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Reviewers vs Honesty


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159 replies to this topic

#1 cseresz.reborn

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:32 AM

Spoiler


Is there any SFF blogger/site like this?

01. week - Book 01 This book is utterly bad. Don't waste your money!
02. week - Book 02 I could not get past page 40.
06. week - Book 06 This book is tedious and disappointing.
52. week - Book 52 This book is really engaging. 3,5 stars. I recommend this one.

At the end of the year: "There were 2 good, 11 average and 39 unreadable SFF books."

I think a reviewer's job is to be honest.

Your opinion?

#2 Errant Bard

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:23 AM

My opinion is that it's an interesting mix of blanket generalization, strawman and false dichotomy.

Maybe... provide enough supporting examples, and explain how writing about books you liked is dishonest?

#3 polishgenius

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:29 AM

I'm absolutely baffled by this topic.

Not least because none of the SFF reviewers I pay any attention to whatever, regularly or irregularly, have any problem criticising books they don't like. The only odd one is Pat of the Fantasy Hotlist who will sometimes spend several hundred words slating a book and then give it six out of ten, but that's less dishonesty than an odd rating system.

The reviews on blogs, especially the one-writer, amateur ones, will always slant towards positive because these people give up their own time to do the job and are generally not renumerated for it apart from the free review copies they get if you count that, so they tend to choose books they like and not necessarily finish the ones they don't. Much like everyone else.

#4 russjass

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 06:15 AM

I do not mind reading reviews of people who loved books, but give reason why they loved, and explain what the author did well. There is always room for criticism, but it doesnt need to dominate.

One thing I cant stand is a reviewer who goes through a book line by line pointing out what is stupid about each sentence. To my mind, this is not a reviewer, it is a dick. It serves no purpose, gives me no clue as to the quality of story, characterisation, world building. An example I read recently, cant remember where at the moment was this:

The villagers often went into the woods to scavenge apples.
Apple trees are not, wild, why would people go into woods to scavenge apples. This is stupid, like the rest of this book.


How is this in any way helpful to me in deciding to buy a book, unless I decide based solely on the accuracy of apple-based trivia, and the million other pedantic things this "reviewer" focused on

#5 Slick Mongoose

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 07:54 AM

This topic is PHENOMENAL! 10/10!

#6 Happy Ent

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:31 AM

This year we had 1 totally awesome topic already!

#7 Xray the Enforcer

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:05 AM

[mod] We have a long-standing rule to not bring your problems with other sites to this one. Thank you. [/mod]

#8 Sci-2

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:50 AM

Oh, here's Larry's site:

http://ofblog.blogspot.com/

But I don't think reviews are indexed.

Pat actually seems pretty balanced, but I think he stops reading a book if he thinks it'll merit a 5 or less part way through:

http://www.fantasyho...t.blogspot.com/

#9 Procrastimancer

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:52 AM

I think most bloggers actually are honest about the books they review. Have you ever met someone who enjoys just about everything they read, watch, or play? The sort of person whose highest measure of quality is how entertaining something is? I know a few people like that and while I have never met a review blogger that matches their severity, there are a few that have come close. I won't say that's a bad thing though. After all, there is a vast amount of people just looking for something entertaining to read. Plus, at the end of the year they'll have read many more amazing books than someone like me.

The review blogs I distrust tend to be those with more than one active reviewer. There was one time I noticed that a couple reviewers read the same book, come away with opposite reactions (one loved it, one loathed it), and only the positive review got put up.

#10 Werthead

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 03:06 PM

A rule I used to enforce (and many other bloggers still do) is that if something it shite, it's not worth finishing. If I started reading a 500-page book and it's blowing chunks after 200 pages, I was not going to continue reading it when I could spend that time reading something better. Of course, there exists the chance (if unlikely) that the book would have radically increased in quality the second after I finished reading it, so reviewing the book without finishing it would have been unethical.

However, it was pointed out that the problem of "Everything is nice!" was starting to crop up on the blog, so the next time I encountered a book that was pretty appalling, Stephen King's Under the Dome, I finished it and had no problem slating it. In future, I might try to finish more bad books, as, if nothing else, they do tend to lend themselves to more amusing reviews.

#11 PaulineMRoss

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:12 PM

Anyone who reviews on a semi-professional basis (ie not necessarily paid, but getting the books for free) is in a difficult position. On the one hand, they obviously want the kudos of author interviews and being at the head of the queue for ARCs of the Next Big Thing or book 17 of That Mega Series, and that really isn't going to happen if they slag off books. On the other hand, their readers want an honest opinion of what a book is like, and any reviewer who 'likes' everything is, frankly, not worth reading. I'll read them sometimes if it's a book I'm really interested in, but I always remember that they're part of the publishing industry. It's advertising, basically.

There are honest reviews out there, but you have to trawl through a lot of 'It was AWESOME!!!!!' type stuff to find them.

#12 Werthead

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 04:56 PM

Anyone who reviews on a semi-professional basis (ie not necessarily paid, but getting the books for free) is in a difficult position. On the one hand, they obviously want the kudos of author interviews and being at the head of the queue for ARCs of the Next Big Thing or book 17 of That Mega Series, and that really isn't going to happen if they slag off books. On the other hand, their readers want an honest opinion of what a book is like, and any reviewer who 'likes' everything is, frankly, not worth reading. I'll read them sometimes if it's a book I'm really interested in, but I always remember that they're part of the publishing industry. It's advertising, basically.


This varies on the publisher. I have torn books and authors to pieces before but still gotten review copies from publishers. Any publisher that did respond in such a manner would damage risking their own reputation severely.

