Mmmm… One Star-rific!

For your fun and edification, I now present selected snippets of one-star reviews of my work on Amazon. Why? Oh, just because.

Old Man’s War:

Opening the book, I met a central character whose lame attempts at humor are acclaimed as hilarious. Gradually we find our man is gifted at everything but amazingly modest. This endears him to his fictional friends who are numerous and described in tedious detail… A physicist character in inserted to relieve the author from any explanation by insisting that our math is inadequate. Aliens are thrown at us in pathetic haste, as mere cartoon monsters. I wonder this book can be classed as SF.

a trite, weakly written novel that barely qualifies as science fiction… The science (I’m a hard core devote) is absent or implausible, and the action is a series of cliches.

Ultimately, it reads like John Wayne of the future with the main character saving the day in multiple, and very tired ways. All of the “surprises” were predictable and uninspiring and the hints of self-doubt are pushed aside like so many alien carcasses. I highly recommend avoiding this book.

I could not finish reading this book because it bored me to tears. There are dialogs after dialogs, but no action. If this is a movie, there will be only one scene in the whole movie, of people talking to each others.

‘infantile’ is the best description, not even rising to ‘adolescent’. save your money on this wretched crap.

The Android’s Dream

Very slow, very boring, really not very interesting.

The Sagan Diary

There is just nothing here. No insights, no plot, no real imagination. Just fluff and dreck.

The book is emotional tripe without clear context. You need a better memory than mine to match the emotional ramblings to the events in the Old Man’s War series.

My real problem is that these thoughts and feelings portray a sensitive, delicate young thing rather than the heavy duty Special Forces soldier who even in civilian life engendered some degree of fear even in the people who knew her best. It’s like hearing Mike Hammer cry about his boutonniere not matching his tux for the prom – Oh please!

How do I feel about these one star reviews? I feel fine about them. I am not under the impression that, alone among all writers who have ever existed, I will be the one whose work is universally acclaimed; nor am I under the impression that when readers who feel burned by work are offered an avenue to express their displeasure, that they will rather prefer to stew privately. Nor do I think an appropriate response to negative reviews is to flamebroil the reviewer and send my minions to harass them, thus revealing myself to be something of an insecure psychotic. Someone doesn’t like my work and wants to tell people so? Okay by me. I’ll live. As will any other author who has the sense not to get in a lather over the idea that somewhere someone might not like their work. And if you don’t have that sense, well. Just put on your big author panties and deal with it.

A challenge to other authors with blogs, LiveJournals and etc: Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you’re lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.

104 thoughts on “Mmmm… One Star-rific!

  1. When it comes right down to it, regardless of the number of stars, they still paid for the book, right?

  2. How dare you use a physicist character saying “you don’t have the math”! You must explain in intricate detail how string theory works, the precise schematics of all technology yet to be invented, and all of the underlying math behind these technologies.

    Then, you really will be able to live up to your reviews. Well, at least live up to your review of “I could not finish reading this book because it bored me to tears.”

  3. The science (I’m a hard core devote) is absent or implausible

    Someone actually reads SF expecting good science?

    In the science fiction I’ve read, even the good science is bad science.

  4. Good stuff . . .

    One comment though:

    My real problem is that these thoughts and feelings portray a sensitive, delicate young thing rather than the heavy duty Special Forces soldier who even in civilian life engendered some degree of fear even in the people who knew her best. It’s like hearing Mike Hammer cry about his boutonniere not matching his tux for the prom – Oh please!

    Isn’t the central conflict of the Special Forces that they were “heavy-duty” soldiers, that were also four years old with all the baggage that situation would suggest?

  5. Okay, I like it. I’ll go to amazon and dig out one star reviews when I get back from the Spring Concert at my oldest son’s school.

    Although my husband has pointed out that some individuals with a particular sense of humour, will now run to amazon to post those one-star reviews.

  6. LOL!
    Got to love the creativity of critics!
    Anyways I was going to post some negative remarks from my music website but I don’t have any (negative remarks)!
    John:
    Feel free to leave negative remarks about my music on my website if it will make you feel better (not that your upset or anything).

  7. My worst – and first – reader review ever arrived in my inbox the day my first book hit the streets in the UK. This was 1996, so there was no Amazon.com yet. Sadly, I’ve lost that review, but it went something like this:

    “I took the book with me to the dentist, and believe me, the drill was far less painful than the book.”

