It is my belief that for a review of any kind to be relevant you must first have an understanding of the reviewer and how his or her views relate to your own. I would have said that this goes without saying but… well I just said it so….
Ok, so who is Darkley Urbane and why do you give a crap about what he says. I must admit, I’m outside the bounds of your typical UF reader. First I’m not female and secondly in my worldview Vampires only sparkle when lit on fire. So there’s that. But I do have quite a background with this subject. I’ve been an avid reader since I was about 12. We had a book report assignment but the choice of the book was left open to us. I can still, to this day, remember picking up this book from a grocery store shelf and looking at it in wonder. I had never seen a book like this before. It was dark, foreboding and exciting! It was King’s Blood Four by Sheri S. Tepper and I was hooked. After that I became a regular at my local Waldenbooks and B. Dalton. I eventually fell into a job at a local mom & pop store, working behind the register but also as the buyer. Let me tell you that it was all sorts of fun convincing a distributor that yes, this 15 year old is who you have to deal with and no we will not be the dumping ground for all your trash books any longer. From that point on I made sure we had the latest and best in both genres, SciFi AND Fantasy. And every once in a blue moon you could find one that straddled that gap, oooooh. But it would take years and years before what we know as Urban Fantasy would take shape.
Since then I’ve spent countless hours playing D&D and well as most RPG based video games. To the point that I eventually made the migration out to California and actually got a job in the video game industry and I’ve been doing just that for the past 15 years. So let’s just say that I’ve been around to see the ups and downs of the industry. And I now have an even deeper understanding of how publishers throttle creativity and what a boon Amazon has been for not just writers but those of us who enjoy reading stuff that normally would not have made it past the publishing gatekeepers. And don’t give me your tears and jeers about how evil Amazon is and how they are doing x, y, and z. They are a huge and vastly successful company with billions of dollars. There is no doubt that a lot of what they do is, in some way, detrimental to the creative effort. But short of Jeff Bezos buying out Chevron and using all that fuel to burn every book ever written, there is no way for him to acquire enough negative karma to overcome all the good that Amazon has done when they opened up Kindle to self publishing. No, stop, it’s a non argument. You can’t win it so don’t even try. I know, as I’m also one of those authors. No, I don’t write fiction, more of what you might call How To or DIY books. That said, I’m intimately familiar with what came before vs what we have now. I’m sure I will wander back to this topic at some point in the future but rest assured, UF would not, COULD NOT, but what it is today without SP (Self Publishing) and SP was a dead end street before Amazon.
Ok, but let’s get back on pointe. How do I view a book. Ok, I look at a book based on a several fairly simple factors, in order of importance:
- Did I enjoy it. Yeah it’s kind of esoteric but isn’t that really all that matters about a story. Did you just simply like it?
- Was the story engaging? I’ll be honest, I’ve finished books and then bought the sequel even though the writing was, well bad and the dialog tragic. But if the underlying story is intriguing, if the author has whipped up a cool or unique world? Well I can overlook some serious flaws. But only to a point.
- Are the characters real. Or I guess I should say, did the author MAKE them real to me? Bad story? I can get over that if the characters are truly enjoyable. Don’t believe me? Have you never gone out on a date where nothing went right but you still had an amazing time simply because of the person you were with?
- SoD or Suspension of disbelief. Are there massive plot hole or even just a bunch of small ones. Honestly one of the biggest issue I run into with new writers is their inability to write good dialog. You can see it most clearly when the writer is having troubles with the plot so they just have the main character react to something in a way that puts the story back on the tracks. HOWEVER it’s always in some way that no real person would do that. “Hey, you want to come to the store with me?”. “What the hell do you mean by that? I’m leaving you and taking all your crap. BTW I’m also a witch and since you now have discovered what I am I must declare to be your mortal enemy for the rest of my life despite the amazing sex we just had but now I’m off to regret not going to the store with you, to constantly think about our love making and to plot against you.” You think I’m kidding right? Nope, I have read lines just like this and even worse. Welcome to the dark side of SP.
- Was it well written. But this is not anywhere near the top of the list. Yep, you got that right. I’ve read a ton of stories where they had great characters, amazing worlds and unique plots but you could easily see that this was their first foray into writing. What can I say, i’m not a snob. I’m not here looking for the next War and Peace (which I read)((which I hated))(((Which was one long soap opera that just proved that everyone in Russia thinks they are royalty))) I’m hear to be entertained.
- Was the writer an ass. Yep. There are some great books out there, that have amazing characters, cool stories and are tons of fun. But then the author overdoes it in an effort to convince you that he/she is just as talented as they already know themselves to be. You get this a lot from people who have a background in writing related fields. Such as say… an English teacher who is desperate to let you know how much shakespeare he has read and that, as everyone knows, is the true measure of your intelligence, that is, memorizing the bard. Oh and then you need to go way, way out of your way to show us how open minded and enlightened you and that you are not just some hick like the people you went to school with.
To sum it all up, it really comes down to this. I want to be taken away to a fantastic world, full of adventure and exciting characters and I’m way less worried about your use of run on sentences and improper punctuation than I am about say, being bored or having to ignore glaring plot holes. So know that you know where I’m coming from I hope it helps you use my words to find the right story to take you away.