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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Charles Stross On Bad Reviews (As In "Stupid" Reviews)

Read this very amusing post and discussion thread on Charlie Stross's eminently readable blog, about stupid reviews.

I know, I know: it's futile to argue with critics. Writers are supposed to develop a thick skin. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, you can't dictate how readers are supposed to read your work, yadda yadda...

...but it still has to be said: Just as there are inferior books and incompetent writers, there are inferior reviews and incompetent critics.

Charlie found some truly telling reader reviews on Amazon.com:
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BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley:
Ashley Lue wrote:
"This was the worst book that I have ever read! The way that Huxley wrote the book was awful. He was writing about something that could never happen to our society. Back then he thought that our world would pretty much go to hell and the book portrayed the world that we should be living in today. Nothing that he said made sense. I don't understand why he would want anyone to live in that weird world that those people had to live in. People should have emotions and actual relationships. No one should be punished like that. I advise you not to read this book, unless you want to fall asleep!! :)"

ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare:
Son of Sammy wrote:

"i just read this book. everybody like always talks about how great it is and everything. but i don't think so. like, it's been done before, right?? soooo cliched. omg."

ThE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck:
Jef4Jesus wrote:
"So, I'm only on page 478 of 619, but I've been disgusted at the amount of profanity. So far I've found more than 500 uses of profanity! On average every page (with relatively big writing, even) has more than one swear. Yikes! I'm never going to read Grapes of Wrath again, and won't be recommending it to anyone. If you don't like profanity, be careful.""

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Read the rest.

If you publish, you'll have to be prepared not just for harsh reviews that you might deserve, but also clueless reviews: critics who barely understand what fiction is.

And of course, any writer will encounter the "Comic Book Guy" know-it-all type of critic who will explain, with great authority, how you should have done the job (but fortunately won't have to do it for you):
"Bellatrys" instructs Peter Jackson, with detailed storyboards, how he ought to have made the LORD OF THE RINGS movies.

You must listen to criticism. But you must also realize that you can only "reach" so many readers. Many of them are forever unreachable, for their own reasons.

2 comments:

A.R.Yngve said...

Critics also use "non sequitur" comparisons.
I have read at least two book reviews which compare a novel to a computer game (in the sense, "it's as bad as a computer game").

So does this mean a great novel is like a... really good car?

A.R.Yngve said...

ADDENDUM: Even "Mad" Mel Gibson gets the "It's A Videogame, Not A [book/movie/other thing than videogame]" cliché thrown at him by reviewers:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,233518,00.html