    Ah, well.

  8. Oh, man. You are laudably lacking in personal vanity, John. I was already having trouble shaking the idea that Pruitt Taylor Vince (playing Rub Squeers) in the 1994 Paul Newman vehicle Nobody’s Fool was your pudgy twin brother. Now it’s burned onto my retina. Or cortex. Somewhere. When you cross your eyes up like that the resemblance really is eerie. Sorry I can’t find a film outtake for comparison.

  9. Ulrika O’Brien:

    It is true I enjoy posting not-entirely-flattering pictures of myself from time to time. I just think they’re funny. I like having an especially plastic face.

  10. On the covers of his Doonesbury books Trudeau always has an extremely negative review of his previous books. I always thought that was a really cool thing to do. I think it might be an effective marketing tool to plaster negative quotes all over the paperback reprint of a novel. It would sure get people’s attention.

  11. Well, for the record, I disagree with all of those. Well, except maybe some of the Sagan Diary reviews. That didn’t work very well for me, but the others yeah, I liked those. I even paid good money for them.

  12. Thanks, John. I got my first one-star review the other day on my novel BMOC on Amazon (I am sure you all have seen it — its ranked just below that book on the great Polka bands of Nevada). I have always thought of myself as pretty immune from being depressed by other’s opinions, but I found that it did affect me. It actually made me feel a lot better to see these 1-star reviews of an author like yourself who sucks so much less than I do.

  13. Very impressive John. Most people aren’t particularly comfortable putting a spotlight on criticism they have received. I honestly believe you are NOT fishing for complements, and most people wouldn’t be here if they didn’t enjoy your writing. But for what it is worth, I liked The Androids Dream and I loved Old Man’s War. I have recommended both to several people and wish you continued success.

  14. I think the best line in the post was “put your big author panties on and deal with it.” That alone was worth the price of admission.

    (Oh, wait – I didn’t have to pay anything to get in here, did I?)

  15. Just goes to show that amateur critics don’t get it right all the time any more than professional ones do. The professional ones tend to be haughtier and nastier though.

  16. The book is emotional tripe without clear context. You need a better memory than mine to match the emotional ramblings

    Funny, I loved the ramblings :-) It’s your first book I’ve read (listened to, actually, when you podcasted it here), so I had no context except for what little I knew about what OMW is about. Yet the book did make sense to me and was great. So great in fact that I went to order all your books sans Android’s Dream from Amazon, including printed copy of The Sagan Diary, despite your warning that TSD is different. I like them all, but I love TSD.

    Did I mention how amazingly well did The Sagan Diary go in audio form?

  17. I agree with Chang. Scalvi had some great reviews in his “critics rave” series a while back, but it seems that with this set, his reviews are slipping. I think Scalvi’s whole “One-Star Review” series has played itself out, but that undoubtedly won’t keep his publishers from milking it for several more installments as long as it draws willing buyers. (You know, the ones who think they’re all about “new ideas”, but really just want the same crowd-pleasing pap over and over again. Unfortunately, there are enough of those that they’re taking the whole genre down the tubes.)

    Speaking of milking it, this has some wonderful one-star reviews (148 at last count!) The five-star reviews are pretty good too.

  18. you’re a wonder, Mr. Scalzi (Sir Scalzi? It rolls nicely off the tongue. Go save a nobleman from certain death and get knighted!).

    When you get right down to it, so many of us are unable to comprehend that other people are actually other people, in other words that they actually have different beliefs, priorities, and preferences. Whether it’s politics, entertainment, or religion many of us seem to think, “If only everyone else weren’t (choose one: a moron/taken in by lies/evil) they’d all see it my way.” Kudos for being above that.

  19. John, if I were you, I’d have “…it reads like John Wayne of the future…” as a quote on the cover of the next printing of Old Man’s War.

  20. I have the clipping somewhere, but my very first produced play had a review in a major publication said that watching my play was like staying on the Titanic while it sank in order to hear the band play.

    My cast played me “My Heart Will Go On” at the closing night party. Good times.

