I ended up at this Bloomberg article by Megan McArdle via Martha Well’s Tumblr who got it from Sarah Rees Brennan…OK, enough of provenance.
Among other things the author mentions the discomfort of running into the same authors she’d reviewed and knowing that they remembered that review. Yep, that can be a problem, especially in these days on the internet where every word continues to exist forever. It’s a valid consideration for a reviewer.
But the author then goes on to say this:
I have written some epic snark, and I have written a book, and let me just tell you, there is no comparison. Books are hard. Reported features are hard. Sarcasm and outrage are easy, which is why they tend to peak in adolescence, unlike, say, mastery of nuclear physics.
I also think this is rather true. I’ve seen some epic denunciation of my book which left me more bemused than anything else.
But here’s my take on this particular issue:
Not every book is going to be to my taste. Most of the time when I don’t like a book, it’s just because it didn’t speak to ME. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book. And to be honest, if it doesn’t speak to me, I’m probably not going to finish it. And carrying that through to the next level, I’m not going to spend time reviewing it, either. I just don’t write bad reviews because I can’t be bothered to do so.
The truth is that there are some great books I just don’t like. Let me give you an example that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. A friend of mine in college lent me a copy of Starship Troopers. I plowed my way through it but what I remember about it was that I found it a dead bore. Clearly, millions of people disagree with my assessment. And that’s OK, because I know that the problem was that the book simply didn’t speak to ME. I’m not sure if it was the format or the main character (or because someone told me I HAD to read this book), but I never could develop much of a connection to the book.
The link to the article about reviews was weirdly timely for me because a review of my book popped up today where the reviewer didn’t care for my book. He found it boring and distant (my term there, not his). And at the end, this is what the reviewer said: Good novel that probably just isn’t quite to my tastes.
I have to say that this is an excellent review, even though he didn’t like the book. He’s not snarking at me. He’s not insulting. He’s giving his opinion, telling people who share his tastes not to spend their money on my book because they’re probably going to be disappointed. This is valid information, and I have NO beef with it.
Now I’m not a reviewer, so I don’t have a reader base who are expecting me to review books. I have the luxury of not bothering with books I didn’t like, so I don’t write bad book reviews at all.
Anyhow, I found it an interesting series of linked articles, particularly given the timing…