Daily Archives: December 3, 2004

The Publishers Weekly Review of “Old Man’s War”

I’ve seen it, and to sum up: Wow. It’s a starred review, which means they’re singling it out for attention among the other books reviewed that week, and here’s the first sentence:

Though a lot of SF writers are more or less efficiently continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Scalzi’s astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master.

The rest of the review is pretty nice, too.

My two immediate thoughts after reading that first sentence were “Gee, I’m glad I thanked Robert Heinlein in my acknowledgments” (since this makes it abundantly clear I know my obvious debt to the man), and “I hope the reviewer means something like Starship Troopers and not The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.” Fortunately, the two Heinlein works explicitly noted by the reviewer were Troopers and Time Enough for Love. Since the book is explicitly modeled after the first and the second is my favorite Heinlein book, you can imagine I am pleased with the comparisons. The review also notes that I’m not just channeling Heinlein, which of course also pleases me; one does like to have credit for one’s own imagination.

Getting a PW review is good publicity, getting a starred review is better, and then having the actual review read as this one, I think, is the best of all. This is potentially good news for the sales health of the book, and there’s no question I’m thankful for that. It’s hard to get noticed as a debut novelist in any genre.

Now the real question is: Will a good review of the book in PW boost sales like a good review from Instapundit? Because take it from a guy whose Amazon ranking went up by a factor of over 100 after his mention, Glenn moves the goods. We’ll see if PW can match that.

Now, being a critic and reviewer myself, allow me to be the first to add the moderating word of caution that reviews — good or bad — reflect a single point of view, which you as the consumer of entertainment may or may not agree with. And as thrilled as I am with the review, part of me is wary that people looking for a Robert Heinlein, Part II reading experience will come away somewhat disappointed — or alternately, will expect me only to produce Heinlein knockoffs in the future, which I’m not sure is what I really want to do. And of course, other reviews of this book are likely not to be as kind. Someone somewhere is going to hate it, I can guarantee that already.

What I hope you’d do as a potential reader is take any review as a data point, not a guarantee. I hope you like Old Man’s War as much as this reviewer appears to have done. But that’s up to you, not me or this kind reviewer. I’ll be interested in hearing what you think, too.