  21. I do sometimes wonder what kind of person goes and writes those bad reviews. I mean, I just finished a book from an author I like, who I’ve read probably 20 or so books in the past, and this one, er, just wasn’t very good. It was a jumbled mess with no real coherent story, just a bunch of moralizing.

    And yet, somehow, I felt no desire to go do an amazon review trashing the book. On reading this, I was curious. There were 444 reviews, with a displayed average of 3 stars, but the breakdown was:

    5 star – 58
    4 star – 74
    3 star – 108
    2 star – 115
    1 star – 89

    So obviously a bunch of people agreed with me, but a bunch more managed to somehow like the book.

  22. Well, good on you for not taking yourself too seriously. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to resemble Rub — he’s really very dear, in his own sad sack way. Not that you’re a sad sack, but possibly humanized by the resemblance.

    (Why yes, I did just re-watch Nobody’s Fool. I had completely forgotten it — it’s not at all a flashy movie, but it does sneak up on you after a while. Newman got an Oscar nomination for it, but it was Taylor’s performance that in retrospect seems particularly fine. Anyway, sorry for the irrelevant digression, I was just particularly struck by the physical resemblance. But then, I am noted for seeing resemblance where no one else does. Also, for irrelevant digressions. Burma Shave.)

  23. Nice that you’re being mature about this.
    I thought you were going to point out other authors who’ve done this, since I’ve seen at least one go “I don’t care about reviews, I laugh at one point reviews”, get one star reviews for his books, and give *himself* 5 star reviews, while encouraging rabid fans to post high starred reviews.

    Skip – why would people give low star reviews?
    I can think of two reasons:
    1) As a warning to others (probably doesn’t work, but I can see myself pointing bad reviews to warn other fans)
    2) As a way of telling the author what I didn’t like, in hopes s/he’ll do better next time (only valid for authors where you liked their previous work).

    John – Would authors be interested in a well-thought negative review, or would it be “Ah well, can’t please everybody all the time” and ignored?
    I’m guessing ignored, which is why I haven’t bothered posting reviews (any kind), but I’m interested in what an author thinks about reviews/critiques which are more detailed than “It sucked”.

  24. Justaguy:

    “John – Would authors be interested in a well-thought negative review, or would it be ‘Ah well, can’t please everybody all the time’ and ignored?”

    Depends on the author, I’d say. I like interesting and thoughtful negative reviews, myself. Of course, I like interesting and thoughtful positive reviews better.

  25. Sometime I feel the burning need to track down some of those one-star reviewers (not specifically yours, John, of course), challenge them to a duel to be fought at daybreak and shoot them down as they clearly deserve.
    Let’s be honest, what’s the contribution made to the greater good of mankind by someone who writes “I bought the book. It was 600 pages long. So I trashed it because it was too long. One star.“?

  26. Let me just say upfront that this is a threadjack (sort of). Here are two short reviews from Amazon of an another author’s work. This author is named John, but is neither Scalzi, nor Scalvi. I’ve obscured the author, and the works mentioned so as to avoid a total threadjacking.

    1/ I would rather eat my toenails than read this book again.

    This is the worst book I’ve read in my life. Don’t get me wrong, J’s a genius, but what the poop was he thinking when he wrote this travesty of American literature? Read ‘X’ or ‘Y’ instead, unless you’re into the whole mind-numbing torture thing.

    2/ Painful to Read

    Generally, I like J. I liked ‘X’. I liked ‘Q’. This book, however, remains at the top of my list as the worst book I have ever read. It moves slowly and bored me to tears. The only redeeming value of this book was that it was so short.

    The author is a pretty famous American novelist, won some literary prizes and the like; but still gets snark from the hoi polloi at Amazon. In fact this work had more one star reviews than any other category.

    All fiction has a bad note or two, falls short, or fails to please someone. I think many of us enjoy works despite their failings. We can even read a work, and see its flaws because we suspend our disbelief enough that we float over the rough patches. So you didn’t levitate everyone over the potholes? BIG DEAL. You know you won’t get everyone, and it doesn’t really matter unless your average sinks below 500, or whatever magic line you publisher has that defines your worth. Enjoy your reviews, not all that want them get them!

    ramblingly yours,

    -michael

    p.s. I think it’s neat how meta this thread became with the reviews of the reviews comparing them to fictional (?!) reviews of your work…

  27. Oh, well played Scalzi…well played. I see what you did there. Highlighted the one-star reviews for all your books….OR DID YOU?

