Monday, July 02, 2012

A Helpful Note

There seems to be an idea floating about in the ether that my review of John Scalzi's new novel, Redshirts (posted late yesterday) is negative, and that I don't like Scalzi's books.

Both are untrue. Redshirts didn't strike me as laugh-out-loud hilarious, as it has been billed [1], but it's a pleasant, quick entertainment -- and Scalzi is reliably entertaining, which is why I keep grabbing his novels as soon as I see them. None of those books has been perfect, though, so when I've written about them the most interesting (and, I think, useful) tactics have been to poke at the bits that don't work as well. [2] Writing otherwise -- focusing only on the things a book does well -- is certainly enjoyable for the author, but I don't think it's as effective for everyone else in the world.

My reviewing mode tends to be more negative than positive, I know, but you really can tell when I actively dislike a book. Take, for example, my reviews of two of last year's Hugo darlings: Mira Grant's Feed and Connie Willis's Blackout/All Clear.

That's what it looks like when I strongly dislike a book. (And, for an example of what it looks like when I keep reading a writer even after I realize I hate his current work, see P.J. O'Rourke's Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards.)

Redshirts, on the other hand, I basically liked -- the "codas" at the end, in particular, are really good stuff. If I've driven any readers away from it by not stating that it's the funniest thing since the invention of the seltzer bottle, then I do apologize. You may well find it substantially funnier than I did; at least four SFnal luminaries have already done so.

[1] Which was sad for me; I wanted to read a book as funny as I was told Redshirts was.

[2] Though I have definitely reached the point where noting that Scalzi is not interested in carefully building up his worlds from close readings of Nature and his flying slip-stick is entirely beside the point; he not that kind of writer. Come to think of it, I usually make fun of that kind of writer as well.


Anonymous said...

Didn't you know it is against the Laws of the Internet to say anything less that positive about John Scalzi or Patrick Rothfuss?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous summed it up pretty well. I thought your review of Redshirts and of Scalzi's writing in general was pretty accurate. I enjoy his books (most of them) but I don't find myself falling down in rapt ectasy over them nor do I gush and fawn over his every written word. He has enough Followers to do that already.

Thank you for your well spoken reviews - I, for one, appreciate the honesty. I'm looking forward to your 2012 Hugo Nominee summaries. Very informative and helpful.

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