Why I don’t trust reviews.

Standard

Not the very good ones and the very bad ones, anyway.

 

I read two books in the past month that were somewhat of a surprise to me. One was Hard Contact, a Star Wars EU novel by Karen Traviss. People kept complaining about a) the language being too military and impossible to understand, and b) not “getting” the plot, as in, they literally didn’t understand the plot. In a pretty straight-forward action novel. It’s depressing to read a review that says “Those guys are clones of the guy who captured Han Solo for Jabba!”. Just… no. You can critique away and rip the book apart for good reasons, I don’t care, but please get your facts right. And maybe pay attention to the story you’re reading. As you’re supposed to do when reading a book. That’ll help.

For an EU novel, Hard Contact is actually really good. Not the best stuff out there, but a decent read (if you don’t mind 35% ads in the Kindle edition. For the love of god, why?!). Anyways, that was the nice surprise.

 

The not-so-nice one was Evensong by Krista Walsh. I heard nothing but praise about it, but boy, was that book a letdown. Maybe precisely because of all the praise and my subsequently high expectations, I don’t know. But even so,  the book just didn’t live up to any kind of expectations. Unlikeable characters, a plot full of holes and a world that didn’t make sense. Yet it didn’t have even one review below four stars on any Amazon incarnation. I don’t understand. Nothing that irked me so, SO much while I read it was even mentioned in the reviews. Sure, it’s always a matter of personal preference, but I thought at least someone would notice blatant mistakes in the in-universe logic? Like the whole point of getting The Author into his book (to change the story) literally falling apart when people start realising he might not be that omnipotent after all? But then stick to the plan anyway, and then he suddenly is The Creator and God of All? When everything pointed to “nope, he’s not, he’s just a mediocre scribbler who doesn’t even know how big the country is he himself supposedly created“. I fail to see how this makes sense, in-universe or outside.

This is why I usually don’t trust praise. But I guess the whole “author gets sucked into his world” thing sort of lured me in. I wish it hadn’t. Meh.

 

That’s also why I rarely do very good or very bad reviews of my own. It doesn’t help anyone, and it gives a skewed picture of the product in question. Five stars are for the stuff that makes the “all-time favourite” list; and that’s not much. One star is for the things that not only are bad (or mediocre at best), but also have a generally unappealing package (like the fucked-up chronology of the Clone Wars episodes on the blurays, or the 35% ads and excerpts in Hard Contact’s Kindle version). Those two sets of criteria seldom apply (usually there’s at least something saving the thing in question), so I usually don’t consult the praise and the hate, either. If that’s possible. It’s when it’s not that I get most often disappointed.

 

 

-Ricarda

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2 responses »

  1. Sorry you didn’t enjoy Evensong– I’m one of the guilty parties who adored it. I didn’t think the point in the end was that the author actually was God, and I’m waiting for the rest of the trilogy to see how it all pans out (my guess is that he’s something in between scribe and God). I give a book a high star rating if I can’t put it down, because that’s unusual for me (I’ve put down a lot of popular books and never returned to them). I think it’s fine to disagree on books, I just don’t want you to think my review was purposely misleading. :)

    I’ve had the same experience, though. I find it happens especially with indie authors whose friends are eager to help out with a good review. I think that’s great if they’re honest, but I’ve been disappointed several times. Books that get reviews saying that they’re “better than the Hunger Games” end up not even having a full story in them. Hot romances that I see reviewed positively EVERYWHERE have wooden characters and completely unbelievable character motivations, so much so that I can’t even finish. 5* reviewed books are horrible, and the author ends up pulling, revising, and re-publishing (and I don’t bother re-reading). Other highly-rated books need serious editing and proofreading.

    Maybe I am part of the problem in that I don’t leave bad reviews. I’m all too happy to leave positive ones for books I love, but if something falls flat I don’t usually bother. There’s a little fear of retaliation there, too. I don’t want to leave bad reviews when I’m planning to publish and don’t want hard feelings, even if I’m being totally honest. And I don’t review books I don’t finish. I REALLY wish Goodreads had a way to mark a book as DNF, because I hate leaving them in my “currently reading” shelf.

    Pardon my ignorance, but what’s EU?

    • Actually, I have absolutely no clue what the point was, so maybe that was party of why I didn’t enjoy Evensong – I still don’t really know what it all was for. And it seemed like an ending-ending, not a mid.series ending, so it didn’t *feel* like there was anything else to come.
      I guess it’s just one of those books I can’t feel anything but “meh” about. i have a few of those, most of them actually Top 10 books of some sort…

      And EU is the Expanded Universe. All things Star Wars, like books, comics, video games and stuff. A lot of it is… uh… subpar, but there are some gems to be found.

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