    Where’s the One-Star Review for Ghost Brigades, huh? Don’t think I didn’t notice.

    I’m ON to you, John. Oh yes, I’m on to you.

  28. WizarDru:

    Oddly enough, neither Ghost Brigades or Last Colony have any one-star reviews. Yet, at least.

    This should be not be read as a signal to go put any on their Amazon pages, incidentally.

  29. “I do sometimes wonder what kind of person goes and writes those bad reviews.”

    Some of us are just more motivated by what annoys us more than what pleases us — like the old joke about the kid who never spoke until there was something wrong with his breakfast. It’s not by any means a virtue, but sometimes ya gotta play the cards you’re dealt.

    I think the only time I ever wrote to a publisher about a book was when I hit the umptijillionth missing close-quote in the dialog-heavy bits of Toolmaker Koan. I threw the book down in mid-read and fired off an extremely irked note to Jim Baen about the effectiveness of his copyediting staff. It obviously had some effect, since I got a personal note back from Jim and a half-dozen free books for my trouble.

    While I often mean to write book reviews, the positive pleasure of a good read hardly ever gets urgent enough to get my ass in the chair to do the hard work. It takes the mosquito-whine of irritation to get me fired up.

    It’s a bit like, “Someone is wrong on the internet.”

  30. Mustache = laziness.

    Seriously, facial hair is my least favorite male secondary sexual characteristic.

  31. Great idea, John!

    THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND: “The only reason I gave this book one star was because it was short and I didn’t have to waste too much time on it (plus I think that’s the lowest I can go on Amazon ). Too many cliche’s and no character development.”

    My “favorite” however, was actually a 2 star entitled: “It must be the hand he uses to scratch his butt”.

    GOOD DAY IN HELL and SAFE AND SOUND never got below three stars, but I have freinds who’ll remind me that that’s because so few people read them that there wasn’t a significant sample.

  32. I have accepted your challenge :)
    I just wish I’d thought of it first. There is something delightfully subversive in responding to MacGillivray’s stalkerriffic behavior by publicly taking ownership of the reviewers that proclaim teh suck. I think it’s also a great way to get over the whole “OMG THEY HATE ME!!!1!!!” feeling.

    If enough authors pick up the banner, I think MacGillivray’s head might explode.

  33. Dude, I so beat you to this idea. I posted a list of scathing reviews of my first book last February. Although I’ve failed to update it with the recent one-star Amazon reviewers who seem to like to toss my book across the room.

    And don’t try to point me to someone else who thought of this idea before me. I’m the first person who ever thought of it. Ever. Evereverevereverever.

  34. I’d just like to mention that I use one star reviews much more often than 5 star when making a decision to purchase a book. If a one-star claims “It was too complicated”, it usually goes right in the shopping cart. On the other hand, a one star with an intelligently worded justification means I can usually trust that opinion – at least within the contact of the review. Often times 5 stars are so overly gushing from hard core fans that it distorted the actual pros and cons of a book. As with everyting in this world – consider the source.

  35. Hi John,

    Regarding all those single starlets… uh, forget it.

    I read “Old Man’s War” on recommendation of my big brother. That experience resulted in me slugging my way through “The Ghost’s Brigades” and finally “The Last Colony”. And then… withdrawal. As a part-time dyslexic I need to be sufficiently motivated in order to endure an occasional bout of scrambled word omelet. Faaan-tastic! All three books were well worth the risk!

    My apologies if the following concepts have already been flogged to death by rabid Scalzi fans:

    Your Brainpal concept reminds me of an evolving form of high-tech hive consciousness as interpreted through the modern lenses of computer operating systems like UNIX or LINUX, aka remote access. (AKA “Channeling” for all you sensitive New Agers!)

    And memory implants? A moment of reverent silence as we Grok the works of Phillip. K. Dick. Such conundrums cause us to wrestle with: Are we our memories, or are we that incomprehensible thingie which perceives a tapestry of memories. Quien Sabe, Kimosabe!

