Reviews

My Personal Review Policy

Last night I sat down at my desk and started writing a review of the book I finished the previous day. The novel, a top-rated, Hugo Award nominated well-reviewed piece of science fiction, left me cold. It wasn’t poorly written and it kept me interested enough to finish, I would even enjoy discussing it with friends, but it just fell short of my expectations and far short of the expectations built by mainstream reviewers.

Halfway through my review I stopped and realized that I was writing a very negative review out of step with how I felt about the book. It wasn’t the novel itself or the author that upset me, it was the hype, a novel described by fawning reviewers as stunning, breath-taking, and highly original. The novel itself wasn’t anything special compared to much similar science fiction and the main conceit is an idea that’s right out of Star Trek, and honestly done much better in Star Trek.

I spent the night thinking about my objective when it comes to reviewing. As a writer should I review novels in my genre, should I write novel reviews at all? After some consideration, I believe that reviews are important. I read a lot of indie novels written by authors that mainstream publications and mainstream bloggers would never give the time of day due to the political opinions they hold. If we don’t review each other and build a body of criticism then we cannot grow our movement.

Mainstream science fiction and fantasy establishment lacks any semblance of intellectual or cultural diversity. For example, the 2020 Hugo Award novel nominations are all written by academic white women. All of them are LGBT except one, and it would be fair to guess that all of them share a far-left political allegiance. The reality is that mainstream publishing is No Country for Straight White Men and a poisonous atmosphere for anyone with slightly right-wing beliefs.

Therefore it is critical for us who crave ideological and intellectual diversity to read, share, and review counter-cultural writers from the right. NPR will take your tax dollars but they will never give you a fawning review calling your latest science fiction breathtakingly original and stunning. Your novel can sell ten times more than the latest light-romance mainstream fantasy and they still won’t bother with it. We don’t have the academic or media establishment behind us, we don’t have writer retreats, or trust funds bankrolling our hobbies. All we have is a love of fiction.

So I believe that we need to read and review each other, therefore I will continue to write reviews here on The Dacian, but I will take the stand that I am not a professional reviewer and have no obligation to review every single novel I read.

As a matter of professional courtesy, I will only write reviews of books that I enjoyed and believe that my readers would find interesting and enjoyable. I will not write critical reviews of contemporary fiction or nonfiction unless the topic is pertinent to a greater philosophical or ideological point that I am discussing.

Therefore if I review a novel on The Dacian it means that I absolutely enjoyed it and highly recommend it to my readers. If you sent me your novel and I haven’t reviewed it yet it means that I haven’t read it. If you send me something to read I will always send you a private message once I read it letting you know what I think.

I ended up deleting the review, it served no purpose and felt vindictive for a review on a book of very little consequence that I enjoyed reading.

9 comments

  1. I felt that was about a fiction mag I got a copy of a while back. Cometantly written stories, just nothing that got me excited. And I was going to review it, but I realized that publishing the review wouln’t do me or anybody else any good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly, I’m an author, not a professional reviewer so I have no obligation to go into depth about lukewarm material. If the novel or the art is from a friend I will talk to them personally and continue to soft advertise for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexandru

    Excellent review policy. You like the book and have no hesitation to recommend to others.
    You could leave a review of a book you didn’t like as an exemplar of why it failed.
    Aspiring writers will have pointers on how to avoid bad writing.
    xavier

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I joined Twitter 2 years ago I found an indie writer giving his debut fantasy book away for free. I read it and hated it. Not for the reasons I hated bad traditionally pulished books. This was just poorly, poorly written. I wrote a 2-star review (grading on an “indie curve”) on Amazon. No malice, no vindictiveness, just what kept me from liking it. I know it caught the writer’s attention because he subtweeted about it a few days later, then dropped off Twitter for awhile. I regret writing that review to this day.

    I will not write negative reviews of indie authors now. Criticism at our level should be private. We need to be strategic in how we improve each other. We’re in a guerilla war. You don’t tell your comrade hiding next to you in the trees that his boot is visible to the enemy by shooting him in the leg.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alex,

    Great policy. You’ve made me rethink my own policy of not reviewing books in my same “space.” I think I will adopt one similar to yours–we need our own network and subculture to grow our movement. We ARE the cavalry.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That is a fair review policy. For indie authors (especially those that will not get coverage elsewhere), those reviews will be helpful.

    A “this is good, but there are a couple of issues” is helpful to the author and the reader. No novel is perfect, other than “The Man Who Was Thursday”, so we all must be willing to take a little criticism every now and then.

    Liked by 4 people

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