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Reviewing Speculative Faith Reviews

Writing more blog entries lamenting the lack of good Christian sci-fi and fantasy novels doesn’t correct this problem. Instead, read Christian SF novels and write reviews. Not just for The Cause, but to help others worship God.
| Aug 10, 2012 | No comments |

Writing more blog entries about how we-don’t-have-enough-good-Christian-sci-fi-and-fantasy-novels doesn’t alone correct this problem. Writing your own Great Chronicles of Zag’róphobiæn novel also doesn’t fix it. Even having that novel published, distributed, and read isn’t the sole solution to faith-fiction inferiority.

Start here by clicking.

Instead, you need to buy Christian SF novels. Then read them. Then write reviews of them.

Firmly yet graciously, frankly yet in love, opinion-based yet backed with facts, review them.

Otherwise, a great story with truth and beauty won’t be enjoyed as it should be. Otherwise, an inferior story may keep making the rounds based on random popularity or Trendiness or solely the fact that the author is a Very Solid Christian (but can’t craft a delight-arousing sentence to save his/her literary life). Who will let others know in either case if not you?

With Speculative Faith’s summer upgrade, we added novel reviews, to accompany the ever-growing list in the Speculative Faith Library. Unlike with our more-limited guest columns, we accept submitted reviews — even if they’ve been published or posted elsewhere.

For instance, longtime editor, fantasy writer, and Speculative Faith editor Rebecca LuElla Miller has been republishing from her vast repertoire of Christian-speculative reviews.

They join a couple of my new reviews, and several from Spec-Faith contributors. Such as:

The Kingdom – A Review

Continuing where The Gift left off, The Kingdom tells the story of Anastasia and Teofil, two exiles from Chiveis living in a post-apocalyptic Europe. For the most part Christianity had vanished because the Bible had been lost, but through Ana and Teo’s efforts, that changed, and in The Gift the entire Bible was recovered. Now, in The Kingdom their mission is to take the Holy Writings first to lands of the Beyond, but ultimately, back to their native country. Read more …

‘A Star Curiously Singing’ Shines in a Dark, Droning World

To finish this first “DarkTrench Saga” novel by Kerry Nietz, I stayed up late. A fictitious robot wasn’t the only high note in this original science-fiction tale. Read more …

 

Review: The Gift

This second in the dystopian Chiveis Trilogy will be a book those who love fantasy and who want a story with a Christian worldview will enjoy. I suspect there will be more Litfin fans coming on board because of The Gift. Read more …

Review: The Monster in the Hollows

Shannon McDermott: Monster in the Hollows is even more beautiful than Andrew Peterson’s previous On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten. Read more …

 

A Worthy Successor to ‘The Lord of the Rings’

In ‘Daughter of Light,’ Morgan Busse’s mythology is impressive, her characters realistic, and her themes truthful. Buy it and read it. It is truly fantastic. Read more …

Which of these have you read? Which sound fascinating, based on the review?

Now I shall make up some questions that imaginary readers may ask, and answer them.

I don’t know how to write a review; will you help?

We’re glad you asked. Becky has already answered much in this column. (We also hope to turn it into a featured article). She gives examples of what a review is not and what it is:

A review is an opinion, with reasons.

If you have an opinion, and can write enough to comment on a blog, you can write a review.

Personally, I’ve made a structure to help with my reviews. Because I hope to write reviews because great stories by man reflect the Epic Story by God, I’ve found it helps to follow this.

  1. Hero and plot. How do these, in truth and beauty, reflect God and His Story?
  2. Characters and enemies. How do these reflect, in truth and beauty, real people?
  3. Story-world and style. How do the author’s skills in style, world-crafting, and reflections of true and beautiful themes honor the Creator and bring joy to readers?

Other writing tips on the fly:

  1. Love truth. “Faith” in our name implies God’s truth. How did the book echo this?
  2. Love beauty. True theology leads to beauty. How did the book show this well?
  3. Love brevity. Many of my own early reviews are disqualified from republication here because I mainly wrote them to read myself being clever, meaning loquacious.
  4. Love details. You might mention a novel’s author, publisher, and intended readers.
  5. Love fun. Whether you enjoyed the story or had mixed feelings about it, reading a review should be enjoyable. Throw in metaphors, maybe even affectionate sarcasm.
  6. Be personal. A novel may speak to you in ways it never can to others. Share how.