    And then in your scene where new recruits are trained to link-up with and see-through the eyes of their mates to better negotiate an obstacle course – this also brings to bare profound questions in regards to where the soul of the individual resides, or even if “individuality” as we perceive it exists at all. Perhaps “individuality” is simply a strategic convenience of Consciousness (or Awareness) that has its roots in some biological advantage over other experimental survival tactics.

    Some of your literary explorations strike me as subversively Zen-like! Ya better watch it! I could blather on forever, so I better shut up for now.

    Oh… I gotta ask one last question: Are Jane’s new genes dominant?

    Good stuff, John. Keep at it!

    Steven Vincent Johnson aka OrionWorks

  36. Strangely, I’ve been a reader here for quite a while, and still hadn’t gotten around to reading your novels. (They’ve been on my wishlist, though.) I just bought them, and read OMW a couple days ago.

    Overall, I can see why you have so many fans. I’m definitely anticipating getting the next block of time for pleasure reading. I had two minor quibbles:

    1) I wanted the book to be longer. ;-) It just felt like I was getting to know the characters, and the book was over. (I realize that some of that may be intentional, reflecting the nature of war.) I gather from the titles/synopses of the remaining books that I’ll get to further explore at least some of the characters moving forward. Yay!

    2) (*spoiler alert!*) I was fine with the whole “you don’t have the math for it” thing, and only got my willing suspension of disbelief tweaked once he tried to explain the multiverse theory, and how (paraphrasing) “once you’ve changed universes, changing locations is trivial.”
    I know you needed to get into explanation somehow to describe the ambush mechanism (and that multiverse theory is a plausible physics theory), but I would’ve found the standard wormhole-type superluminal travel more believable.

    But, as I said, minor quibble, and I’m looking forward to jumping back in soon. Thanks for writing, and for your willingness to share the process with us here!

  37. I retain a warm fondness for Sarah Monette who linked to both of my negative comments on one of her books, sans commentary and/or orders for her devoted fans to raid my site.

    With that negative review of OMW I can kinda see where the guy is coming from (except for the weird “bad science” complaint) and yet all that he mentioned worked for me immensely.

  38. John Scalzi @ 33 wrote:

    “Oddly enough, neither Ghost Brigades or Last Colony have any one-star reviews. Yet, at least.

    This should be not be read as a signal to go put any on their Amazon pages, incidentally.”

    Well, sir, this sounds like a challenge to start up an amazon meme where people try to put up the most wonderfully intellectual and twisted one-star reviews of these books… hmmm…

  39. I have always found negative reviewers useful. But their utility depends directly on how engaged they are.

    The typical Amazon one-star (and unfortunately, typical any-other-star) isn’t detailed enough to actually dig useful information and reviewer biases / approach from.

    Anyone who cares enough to actually write details out, is a gem. Even if it works for most people, the info on why it doesn’t work for others is really useful.

    This is why I run all my writing past my wife – she’s fearless about telling me what didn’t work, and will explain it.

    Also why listening to professional editors is important…

  40. I know why you posted this; you love making pictures like that. ;-)

    Kinda like John Smith, I find low-star reviews more useful than high-star ones. I mean, I ignore “this book iz teh suck” or ones that complain about things I don’t care about like “I hatez [first/third] person POV.”

    I’ll skim a few high-star reviews too–to get an idea of the plot, but also to compare to the negative reviews. For example, some 5-stars saying “great characterization” and some 1-stars saying “cruddy characterization”…it’s a wash (unless there’re many 1-stars pointing at similar problems, and almost no 5-stars contradicting). Middle-of-the-road (2-4 stars) reviews can help if well-thought-out.

    But mostly, take Amazon.com customer comments with many grains of salt!

  41. I gave a book a one-star review once— it was a particular edition of Pride and Prejudice that was to be used as a school edition, and it had several homonym substitutions and other typos. I might have been able to stand it in a modern book, but screwing up the english in a classic novel that is destined to be teaching kids something about the English language, and doing so in a novel that has been correctly typeset in various editions over nearly two centuries was too much for my blood.

    Other than that I haven’t really encountered much since high school that is worthy of single or no stars. Our school library had a subscription to receive half a dozen or so “young adult” novels every month. I called them “popcorn” and could usually read one in an afternoon. Some of them were good, most mediocre at best, and one was Bulwer-Lytton material. There were exclamation points everywhere, the grammar was that of an eighth grader, and every chapter ended with a false cliffhanger (where Oh My God! something is happening at the end of each chapter, and at the beginning of the next it was Oh, sorry, false alarm.) The truly appalling part was that it was part of a series. Gah.

