(Warning: There will be cussing and harsh language.)
I have come to the realization that I’m not good at reviewing books, at least not in the way book reviews are typically done. I look at too many things that are irrelevant to other readers. I cannot help that. My opinion of a novel (or short story) is always affected by things like comprehensible grammar (which doesn’t have to be the same as correct grammar), correct spelling (mana, not manna!), and punctuation that doesn’t make my eyes bleed (a colon where there should be no punctuation at all is like a speed bump in the middle of a highway). My opinion of a novel (or short story) is always affected by things like the characters not acting out of character without some sort of explanation. My opinion of a novel (or short story) is always affected by the writing being free of factual errors and misinterpretations on the part of the author.
I’m not good at giving a synopsis of a novel without giving my opinion of that novel in the process. A synopsis doesn’t say a damn thing about the quality of the writing, etc. I don’t want to read “This is the basic premise of the book but I’ll leave you to find out for yourself if the real thing is any good or even if the basic premise is fulfilled in the novel.” I don’t want to write a review of that sort, either.
I’ve read some excellent indie-published fiction lately. I’ve read some that were less than absolutely brilliant in the way the words were strung together, or had a fairly predictable plot, but were nevertheless good, enjoyable, solidly written stories that didn’t leave me feeling as if I’d just wasted a few hours of my life and ought to apologize to the electrons that were forced to form the digital edition of the book on my Kindle. I’ve also read some that were a waste of electrons to have made into an e-book.
It’s like this:
I have a pretty damn eclectic knowledge base, a result of my “misspent youth.” I read too much, and I acquire information without meaning to, and to make matters worse, I put those bits of information together to make more bits of information. I can overlook occasional typos in a book, because that sort of thing always happens, and I see nothing wrong with the use of the element Handwavium in instances where precise scientific explanation is neither necessary nor desirable. But if you write something that says “Earth is the only planet in the galaxy”– full stop, no qualifiers such as following that with “that we know is home to intelligent life” — I’ll call you on that bullshit. Even if I never mention your name or the title of your crappy, making-SF-look-bad story. (How many hundreds of exoplanets have been found so far? And it’s not as if they were a new thing, or known about only by a few astronomers, back when that story was written.) I like science fiction that is about the people and the events more than about the science itself, because I have this weird notion that stories are about people going places and doing stuff and learning things, but still, if you cannot get it at least plausible, leave it out rather than get it obviously wrong. Readers, clever life-forms that we are, are gonna notice any overwhelming stoopidness in the writing. And worse than major mistakes because you don’t know any better are major mistakes because you don’t respect your craft, or your audience, enough to look something up every once in a while. Or, y’know, at least run some word processing program’s spell check over your manuscript before you throw it up on Amazon or wherever for the whole world to see.
Clearly, I cannot be trusted to give my opinion without ever saying anything negative.
Maybe I should stick to giving books however many stars as a rating, but keeping the details/”review” to blog posts. That way, anyone who doesn’t mind the occasional “I liked these things about this novel, but this part here wasn’t so good” can come here and read about what I really think, but if someone believes that all authors — especially indie authors (and their clones) — ought to never find fault with anything another author writes, they can avoid seeing my evil, arrogant negativity and insistence on goddamn end punctuation in dialogue.