Also, if it helps, submitted reviews get a little editing for style, and to add links. They credit you the author, and your website. And if you use this form, the review appears on the front page and is automatically published to networks. We cross-promote as we Cross-promote.

Should I start my own website with more Christian-speculative reviews?

This is my biased as well as informed view: we already have a glut of those. Reviews are spread too thin, over Amazon, publishers’ sites, and a zillion blogs. I recommend focusing on the online resources already available, even if that may mean a little “conforming.”

Why should I personally write a review?

  1. Not just for The Cause, I can tell you that. By The Cause, I mean the crusade against Christian SF novels being under-appreciated, under-published, and under-read.
  2. Yes, all those facts are irritating. But we should share the news about great stories for the same reason we would share a great recipe, hymn, or spiritual song: we love it, and our joyful experience glorified God and led us closer to worship.
  3. Conversely, if a novel was poor or mixed, and doesn’t seem to honor God in the way its author likely intended, it glorifies Him and helps others if we say so, in grace.

A brief word on the “entertainment” question. I get asked this sometimes, when I offer very spiritual-sounding reasons to love epic stories: Isn’t entertainment okay too? My “frivolous” Star Trek and Lord of the Rings action-figure collections and I say yes, it is! Yet my thought: let us read stories first as acts of worship, then as “entertainment.” True “entertainment” — that is, God-honoring joy — is not a substitute for worship but a result of worship.

How might I get started?

First, read a great (or otherwise) novel that is Christian, speculative, and published. Thus far, Speculative Faith offers three options for wound-be book reviewers:

  1. Find the book in the Library and micro-review in a comment. (If the book isn’t there yet, suggest we add it.) Disadvantage: slightly less comment visibility. Advantage: fast.
  2. Write a brand-new review and use the Submit a Novel Review form to send it to us. Disadvantage: takes more time. Advantage: better detail and great visibility.
  3. Find your review on your own website or blog, place it in the Submit a Novel Review form, and send it. Disadvantage: nearly none. Advantage: quick, detailed, and easy.

With that, I’m off to write my own review, likely of a certain Mars-themed novel that I’ve long loved. What books have you recently reviewed?

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Paul Lee
Member

I just edited an submitted an old review of The Dark Man that I wrote and posted on Amazon back in January 2011.  I don’t know if you want old Amazon reviews, but it’s there for your consideration.

I have a question about the submission form — can I use HTML for formatting or links, or are you going to add all the italics and hyperlinks afterwards?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

HTML is welcome, as the submission form says. And yes, absolutely, previously published reviews are also definitely welcome. You might want to include the link to the original version, so we can give due credit.

Thanks much for your submission! 

Paul Lee
Member

I apologize for overlooking the instructions about HTML on the submission form.  Thanks for publishing my old review.
 

Kessie Carroll
Member

But … sometimes I pan books in my reviews, although I try to do it nicely. Do you want those, too?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Absolutely.

Here’s an excerpt from the current book-review tips at the submission page and at the end of every library listing:

Be gracious but fair about what you liked and disliked. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, <em >[…]< when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4: 15-16)

Marion
Guest

Stephen,
I do quite a few book reviews on my blog.  I review both Christian and Secular and I will admit my book reviews are definitely more on the secular side.
However, I have done reviews for The Trophy Chase Trilogy by Polivka, The Adventures of Jeco Tarres trilogy by Laura Lond (those were self-published) and one of my favorite novelists writing today, Athol Dickson for his Lost Mission and The Opposite of Art novels.
I agree that we should buy these books then read and review them.  For example, I just posted my review for The Opposite of Art and got a post saying she had never heard of Athol Dickson before.  She liked the book and is interested in reading the novel.  Word of mouth publicity still works in our Social Media culture.
Moreover, I’ve been told to read The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak by several blog groups I’m a part of anI went to my local Barnes and Noble here in San Antonio and bought it.  I never buy my books from there….LOL!! I will read and review that novel because of the enthusiastic recommendation.
My point is that for the Christian Speculative Fiction to grow….it will have to be by word of mouth (as well as social media) and when you show passion and enthusiasm for it, people will respond.
http://kammbia1.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/book-review-26-athol-dicksons-the-opposite-of-art/
Marion

J.S. Clark
Guest

I do not have a review currently, though I do review free stories that I find on smashwords whether Christian or not. However, I do have my own work that I am trying to find reviewers for. Have you ever considered an option for authors to submit their own? Expecting of course, honesty whether good or bad? If it would not seem a conflict of interest, I can supply a complimentary copy.