Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This reviewer is out to lunch.

Annoyances and aberrations! Bah! As we all know, life does not always cooperate with what we want. I, for one, would like to turn out a book review every month. Hmm...while I'm at it, I'd also like to finish my book edits, drop The Veil of a Warrior on a publisher's desk to be snagged up, run out the door and sell millions of copies, pay off my mortgage with the massive advance and have oodles of spare money and time.

But, uh, getting back to reality (NOOOOO!), my reviews are lacking. I've been trying, but my luck in choosing has been out to lunch.

I have in my hands two books that I thought were surefire gold: Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

On a side note: Just prior to these I read and finished Ben Bova's The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells. While a good read, and one that I may review one day, I think I need to go through it again to figure out what I learned and why. (And that's just hard work.)

I won't blame Bova for my brain working in slow-mo, but I may turn a half-raised eye upon the other two.

When I read a book—now that I've taken the Path of the Writer—I earnestly try and figure out what I like and don't like about each and every book. Each book becomes a learning experience.

Not a total learning experience—I do want to ENJOY my books still.

But I try, and writing the review at the end helps. However, instead of being easier to review a book I can't finish, I think it becomes harder. Case in point: I'm looking at these two books and wondering what I might learn from finishing them—if I can—and I'm wondering how I can even approach writing a solid review.

I have reason to cringe. When I read and reviewed The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton, it was one of those trying times we all try to avoid. As a fellow writer, the last thing I wanted to do was call out Newton's hard work as something I could not enjoy. As a learning writer, I wanted desperately to figure out what didn't work for me and why.

And it was work. Real nail-biting, tough-to-swallow work. I'm just not interested in shredding someone's pride and joy, so I put forth an honest critique that delves as deep as I can manage.

I have some initial thoughts to share on why both The Windup Girl and Vampire Empire fail to grab me, check back tomorrow to see if you agree.

...or if you disagree: bring your pitchforks, clubs, and flame war rhetoric.


  1. I've seen the following quote floating around recently, which is supposedly based on an old soviet peasant joke.

    "My neighbor has a cow and I have none, I want his cow to die."

    So many on the web spend way too much effort trying to destroy the hard work of others. But, this is not the same thing as writing about why you personally did not like something and what you learned. Even by your acknowledgment of apprehension over writing a negative review, you distance yourself from those spewers of bile.

    So write on.

  2. I think it's wise to read each book as a learning experience. It is the best tool we have. The thing I try to remember is taste is individual; what doesn't work for one may do wonders for another. There are plenty of NYT best sellers I don't care for. There are plenty of books considered failures that I love. I guess that's the nature of the business.

  3. Thanks for commenting!

    Steve: Definitely. Vomiting thousands of words upon your own private word processor in the pursuit of writing a novel is great, but we (the public) certainly don't need to see all of those, and we also don't need to see hate-filled rhetoric that passes for commentary from some people.

    When I went to college for art, we did critiques. Perhaps that has just stuck in my mind. The idea is to find what is good and bad and why in each piece of art—writing or otherwise.

    Paul: Hear, hear! Yes!

    And that is the real kicker for when you submit to publishers/agents. It's not how good your work is, but how persistent you are that you finally find someone that will take a shining to your randomly congealed words and do something productive with them.

    Ok, fine, I suppose having them decently edited and in a more-or-less cohesive fashion is necessary. But, then...I wonder.


Thanks for reading, now tell me what you think.