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Safety Valve

I have tried, the last year or so, to ignore "reviews" on Amazon.com, as well as those posted to blogs and suchlike. I am aware that in the eyes of some, it appears unseemly when an author replies to her critics (and I'm being rather generous here with the word "critic"). However, myself, I have always felt that it is only reasonable that the author be permitted an equal opportunity to reply, especially when the criticism in question is demonstrably wrong or wrong-headed and may, in theory, adversely affect book sales. Anyway. Yes. I have been good. But this morning I saw a "review" of Low Red Moon on Amazon.com, posted maybe a month back, and it annoyed me, and then I had a hard day, and so I am allowing myself to fall off the wagon (for one day only). The "review," posted by Kathryn Daugherty ("tropo9"), reads as follows:

In this sequel to Threshold, Deacon and Chance are married and Chance is pregnant. Sadie is Deacon's friend, but neither remember their affair after Chance left Deacon. Even Chance doesn't remember turning back time in the water tunnel to save Elisa, but instead is again freaked out by her psychic premonitions of raining blood.

This story is really about Narcissa Snow, a part goblin child raised by an insane father on the coast of Rhode Island. She is convinced that if she gives the goblins a changeling child, then she will finally be accepted into the goblin community. The child she wishes to give them is Chance's. She travels to Birmingham, committing mutilations and murders along the way. Deacon is caught up in her schemes when Narcissa kills one of Deacon's old friends and the police ask Deacon for his psychic assistance.

The best part of the novel is that the author has cleaned up her language. The narrative is strong and sure. The worst part of the novel is that not for one second can you believe that Deacon loves Chance or that Chance loves Deacon. Why did they get married? Why is Deacon sober? Chance seems to hate Deacon and is always convinced that he is about to fall off the wagon. Deacon feels weak and useless. If you have no sympathy for the main characters and no understanding of their situation, then the author has done a very poor job. It is rather depressing that such a good writer has no understanding of human motivations.


Now...to start with, I must assume that Miss Daugherty means "ghoul" when she says "goblin," as the word "goblin" appears only twice in the novel, and only once, jokingly, as a reference to the ghouls. Secondly, who the hell of "Elisa"? I will assume, from context, that she means Elise. Third, Narcissa was raised in the North Shore region of Massachusetts, north of Cape Ann, not "on the coast of Rhode Island." Okay. So that three factual errors in the first paragraph, when, I assume, Miss Daugherty must have written this review fairly soon after having read the novel. Do I question reading comprehension here or retention of what has been read?

Regardless, what really stuns me is that final paragraph, where we are told that "not for one second can you believe that Deacon loves Chance or that Chance loves Deacon," and her calling into question the possibility that they would have married. This is so idiotic that I'm not even going into all the instances by which I could prove that, while Chance and Deacon are hardly one of those mythic ideal couples you see beaming from Match.com commercials, there is ample evidence in this book that they do love each other quite a lot. And never mind the fact that the "reviewer" seems to be labouring under the assumption that all marriages are successful, or that all married people love each other, or that all married people appear to love each other, and so forth. She's joking, right? Please note, I am not objecting to the fact that she didn't like the book, but to the fact that she cannot be bothered to write an informed review. And as for the line, "The best part of the novel is that the author has cleaned up her language," well, I'm not even going to presume to know what she means by that.

Idiot. Anyway, yeah, you can read (and rate) the "review" here.

Comments

( 19 comments — Have your say! )
sovay
Apr. 23rd, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
Regardless, what really stuns me is that final paragraph, where we are told that "not for one second can you believe that Deacon loves Chance or that Chance loves Deacon," and her calling into question the possibility that they would have married.

Yes. If I had not for one second believed in their love, the ending of Low Red Moon would not have hurt me as it did. I know there is a recognized class of "reviews" that fail because their authors are reviewing the books/films/music they would have liked to read/see/hear, not the ones they actually did, but this is ridiculous.
chris_walsh
Apr. 23rd, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
She also loses points for the "summing up = reviewing!" mindset of this write-up. At some level I was so fed up with "this happens then this happens then this" write-ups that I once managed to write a movie review with almost no mention of what the heck happens in the story. (It was my review of The Truman Show.)

It's good I read Harlan and know the line "Everyone is entitled to their informed opinion." It's my ideal and goal.
ellyssian
Apr. 24th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
"summing up = reviewing!"

That seems to be the spirit with most of the reviews I've seen lately.

Schools are teaching book reports as summaries (at least my older two kids were required to create opinion-less book reports), and I think that carries over into what is considered a review.

Then again, the whole über-critic thing fails me as well. They often seem to miss the point in order to appear elegant, educated, and/or malignant.

Mine tend to go in the other direction - they're purely impressions. Or tangents.
greygirlbeast
Apr. 24th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)

Then again, the whole über-critic thing fails me as well. They often seem to miss the point in order to appear elegant, educated, and/or malignant.

There is a belief that negative reviews (or "reviews") is a sign that the reader is more critical, and therefore more intelligent, more discerning, than the authors of positive reviews.
ellyssian
Apr. 24th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Well, there is something to that. Sometimes I just can't come up with anything more than: "Good stuff. You should read [listen to/watch] it!"

