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The Deadly Sin Of Not Giving A Book A Five Star Rating

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment

There are seven commonly recognized deadly sins.  They include wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.  But there is also an eighth deadly sin so cardinal that is often over looked.  That sin is daring to say that a book is not “5 star” quality.

Yep, it is true.  Honesty is not looked upon kindly in the world of book reviews.  In that world, glowing, five star praise painting every novel written as the next best thing since Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein or C.S. Lewis put pen to paper is the order of the day.  If you give a hedged four-star review while heaping praise, you can usually avoid most ofthe inevitable aftermath.  But, dare to give a book three-stars or less and you better be ready for scorn to be heaped upon you and the personal attacks to ensue.

When I said that Ian Irvine’s latest fantasy novel Vengeance, The Tainted Realm Vol 1 was only worth three-stars saying it read “like I was in the middle of a Tuesday night AD&D session” and it was not for anyone with “discriminating tastes in epic fantasy” it was on.  I received angry emails calling me a “worthless piece of s**t” and accusing me of “being jealous that I could never write such a wonderfully contrived novel as Mr. Irvine does time and time again.”  Well, excuse me for having an opinion.  Excuse me for thinking the book was mediocre.

Even when I recently posted my review of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which I gave four out of five stars, I was not immune from attacks.  While I recommended the book, I also said that some things disappointed me such as the “simplistic prose”, its predictability and the fact that the basic premise was not very original even if the story details themselves were.  That caused fans of the book to unleash upon me because I did not think it was worthy of five star praise like they did.  Again, sorry for having an opinion that you did not like I suppose.  Please note that I did give it four stars.  Geesh!

It is an odd thing to experience, especially as an aspiring writer seeking publication.  One person upset with my review of The Hunger Games whined at me in a long, meandering email, “How would you like it if someone called something you wrote ‘simplistic and predictable’ and did not give it five stars?”  Well, honestly, as long as they are being honest and not vindictive or just a generally ignorant ass?  Then I do not care.  Opinions are, as they say, like butt holes.  Everyone has them.

I’m not one to toss around five-star ratings for anything, least of all books.  I’ve only ever thought that three books I have ever read deserved such an honor: Bram Stokers’s Dracula, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.  Sorry.  That’s my opinion.  Others have come close, but none has quite hit those heights.

I’m honest.  If you do not like it, don’t visit my site any more.  It is still a free country.

Actually, I Get Really Scared When People Say Things Like This About My Work

May 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Megan, one of my reviewers, has sent me a response to questions I asked of her after she finishing reading the last draft of my novel. She has been one of my best sources for critique, giving both praise and scorn when necessary. She’s been reviewing my drafts for some time now and she has seen both the original, very rough draft and the most recent one. I was very pleased when she opted to rank where my book in comparison to other novels she has read.

Megan writes:

Ok, I’ve read about 20 books in the fiction/fantasy genres over the last two years. Here is how I would the top fifteen in my opinion:

1. The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower Vol 7)
2. The Hunger Games
3. The Mistborn Trilogy
4. Under the Darkened Moon
5. Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations Vol 1)
6. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
7. Paladin of Souls
8. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Day 1)
9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
10. The Girl Who Played with Fire
11. Catching Fire
12. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
13. Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time)
14. A Game of Thrones (A Song Of Fire And Ice Vol 1)
15. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest

I think with a little bit of polishing you have a great story here!  The story might be a little weak in places, but honestly what novel isn’t? However, in terms of the genre that it is in I found it rather well contrived and sufficient unique and pleasing. I think you did something that few authors can do these days and that is tell a story, a complete story in a single book.  Frankly I am so sick of everything being a trilogy!  Good luck over coming the stigma of being an unpublished author which I think is going to be your biggest hurdle with this book.

I appreciate this reviewer’s high marks for my story. I was kind of taken aback by it. I mean, most people who have been reviewing the book have a lot of positive things to say about it, but for it to be ranked in someone’s mind with some widely acclaimed and read novels really gives me hope that I have actually done a good job.

Thanks Megan for the praise.  But it still scares the crap out of me when you say things like this.  Someone once warned me that what literary agents and publishers like is often not the same as what people who read like.

Book Review: The Lost Gate By Orson Scott Card

March 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

The Lost Gate is a fantasy novel where the old gods of history were really just mages, albeit powerful mages, who had come to Earth through Great Gates. Here they ruled over the people and often using them to fight wars and settle grudges on their behalf. However, so the Lost Gate’s story goes, years ago a Loki closed all the Great Gates and stranded the once gods here where their powers have been slowly waning. Great premise. That is why I picked this book up and wanted to read it.

The main story centers around Danny, a descendant of the Norse gods, living in seclusion with his family in the backwoods of Virginia. Danny supposedly has no talents at all, making him not much more than a common human and the scorn of the other members of his family who exhibit various skills that are a shadow to what the former gods could accomplish. Then Danny discovers a secret. That secret is that he really is mage. And not just any mage, but a Gate Mage; a Gate Father who is capable of creating gates to anywhere he wants to travel including the original home world of their people. The problem? Gate Mages are to be killed on sight. The story explains why this is and if you want to know why, then go ahead and read it. Danny is sent into self-exile to keep from being killed.

Overall the prose is good. There are many relevant scenes that focus on a young boy coping with both being a young boy and a powerful mage as well as the moral dilemmas his powers pose. The story is well told from those aspects. The problem with this book was that it suffered from a lack of action. The entire book reads almost as if it were a manual designed how to instruct Gate Mages in honing their talents. The book is rife with exposition of Danny learning how to make, control, move, lock, unlock and even finally “spin” a Great Gate. All this drags on drearily from the point where he realizes this is his power to the “climax” at the end. I use the word “climax” generously because what the ending really felt like was that Mr. Card had gotten to a point where he simply wanted to stop the story and needed to wrap things up quickly. If you blinked you would miss the “climax” because it was so short and completed in barely any time. Part of this, I think, comes from the point that Danny is simply too powerful and the system of magic Mr. Card created for this story made it impossible for Danny to not be able to end any conflict, literally, with a thought. Sure, he frets about not being able to do that, but in reality he is able to and finds a way to.

The best part of this story, I think, was not the story of Danny at all. It was the story of Wad back on the home world of the mages. But Wad’s story, while integral and intriguing, was a side story that was rushed through. The ending to Wad’s tale in this book was much more climatic than Danny’s and left me scratching my head as to why I felt cheated in being told so much about this Danny kid while Wad’s side of the story seemed like an afterthought.

Orson Scott Card promises the next book in this series and perhaps it will be better. But I don’t know that I will be reading it unless I am really convinced that the dearth of action which made The Lost Gate barely a tolerable read is corrected.

I give The Lost Gate an average rating of three out of five stars.