My review of Angus Watson’s Age of Iron is out today, and though I’m thrilled to be guest posting at Bookworm Blues, I’m sorry that the review itself couldn’t have been more positive. I know that I can be picky, but I’m (mostly) at peace with that; I’ve written before about the culture of criticism, and how I think that genre suffers when reviewers choose being positive over giving authentic critiques. As a reviewer, I owe the author a thoughtful read, with the understanding that every time I pick up a new novel, it’s with the hope that I’ll enjoy it; as a writer, that’s all I could ask.
Part of the fun of reviewing novels is having a reason to pay careful attention, and then organize my thoughts. It’s a lot of fun, and I miss doing it more regularly. I try to balance the experience I had while reading with the thoughts I have as I summarize: if I enjoyed a novel, but had some issues, I’m going to give it an overall positive review, because that was the experience I had, cover to cover. Additional analysis is of interest in no small part because knowing a novel’s strengths and weaknesses might help a potential reader figure out if the work is for them. If something pulls me out of the narrative while I’m reading, that’s more serious: it means that something – the mechanics, the storytelling – didn’t work for me.
I’d like to review more, but the issue is speed, and time: I read 2-3 novels a month (which seems to me like a lot, but I’ve come to realize is pretty much nothing compared to the speed at which real reviewers can get through a novel, talk about it, and move on to the next one). After reading pretty much nothing but speculative fiction for the last couple of years, I’m starting to branch out again into mainstream fiction, thrillers, detective stories, and pretty much everything else, which also limits the reviewing I might conceivably do. It’s a bit frustrating, because there’s just too much out there to read, and too little time. I’ll never feel “on top” of what’s going on.