  42. I’ve heard you like Robert Benchley. In that picture, you kind of look like him. I can imagine him making that face in a movie short where he’s examining his wife’s shopping receipts, or an opera synopsis.

  43. If looking through old pictures on your HDD isn’t proof enough of procratination then reading the one star reviews from Amazon is.

  44. Why do people write bad reviews? Well, the few times I have done it, on IMDb, were to warn people away from truly horrible movies. The worst is “Nightfall” which falsely claims to be made from Isaac Asimov’s wonderful short story. IMDb didn’t object to the review, which listed all my objections, but they made me change the title. For some reason, they didn’t like the highly descriptive phrase “Turd with sprocket holes.” At least none of your one-star reviews were that bad.

    Nearly all the reviews I have written were either really good or really bad. Mediocre books/movies just aren’t worth the trouble.

  45. The paperback edition of Iain Banks’ (pre-middle name) first novel ‘Wasp Factory’, when it was first published in the mid-Eighties, featured several pages inside the front cover of not only good reviews but what must have been at least a dozen *extremely* negative reviews of the ‘this author is a twisted psycho who deserves to be locked up’ variety.

    I don’t think more recent editions of the book contain those reviews, which is a shame, since to me they felt somehow like an integral part of the experience of first reading the book way back when. But as a marketing ploy, mixing the negative reviews with the positive apparently proved to be very effective.

  46. There’s always an outlier, anyway. “A Fire Upon The Deep” is a firm favourite of many if not most of my friends, while I found it excruciatingly bad.

    (I think it was that first sentence containing two co-redundant rhetorical questions and the verb ‘to quail’, in italics, that did most of the damage. There was no recovering after that.)

  47. If I’m asked to write a review I’ll give my honest opinion, regardless of whose name is on the cover. It’s worth no more and no less than the opinion of anyone else who has read the book, and I don’t see how anyone – author or reader – benefits from a dishonest review (except for a moment of virtual egoboo)

    A bad review really hurts me because the author has put a lot of work into trying to entertain me, and there has been no meeting of minds. Still, there’s always the next book.

    OMW is the only book of yours I’ve yet had the chance to read (I like buying books in bookshops) and, while I wasn’t knocked out of my chair, I enjoyed it enough to be anticipating the next ones. I liked the people.

  48. In other news, Scalzi’s blog gets one-star reviews.


    The Whatever Blog:

    Opening the blog, I met a central contributor (and presumed author) whose lame attempts at humor are acclaimed as hilarious. Gradually we find our man is gifted at everything but amazingly modest. This endears him to his fictional friends who are numerous and acclaim him in numerous comments… Several obscure references are inserted to relieve the author from any explanation by insisting that our sense of humor is inadequate. Cats are thrown at us in pathetic haste, as mere cartoon characters. I wonder this site can be classed as an author’s blog.

    I could not finish reading this post because it bored me to tears. There are quotes after quotes, but no action. If this is a movie, there will be only one scene in the whole movie, of people blogging each others.

    (Grammar errors preserved for the sake of authenticity.)

  49. Heh. I’d love to post a one star review, if I had one. My novel only got 4 and 5 star reviews, so far. Not that it had very many reviews, of course… I guess the harshly negative reviews are a proof that your book is *really* getting attention outside a circle of fans. Which is ultimately good.

    Nevertheless, I shamelessly use the “no negative review” thing to promote myself. ;-)

  50. Well, I searched for a one-star review… I seem to remember getting some, a while back, but I think they were attached to two books now technically out of print (actually reissued as one fat volume).

    But I found this 2-star review, which might quailfy because it made me so very indignant when I first saw it….

    Until I realized, all of a sudden, that in essence, I AGREED!

    Here’s the significant (to me) part:

    “It is just her view of humanity I can’t stomach. I like noir – books which focus on the fraility in the human psyche, books and novels which begin with the presumption that the protagonist is no more noble or deserving of admiration than we know we are. This book is a violation of everything in the roman noir. It is a roman clare. The author assumes that truth has a virtue which transcends all the virtue claimed by your local fundamentalist. ”

    Roman clare. Yep, that’s what I was shooting for.

