This week I’ve been working my way through a Christian speculative (sort of) novel. It’s hard enough to finish it; even more, I can’t imagine giving it an honest review.
You can guess the reasons why.
No, I won’t name the title, not yet. It’s simply not very good. Clichés abound, often getting into verbal dogfights with pop-culture and trendy technology references. Point-of-view is strict, yet the author doesn’t deploy its full range of powers. Oh, and Christians simply are not behaving like Christians, but like shallow folk-theologian evangelicals.
Perhaps you’ve had similar frustrations. And you may want to hear the truth spoken in love in a novel review, or write the same. But you keep finding — let’s just come out and say I — more-genteel reviews whose writers seem so impressed with the concept of a (gasp!) Christian fantasy/sci-fi/whatever novel that they don’t evaluate it well.
Briefly: What’s causing those reviews? It may be that we’re simply too small a “circle,” at least online, to be too distant from the author. Or perhaps some readers don’t know how to review — or some authors can’t take it. Someone reviewed a Christian novel as requested by its author, who sent an advanced-review copy. The reviewer was kind yet unavoidably negative, and the author was outraged. By private correspondence he demeaned the reviewer, who obviously, the author said, knew nothing about great stories and writing.
But then there’s the converse side. Someone set free to “review” a novel, even a very badly written one (in this case) spews out a nasty — even if amusing — non-review like this:
Oh my, this was horrible.
Wow, powerfully bad.
I’ve never read such an awful regurtitation [sic] of poorly-contrived bilgewater. This was foul in the way a ruptured sewer main is, fetid in the way of a swamp full of rotting skunk cabbage, horrifying as you would be if you watched an entire graveyard of mouldering corpses was suddenly burped up from the ground.
I wouldn’t recommend this, even as a way to inflict an agonizing, craze-enducing [sic] execution.
So here is my question — two of them, actually, asked via these two polls.
How did you vote? What good and bad reviews, or good or bad novels, have you read? Why might anonymous reviews, even assuming an editorial process to prevent vague nastiness like the above, be helpful? Or would they not help readers?