Still, it is a valid criticism. Some bloggers (such as - I believe - Larry from OF Blog) have in fact withdrawn their name from mailing lists and stopped receiving ARCs to remove this problem. I receive far fewer ARCs now than ever before, with the majority of the books I read and review now being purchases. It might be worth noting which is which on future reviews.

Something that is clear is that book reviewing is in no way as compromised as professional computer games reviewing. Companies like Blizzard, EA and Bethesda pay vast sums of money to magazines and websites to host adverts for their latest games. Repeatedly, we see games with notable issues (most recently, Mass Effect 3 and Diablo III) being released which every fan picks up on immediately but which go unmentioned on professional review sites.

#13 Joe Abercrombie

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:17 PM

Seems to me that what most publicists and editors are interested in is getting books covered by sites that get plenty of hits and exert some influence on potential readers. I'd say in the main the sites that do that are the ones that seem to present an honest opinion, and are well-written, knowledgeable and so on. If a publicist has identified a site as somewhere they'd like their books covered it seems very unlikely they'd suddenly decide the site was now no use just because they gave a bad review of one book. Apart from anything else, bad reviews can still be good publicity.

#14 Noroldis

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 05:25 PM

I have a simple litmus test for reviewing sites: if the reviewer thought ADwD was "great and well-paced!" and/or that Mass Effect 3 was "phenomenal and a worthy conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy!," I blacklist them then and there. Mind you, on video gaming sites that just means that I blacklist a particular reviewer (burn in hell, Colin Moriarty of IGN).

#15 Caligula_K2

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 06:52 PM

I do know what you're talking about, but I'm not sure if it's a question of honesty. I do think most SFF blog reviewers give as honest an opinion as they can about a book when they've finished it, though obviously some are better reviewers than others. The problem is when a lot of these bloggers review new entries in series that they really love. It often seems to me that the excitement over getting a new book in the series overrides critical capacity at the time the review is written, leading to very high scores. The reviewer then tends to become more critical of the book as time goes on, though of course the review remains the same (and people scoping out the blog's opinion of the book will then only read the review). I remember seeing a lot of this in reviews of the later Malazan books (Toll the Hounds and Dust of Dreams especially), some of the newer Wheel of Time books (Knife of Dreams, for example) and of course, A Dance With Dragons.

Not that professional reviewers don't ever do this. But I do think that bloggers tend to be less willing to be immediately critical of a book by an author that they love, though they might be in retrospect. Once again, though, I don't think it's a question of honesty.

#16 sologdin

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:43 PM

SFF blogger/site like this?

heh. a number of the more popular goodreads participants experience the interesting, even astronomical, coincidence of reading books in ascending order of aesthetic perfection such that each successive volume is the best book ever.

#17 kcf

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 11:18 PM

I regularly demand that publishers pay me hard cash for positve reviews. So if I review a book positively, they publisher paid for that review. Since I do this as a 'hobby' there simply isn't any way that I would review for anything less than cash - it's not like I actually enjoy reading or anything.


Now - go back and read Abercrombie's response. He gets it right. If you don't trust a reviewer/blogger, stop reading them and find one you do. There are enough of us out there that you'll find at least one. If you want a good example, look at Staffer's Musings, he occaisionally trashes books with about the perferct balance of humor and steel. When he trashed a Tor book, several of the publicists actually commented about how much they enjoyed the review. That negative review got way more attention to the book than most postive reviews get.

Edited by kcf, 19 May 2012 - 11:26 PM.


#18 Samalander

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 12:45 AM

The only odd one is Pat of the Fantasy Hotlist who will sometimes spend several hundred words slating a book and then give it six out of ten, but that's less dishonesty than an odd rating system.

/agree.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':agree:' />
Yeah... what is that about, Pat? The lowest rating on a 10 scale isn't a 6!

I have a simple litmus test for reviewing sites: if the reviewer thought ADwD was "great and well-paced!" ..." I blacklist them then and there.

As far as I could see, every reviewer of note (unless I missed one), including of course, august members of this board, rated ADWD very highly. This is, of course, in sharp contrast with the Vox populi on Amazon which currently gives it 2.9/5*. In this case, I don't think the discrepancy has anything to do with commercial ties, but rather more with reviewers high-falutin` opinion that they can spot quality where the Plebs can't and their emotional attachment to GRRM and ASOIF. I would place the truth somewhere is the middle (4 stars). No way is ADWD just a Hair's breath below ASoS. That's just delusional thinking, people.

*Which, if doubled by 2, doesn't even register on Pat's 6-10 scale.

Edited by Samalander, 20 May 2012 - 01:07 AM.


#19 Errant Bard

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 01:30 AM

What do you mean by "the thruth"? That seems rather absolute a concept for something dependent on the reader's tastes.

#20 Larry.

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 01:35 AM

I didn't realize 4/5 was "in the middle" /wink.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' /> Although I may be no "reviewer of note" (although I am occasionally paid to be one, I suppose /wink.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=';)' />), my review of ADWD was decidedly mixed. That may in part be because I do not consider myself to be "a fan"; I have yet to post in the SOIAF sections of this site. But I do like to think that I do battle against "honesty" whenever possible...depending on whether or not "honesty" is equated with the opinions held by the person reading my reviews. All I can say is that I review works (when I have the time, that is; no new reviews planned for this month or even for most of June) that have enough to them where I could poke at it in writing for a thousand words or so.

It's why I doubt I would want to write a review of a work like N.K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon, which I just finished reading tonight. Hard to write more than a few sentences saying that the writing was competent but not note-worthy, that the setting and characterizations were just interesting to give the second volume a chance but that odds are great that I will have forgotten almost all of it within a week, much less remember most of it when that sequel is released.

Those sorts of comments don't make it easy or fun to write reviews, so unless I'm commissioned to write a review, I tend to just shrug and move on, contenting myself with just an adjective or two when summarizing my monthly reads on my blog.