Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reviewing the reviewer

Mes Amis

As an occasional reviewer, I find myself coming across some books that are wonderful and some books that are ok and even worse some books that are plain, unreadably bad.

But there's another category. Books that are well written, that hit all the strikes, but fail to engage. There's a book that's due out I believe this month from a major publishing house. I got a review copy some time ago in a mass mailing and tried to read it. But I couldn't. It was proficiently written.It had darkness. It had a believable killer (as far as I could see from what I read) and a fucked protagonist. But it also had zero energy. It was like someone had written a book I would like and then ripped the soul from it. I felt terrible trying to read it (some of you might have come across me at Bouchercon early on the morning of the second day sitting out by the water drinking coffee and trying to read this bastard as I worked out the small hangover I had accumulated). Because I wanted to like it and I couldn't. In fact, I wanted to hate it, too, so I could at least have an opinion. I couldn't do that either.

I mention this because recently I tried the book again. Same thing. No engagement but no reason not to be engaged.

I guess, since this one should have tickled my pleasure centres, it goes to show just how objective reading is. I think the author should do well. He's got all the right people on his side (Even James Ellroy had a very good blurb for this). But this kind of book frustrates me even more than one that is truly awful.

So its been put aside again. And I have returned to books that engage me. Which is good because one book that I have been looking forward to since early last year popped through my mailbox yesterday... Now this one I know is gonna be good. Having sneaked a peek at the first chapter last night I was hard pressed to put it into the queue properly.

Au revoir



Sandra Ruttan said...

You've really hit on why I've taken the line of only reviewing what I really like - so I don't have to review books like the one you mentioned.

The thing is, sometimes its hard to say why a book falls short for you or for me. There is a degree of subjectivity and taste.

Which I'm more keenly aware of now, having written.

Jennifer Jordan said...

"Which is good because one book that I have been looking forward to since early last year popped through my mailbox yesterday."

And I immediatley imagine a book with little arms and little legs leaping through the mailbox to land triumphantly at your feet. It gives you a salute and marches up to the pile of books waiting to be read, kicks them over, then sits itself down waiting impatiently to be read.

Vacation. I need a vacation.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well Jennifer, at least it doesn't thwack you over the head repeatedly until you finally start turning the pages!

Russel said...

Actually, Jen and Sandra that's pretty much how it happened. This book's mean like that, kicking over the others. Its got one hell of a temper, even making a James Ellroy novel snivel like a little girl. That and while I'm trying to finish the ones I'm supposed to finish this books punching me continuously in the crotch so I'll notice it.

Stuart MacBride said...

You need continual crotch punching to notice something? Either your underpants are WAY too thick, or you've got problems.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Burn it Russel. It must be possessed and you must be free of the evil.

Russel said...

I don't think burning's gonna work on this one... reading it is the only way to go... well I've almost finished these other books... And I know this one's gonna be worthwhile, oh yes...