Review Philosophy (03/08/2021)

I’ve had my arm twisted and so I’m going to be posting the odd book review over the coming months.  In order to not have to repeat myself lots, here some guidelines I’ll adhere to as much as a feel like it.

In general, I’ll try not to judge a book as “good” or “bad.” There are books I love that other people hate and books I hate that other people love, and that’s okay. Example: I happen to like the original Star Wars movie. I have a friend who happens to not. Put aside for a moment that he’s weird and wrong and there’s quite a lot we can agree on: It has spectacular (for its time) visual effects and a brilliant soundtrack. The story structure is by-the-numbers Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. The acting is somewhere between mediocre and nothing special, the dialogue is shonky (aside from a deft touch of humour), the action sequences solid but no more, the characters a rag-bag of superficial clichés with little depth (I’m talking the first movie on its own here, not the trilogy as a whole). It’s a totally undemanding movie that has no interest in asking questions or doing anything except delivering action and entertainment perfect for everyone’s inner twelve-year-old.

We can probably agree on all of that, and yet one of us likes it and one of us (the weird one with the green coat) doesn’t and neither of us is right. So my reviews, in general, will try to ignore whether I like something or not, and focus more on picking apart what works and what doesn’t, and where I deviate from that, I’ll try to be obvious about it.

For the same reasons, there will be no ratings or stars.

Narration: I consume more audio books than I consume written ones. A lot of the reviews I do will be for audio versions. I’ll try to take the same approach, but there are some specific differences. A narrator who turns in a full-on performance can transform a story but isn’t necessarily great if they’re mumbling one character’s dialogue and you’re trying to listen with a lot of background noise, or if their ability to use different voices turns in a plot spoiler when you weren’t supposed to know who was talking (yes, I’ve had this).

What gets reviewed and what doesn’t: No one needs another review of Game of Thrones. There’s an element of deliberate randomness to what I choose to read. There will likely be a bias towards SFF but that won’t be everything. Angry Robot are currently bunging free audiobooks at me, so I’m feeling something of a duty to review them. Other than that, I’ll generally always pick smaller titles over big ones because are the ones where every sale matters.

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