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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and...

The Ugly.

Time for a rant.

I have to admit, I'm a little overwhelmed by the number of positive reviews of The Door Within Trilogy books. 99% of the review have been great.

There have been a couple that hurt a bit. I've had 2-3 from Christian reviewers who, incredulously, claimed that the books were "too preachy" or that the message of Christ comes through too clearly. Uhm...okay. I can sort of understand. Christian writers don't want to beat secular readers over the head with the Bible. But to this date, out of hundreds and hundreds of reviews and personal comments, I've only had one nonChristian ever say, they felt the book was preachin' Jesus too hard. Odd, don't you think that Christians would be the ones to complain the most about Jesus' message being too clear. Hmmm...

And then there was one FLAME review that just blasted The Door Within up one side and down the other. This review gave like 3 pages worth of absolute scalding (and mostly unfounded) criticisms--using language that I suspect got the review purged from Amazon. Either that or God stepped in.

And hey, look, I realize my first book isn't perfect. Neither is my 4th book. None of them ever will be. I will write them the best I can, and my editors will help. But I'll never be Hemmingway or Tolkien. I'll just be Wayne and grateful to be able to tell my stories.

But the other day, I found a review on a prominent fantasy site that just blew my mind. It was, to my mind, the most ill-conceived and careless notion I've ever seen printed in a review of a YA book.

Here are some snippets of the comment that irked me:

"Emphasis on their physical traits, “her skin was ghostly white”, “’You! Dark Skin!’ he ridiculed”, “And through the gaping hole, like a sea of black and red, poured the armies of Paragory” unfortunately brought to mind unsettling comparisons to another self-declared supreme ruler."

Self-declared supreme ruler??? I immediately posted a reply to make sure I was reading it correctly, and this is the reviewer's clarification:

"Actually, I had some trouble articulating my feelings here and deliberately left my comment a bit ambiguous. In fact, I was hesitant to bring it up in the review because I wasn't sure that I was interpreting things the way you intended. However, it bothered me enough to finally include some comment on it.

I found the references to skin and eye color throughout the book to be uncomfortable reminders of Hitler's racial superiority/cleansing theories. I hope I'm way off base here, but, nonetheless, those are the feelings it invoked in me."


I have since posted a point by point discrediting of this suggestion and asked that all of this reviewer's offending comments be removed from the site. Who knows what will come of my request. I don't really think the reviewer has it "in" for me, but the comment--even if heartfelt--had no place in a review of a YA title. It was unintentional slander, but slander nonetheless. Imagine a parent thinking of getting The Door Within for his kid, sees this review and those comments and doesn't know any better...

I won't say I've seen it all. I'm sure there's worse to come.

11 comments:

WayneThomasBatson said...

Of course, God being the AWESOME God that He is, puts this message in my email box just seconds after I post my rant:

"I'm 11 years old and in the 6th grade at a Christian School here in Rochester, NY. I hope one day you will come here to do a lecture and book signing.

I read the door within trilogy and I just LOVED them! They really were the best books I've ever read. I love fantasy/adventure books. My favorite was The Final Storm, that was an amazing book. I spend most of my free time reading or writing. I read one of your books in just a few day because I couldn't put it down. I like to write stories and also have the dream of becoming a professional writer. Some day I hope to be a writer as good as you!

Some other books I've read that I also liked (but were not as good as yours) are Quest for Celestia by Steven James and the Raising Dragons series by Bryan Davis. Do you have any advice for me as a writer? I hope you do!

From your #1 fan,"

Thank you for Grace, Lord.

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

Ack! It sounds like you got hit by the PC police.

This is silly, but not rare, unfortunately. Some people will be so sensitive that they find slights in whatever books they read or movies they see. It's a shame it happened to your book, which is a very delightful read and projects no ill will toward anyone.

- Jason

PatShand said...

While the Hitler comment was totally unfounded, I have to say WTB--it's going to get worse. As you get more popular, there will be more reviews. Boat-fulls of good, and boat-fulls of bad.

That's why they tell writers, singers, and actors to nneeevverrr type their name into Google. To never read reviews on Amazon. The good will be uplifting, but the bad will be a kick where it hurts. Imagine if Sanjaya from American Idol looked his name up online? He'd go into depression!

It's probably the best for you to stick to blogging and ignore the reviews on other sites. It can be very personally damaging. I know how hard it must be to hold yourself back from checking out what people are saying, but it may be worth it. It's a tough world. As I said, the good will make you feel great, and you deserve that. But the bad makes me wonder if it's worth it.

everlastingscribe said...

What can I add to that rousing endorsement by that young writer? What needs to be added?

Maybe just this, the nets, m'lord, the nets strain and are near breaking for the weight of the catch.

Your books have gone into hospitals to comfort the hurting, they have gone into broken homes to encourage the bruised, and into schools carrying the Gospel message of life and hope and love that has been rejected time and again. But it's in there now, tucked gently within your stories.

And as for me, your books have been like honey; they have encouraged me, they have challenged me, they have entertained me and reminded me why it is I want to write. I want to scribe for His glory, and so just one, just one can know Christ now and forevermore.

So thank you, thank you for not giving up, thank you for your sacrifice of time, thank you for giving your very best, thank you for not stopping even when people attack your work, thank you for your service to Him.

Now go write more.

;)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Good advice, one and all. And, Scribe, that one's going into my save forever file. I've a feeling I'll need to read it again…and again.

Brett said...

HITLER?? Puh-lease. These people need to grow up. Mr. Batson, don't listen to them! God's given you this gift for His glory. If they don't understand, then (sorry) tough luck for them. That's the thing these days...if a book doesn't have rape, lust, dark magic and all that junk it's considered a bad book. What you have here with the DW is genuine. A blessing to hundreds of thousands of teens and kids with a thirst for adventure. You're doing the work God's given you to do. Don't let anyone take that from you, and don't let them make you think otherwise.
You're special and they're just jealous :P LOL. Keep writing and fighting with that trusty pen of yours!!!!
~Brett

Sarmjornn said...

I fell sorry for the guy who can only think of you as Hitler! Anybody in their right mind would know better.
Don't worry about what everybody says about your books. You have more then enough people that love your books. Remember. "Never alone."

WayneThomasBatson said...

Brett and Sarm, thanks again for the encouragement and the heartening battle cry! ;-)

As I said, I don't think the reviewer meant to be malicious. And, of course, a person can't help the thought or connections that pop into their head.

But, you can totally control what you post in a public forum.

What was that quote: "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for you to have the right to say it."

For the sake of free speech, let it be, but people need to be as responsible with their words as they are with their deeds.

There's just no foundation for any of this reviewer's assertions.

Jackie Castle said...

I'm with the 11 year old fan. I just LOVED them as well.

Your interview is up at both of my sites Wayne. Hope you enjoy and it blesses you.

www.journeyintograce.blogspot.com
www.jackiecastle.blogspot.com- Journey into the imagination

WayneThomasBatson said...

Thanks, Jackie

I so appreciate that--and the interviews!

jc said...

Well, they haven't gotten rid of it yet. it's still up there, I came across it the other day. Oh, and there was another really dumb review on Amazon recently.