (seems like everyone in the bookblogger world has tweeted about it) and posted a few minutes ago. I think he's looking for one particular type of review and thinks that's the only kind that's a "real" review. That's okay for him if that's what he wants, but calling other reviewers out because he thinks they're doin it rong is just stupid--or at least it just makes him look like he's fishing for attention.

Joe Sherry said...

Sigh.

Must we?

Forget attention spans what reviewers / bloggers "should do" in a review. We all bring something different to the table, read for different reasons, and present different perspectives when we review.

I expect different things from Larry, Adam, Pat, John, and Ken (did I miss anyone?).

Yes, the fan first thing that Jonathan McCalmont mentioned is a valid point, but another one is that we're not all looking to do the deep analysis of criticism. I can't necessarily shut off my fan-brain when I'm reading Wheel of Time or Shadow Unit, so if I talk about it - I'm probably inclined to dismiss valid critique points because I didn't see them.

That's why if you're looking to buy books based on reviews (any reviews), get a general consensus. And get it from folks you've come to trust for different reasons.

Joe Sherry said...

Whoops - wasn't done.

Adam: Your point about the financial investment of a book is interesting, but I think what is more likely is that when you are spending your own money you are inclined to purchase stuff you think you'll more than just "like".

I buy books from the authors I love, and sometimes I take a risk on stuff that I'm not so sure about - but those are more often library grabs. When I purchased Cherie Priest's Boneshaker last year, I felt confident I was going to love it. Wouldn't have spent the money if I didn't. I'm picky with my dollars.

Send me a stack of review books - eh, I'll get waaaay more chaff.

Jason said...

I know he's not talking about my blog--which I only started recently, and which is NOT geared solely toward literary reviews ... I am myself an aspiring author and spend more time writing my own book than reading others--but I personally found the post pretentious and offensive. As an avid reader of several blogs he mentioned, I've come to enjoy the more "casual" reviewing style of Pat, Ken, Adam et al.

The intent of a review, IMHO, should be to provide an OPINION of a novel, be it good or bad, so that readers can get a sense of whether or not they might enjoy said book, not break down the use of language and metaphor--though I often do this since I'm a writer myself--or write a thesis on the philosophical ramifications of a piece of speculative fiction. C'mon!

To date, I've written three book reviews on my site along with one theater review. It's something I do as a hobby and because, as I'm sure is the case with many of the established bloggers, I'm a fan ... as well as an aspiring professional. (I can't wait for the day that Ken and Pat review one of MY novels--though I guess I need to hurry if Pat is contemplating an end to his blog!--and I'd be honored if it were a mere 1000 word SPOILER FREE opinion of my contribution to the fantasy world.)

I guess I'm just not inclined to like anyone who openly flaunts a "holier than thou" attitude, especially about something people do out of love for speculative fiction, not out of any obligation to the authors who produce it. If he didn't like "The Way of Kings," he's certainly entitled to his opinion, but to drag other reviewers under the bus because their reviews don't meet HIS expectations is crass and uncalled for.

Just my 2 cents. And to the good folks over at OF Blog of the Fallen, if you read this, please forgive me for copying your blog title! I named my own blog the "Blog of the Fallen" in reference to my own novel, the Fallen referring to a certain character in the story. I hadn't read your blog at the time, but I do now! :)

Larry said...

Ha! I didn't know about that, but there are no worries, since I changed the blog's name to "The OF Blog," which is how I've referred to it for most of its history. :D

The Evil Hat said...

I agree completely with Eric (from the linked comment thread). In my opinion, a review should try and understand the text in a way that a fan recommendation need not. I read reviews for different reasons. If I'm hesitant about a purchase, I'll go to certain reviewers (Pat, Wert) who will give me the groundwork to see if I'm interested. If, however, I want to think about what I've read, if I want a second opinion that I can try and relate to my own, if I want to try and get to the bottom of why I really felt about the text how I did, those are not the reviewers that I go to. Perhaps more people are interested in the quality of the book rather than what it is saying, and that's fine. For those interested in the second category, however, it's important to find like minded sites when it comes to reviewing priorities.

As for linking the text into a wider genre, that I'm more ambivalent about. It can be done to great effect, of course, but I don't think it's necessary for an individual review. If it's needed to understand or delve into the novel, then by all means do it. Shallow comparisons to the genre's popular authors, however, are a waste of everyone's time.

The one part of all of those I've got to disagree on is the always present, though usually in the background, allegations of fake enthusiasm, or bloggers serving as unofficial advertisers, that is bandied about when free books come into play. Now, I have never received a free book from a publisher, and perhaps I'll grow a second head, buy six hundred dollars of Tor stock, and write a glowing review complete with a numerical score and a full plot summary, but somehow I don't think that's going to happen. Bloggers are fans first, yes, but just because someone's a fan doesn't mean they've signed over their critical thinking abilities. The depth a review goes into has nothing to do with its honesty, and it's debatable whether it has anything to do with its quality. Wert, for instance, is not to my taste in reviewers, for the most part, and yet I would never dare call his work sub par; it's exemplary in both its consistency, its knowledge of genre, and in how much it encompasses.

Jason: I know this probably isn't what you're saying, but it is an attitude that I've seen before. Just because someone's interested in a more in-depth critique doesn't make them "holier than thou" does it? I don't see what's wrong in looking for something deeper than just an opinion in a speculative fiction novel, and there seems little need to make a camp of "opinions" and one of "breakdown[s] of language and metaphors," as the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Neth said...

wow, everyone seems to be jonesing for discussion on reviewing. I'll respond more fully in the next day or two - my son's 3rd birthday is taking priority this weekend.

Bill said...

Well, I left a comment there, and I'll leave one here, in the interest of equity.

I think this was a tempest in a teacup, and in poor taste (for him).

Just do what you do, and let the traffic speak for itself. People will vote with their subscriptions and their page views.

I think it's going too far to "review the reviewers" - the publishers can do that, as far as I'm concerned - and I think the online reviewing circle is a bit too clique-y to begin with. Stuff like this only makes it worse.

Clearly, whether you are great or you suck, the popularity of your blog, Ken, speaks for itself.

Continued luck to you and yours. Peace.

Neth said...

interesting, I posted a response over at that blog and was going to repeat it here and just leave it at that. Either the comment didn't take or it was deleted, so that response is lost to the ages. Oh well, most of us seem to be in agreement of one way or another.

I think that's enough for me on this - it has been an interesting discussion as much as anything.

Though Adam, I've never really noticed a difference in the way I review books I've purchased versus received from publishers. The only difference is that with books I receive, I'm more likely to read something that I may not have chosen, so the scores may be a bit lower at times.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The discussion here - and over at his blog - is interesting and amusing.
I trust the reviews of genuine fans first. Do I sometimes disagree after reading the book? Sure, but complaining about differences in opinion and making assumptions on motives or methods is a never ending rant.
To keep it simple - get over it, dude!
And Larry, let loose the squirrel army!

Jonah said...

Gingerly sticks toe in water:
Wow - I left for a weekend trip with a blog that had a loyal readership of my wife & came back to find a bit of a tempest in a teacup.
Had I expected the attention I got, I might have said a few things differently - certainly there's more rhetorical posturing in the post than is really necessary. But really, this started as an exercise to try to figure out why I have such a negative reaction to most reviews out there. I'd hope it doesn't go much further (and that someday I have a blog worthy of the attention I just got).
Neth - thanks for the publicity (I guess).

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