One of the best and worst things about having a new book out is waiting for, and then reading, reviews. No matter how phlegmatic a writer is, I suspect they end up bouncing between despair and elation, not to mention all the prior nail-biting anticipation … and mind-numbing terror that nobody will say anything.
It is interesting therefore to see things from the reviewer’s point of view, such as this post at NextRead or here at Speculative Horizons. The comments are also worth looking at if the topic interests you.
From a reader’s point of view, I like a review that tells me only very briefly what the book is about (quite different from telling me what the story is); I like it to tell me why it worked for the reviewer – or why it didn’t. Remarks like “The beginning was a slog” mean nothing until they are followed by “because…”
As a writer I try to learn from well-conceived not-so-good reviews, as well as the good reviews. The reviews I really, really hate are the ones that dislike a book for what it sets out to be. There can be no more pointless review than that!
What do I mean?
A SF writer friend once received a snide, sarcastic review from a book reviewer in a national newspaper. The whole review was just a let’s-poke-fun-at-fantasy- to-make-us-literary-types-feel-better review (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) . That’s probably the most extreme version of what I mean. But there are lesser kinds of irritating that have the same fundamental silliness.
Don’t criticize a paranormal romance for containing romance because all you’re interested in is vampires. Don’t attack volume 1 of an epic fantasy of 800 pages for being long, having too many characters and an unresolved ending. Don’t attack a SF novel for containing some scientific explanation. Don’t attack a writer with a reputation for writing blood and gore when he does exactly that in his next book.
What did you expect, for crying out loud?
If the romance is badly managed, if the epic storyline is dull, if the science is ridiculously wrong or poorly explained or dealt with in massive info-dumps, if the blood and gore is tediously repetitive – and you discuss that, or give examples, then you are writing a proper review.
As a writer, one of the nicest comments are the unexpected ones out of the blue from fellow writers – especially when it’s a writer like Alma Alexander whose writing I admire and whose books I love.
So, readers and writers out there: what kind of reviews and reviewers do you like or hate? And for those of you who don’t read reviews, why not?