I tend not to post too many reviews to Amazon (or other places outside my blog) on account of 1) being particular about what I buy, so generally I like it, if not love it; 2) being the type of person accused by members of at least one religion of "finding good in everything;" 3) recognizing that I'm basically just being a cheerleader for the reviews I do write; 4) realizing that "yay, good stuff!" seems less than erudite after a while.

Come to think of it, that's probably at least part of the reason why I'm a year and a half behind on the reviews I do post in my blog... =)
robyn_ma
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Can I just be the annoying person-who-calls-it-like-it-is for a sec? This book has sixteen 5-star reviews on Amazon. Four 4-star reviews. And two two-star reviews. And you're choosing to fixate on a two-star review? Posted a month and a half ago? Really?

That way lies madness.

Srsly. Focus on the vast majority of five-star reviews. And focus on the work. And focus on things that aren't gonna make you crazy. Especially with the move coming up, and health issues, and the very challenge of general existence in 2008, and so on. Please, for your own sake.
greygirlbeast
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)

Can I just be the annoying person-who-calls-it-like-it-is for a sec?

No. :P
kousmichoff
Apr. 24th, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)
I have to say I agree with robyn on this one. There's a lot of negativity in the world, focusing on it will make you emotionally, spiritually, and physically ill.

Look for the good and find the good.
docbrite
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
I am so utterly and completely Not In The Mood For This Shit. Hence, I not only rated the review, I left the following comment:

Kiernan has a large, loyal group of readers who seem to find her characters not just deeply sympathetic and understandable, but able to touch chords in their hearts that few other authors' characters do. You may have had no understanding of her characters' motivations, but that doesn't necessarily translate into her having no understanding of human motivation. Then again, I don't understand the motivations of people who say things like "The best part of the novel is that the author has cleaned up her language." Ooh, no, diddums see the Dreaded Effword?
greygirlbeast
Apr. 23rd, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)

I am so utterly and completely Not In The Mood For This Shit. Hence, I not only rated the review, I left the following comment:Ooh, no, diddums see the Dreaded Effword?

And then I laughed until I barfed.
thingunderthest
Apr. 24th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
Rock on
cucumberseed
Apr. 24th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
Nice!
That's worthy of a Jack Chick style devil laugh.
txtriffidranch
Apr. 24th, 2008 12:41 am (UTC)
One of these days, I'm going to finish the essay for 101 Reasons to Stop Writing on why most critics of any stripe would do us all a favor by feeding themselves feet-first into a wood chipper. The problem with this variety of twit is (a) they all think that their interpretations are Important, and (b) they'll take any criticism, no matter how justified, as confirmation that they're even more Important than before. I seem to remember that this was the MO of that homesick abortion Riddell who was infesting the zines a decade ago.

That said, I can't tell you to ignore the commentary, but I will say that fast, short, and witty usually causes them to implode in a blast of pure huff. If they're smart, they generally don't bother to respond: in my case, I responded to one such wanker who referred to me as "a Hunter Thompson wannabe of sorts" with "Better a Thompson wannabe than a Tina Brown wannabe, fat boy." I haven't heard anything from him since.
thingunderthest
Apr. 24th, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
It is rather depressing that such a good writer has no understanding of human motivations.
It is even more depressing that the reviewer can't grasp characters with a bit of depth and conflicting emotions and equally sad that they don't seem to grasp the difference between a review and a summary.
martianmooncrab
Apr. 24th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
there is a tickybox on the Amazon reviews if the review was of any help or not, have your friends tick that box! Its one thing if the book didnt float the readers boat, its another thing if they are crazed eediots about it.
reverendcrofoot
Apr. 24th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
Now that review was hilarious.
Even the simplest shit is so far from the truth it bends the world with its wrongness. Maybe she is in a parallel dimension where the book she is talking about exists.

The only thing I happen to agree with is, Deacon, and especially Chance, did not float my boat, but, the story is a tragedy, so the characters are supposed to be flawed and thus a little unlikeable. (Now on subject, Are tragedies incredibly funny to anyone else. The Movie Mist had me out of control laughing at the end.)

I think LRM is going to be the next book I read. Since I missed what happened to Elise, and for some reason that is really bothering me.
sera_squeak
Apr. 24th, 2008 07:59 am (UTC)
Fortunately there are some sensible types out there pointing out that the reviewer doesn't actually appear to have read the same book as the rest of us.
aetherialrumors
Apr. 24th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
Goblins? Really goblins?

And the language thing...!?!?! I'll never get why so many people still cringe when it comes to "offensive" language. Especially when (no matter how you would prefer it to be classified) it comes in a book you purchase in the horror section; or the science-fiction/fantasy section if the story doesn't have a horror section. Apparently, she has no problem with ghouls and vampires and ghosts and beasties and other horrible things, but don't say fuck, whatever you do.

I suspect that she's one of those people who probably has no problem letting their kids watching action movies where hordes of innocent bystanders get mowed down by machine guns as long as there is no profanity and you never see a breast get touched lovingly.

And lastly...dude, it's Low Red Moon--that's my favorite book of yours. It's the one I tell everyone to read. It's the one I give as a gift. I couldn't say anything bad about that book, except I read it to fast.
cailement
May. 5th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
Personally I find nothing wrong with defending yourself based on actual fact and what is written in your book. True, you can't really argue with people's opinions, but when it's based on what's actually written in the book, and that's wrong? No, this is fair game.
( 19 comments — Have your say! )