A few comments on the reviews I do here

In the last couple of weeks, I have gotten (my first ever) requests to review books and post reviews of books for people that I don’t know. I’m not entirely certain why I get these because I am not a reviewer, but in talking to some science fiction-writer friends, I guess this is fairly standard. One reason may be because I occasionally post reviews here. So I just wanted to make a few comments about the reviews that appear here (and the ones I post on Amazon and Goodreads) as well as clarify my policy with respect to reviews generally.

  1. I am not a reviewer and I don’t do unsolicited reviews. I think a reviewer (a good one) has a particular skill set. They are able to succinctly summarize a book, talk objectively about what works for them and what does not (and why) and stays focused on the book and not the author. I don’t think I possess the skill set to do these kind of reviews. I also don’t have an inclination to do these type of reviews, or for that matter the time.
  2. I do occasional write a review. I do this under very specific circumstance: (a) I read a book I loved and I want to share that love with the world at large. Word of mouth is one way to pay back an author for a great read. (b) I thought the book was pretty good (maybe not great) but nevertheless I feel it is an important book to read.
  3. I never write reviews for books I didn’t like. This is completely biased. A good reviewer would write a useful review for a book that they found unsatisfying. That is not my goal in writing reviews. My goal, as I said, is to share the love.

Someone is bound to ask: “What about your Vacation in the Golden Age posts? Aren’t those reviews of the stories in the old magazines?” It’s a good question and a valid one. I think of those posts first and foremost as entertainment. Beyond that, I don’t really think of them as reviews but more as critical analysis. There is a big difference between literary review and literary criticism and if you don’t know the difference, you should learn it. The Vacation posts are my attempt to provide amateur critical analysis to works of golden age science fiction in the context of an entire issue, as opposed to a single story. This, to me, is very different from a review.

I bring this up because the requests that I have received generally fall into 2 categories:

  1. Stated: “Please read my book and review it on your blog or an Amazon.” Implied: I’m trying to boost sales and can use all of the exposure I can get.
  2. Stated: “Read my book/story and offer advice on how to get it published.” Implied: since I am published, there must be some trick to it all that I know that you don’t.

In the first case, see items 1-3 above. In the latter case, I empathize, I really do. But let me save you time and tell you that the only trick that I know is to practice, practice, practice and keep at it. Don’t give up. Follow Heinlein’s Rules. That’s what I did.

So, if I pass on reviewing your book and you are frustrated because you see me reviewing other stuff, now you know why. It may still be frustrating, but at least the explanation is out there.


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