    The complete review is here:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R1UM0BLI9IHBIO/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

  51. oops.

    I just re-read Scalzi’s post, and remembered that he asked people to post the reviews in their own blogs…

    Of which I have, unfortunately, none…

    Sorry John. Delete my comments if you like.

  52. It’s not bravery, it’s just not getting neurotic about reviews. Everyone has bad reviews. Hell, some people make careers out of them. Good careers.

  53. No one star reviews, but I was once called a f*cktard in a blog for my writing. Yes, someone actually made up a word to describe how much they hated me and my book. The weird thing is I felt very honored to have offended someone so much that a word didn’t currently exist to express this particular reviewer’s opinions.

  54. Relax, don’t worry.
    It’s the mustache. Critics hate mustaches. Shave it off and you’ll get better reviews.

    (Then again, I could be mistaken… ;-))

  55. +++When it comes right down to it, regardless of the number of stars, they still paid for the book, right?+++

    I have had, to date, only three really abusively bad reviews of my writing, but all three of those reviewers made a particular point of saying that they had read all of my books.

    I mean, okay, first one, well, pity you hated it, not every book does it for every person, etc etc. Second one, huh, seems a bit odd that you read the whole thing, but, well, good on you for giving me another shot, but third and subsequent? Kind of hard to keep feeling sympathy here.

  56. “Very slow, very boring, really not very interesting.”

    I feel the need to rip on him.

    This guy is just parroting what his girlfriend said about their sex life before she dumped his ass.

    Did he even read the book? You start off with a chapter-long fart joke, you make me actively want to purchase a pair of shoes for the first time in my life (and describe a sport I’d totally watch on tv), and have me laughing about every third page.

    I mean, really. Read the book before you review it.

  57. Now, now, Dan.

    One of the reasons I started Android’s Dream with a bang-up first chapter is that I knew that I would then have three chapters of scene-setting (Harry Creek, the protagonist of the book, doesn’t even show up until chapter 3). If the first chapter doesn’t grab you, I can see why you might think there was not a whole lot going on. I don’t agree — I like the early chapters because I think I give folks lots to play with — but I can see it.

    But it does show that there’s only so far a writer can stage manage a reading experience. Sooner or later it’s up to the reader.

  58. John,

    These are bad reviews. What about puzzling ones? For instance, a reviewer who says he hates that part where Jane Sagan kills her husband and you’re reading it thinking, wait, what? I get these. Even more weird, they are frequently POSITIVE. Have you gotten any reviews where the reader says he really loved the book and then goes on to describe things that make you wonder what book he read because it wasn’t yours? Either they get the plot wrong or even more fun, they tell you you were writing about say, the kingdom of heaven and a war in the afterlife. Or OMW is obviously a thinly veiled revisionist history of the Boer War.

  59. Tobias Buckell posted one of his lousy reviews (along with a good one) on his blog the other day.

    I’m guessing it’s easier to stomach those bad reviews when:

    1) The book has sold well (selling well is the best revenge, right?), and/or

    2) The negative reviewers make silly spelling/grammar mistakes (devote for devotee) which allow you to feel superior to them.

    Of course, silly spelling/grammar mistakes in glowing, positive reviews are just endearing foibles. And silly spelling/grammar mistakes in comment posts about spelling/grammar mistakes… well, let’s not get bogged down in pedantic details.

    I tend to agree with other previous comments that having those scathing one-stars is a good sign (well, in moderation) – it means you’re reaching people outside of your core fan demographic. And give me a scorching review over an ‘eh’ one any day.

  60. When it comes right down to it, regardless of the number of stars, they still paid for the book, right?

    I have had, to date, only three really abusively bad reviews of my writing, but all three of those reviewers made a particular point of saying that they had read all of my books.

    “I have read” =/= “I have bought”.

    I have posted some scathing one-star reviews of books I got out of the library. They were so offensively bad I had to pound on them on amazon.

    Why do people write bad reviews?

    Because it’s fun!!! Beating the hell out of a bad book is a blast, even more fun than lavishing praise on a really good book. Worst book of all to review is a so-so book – can’t think of much good to say, can’t think of much to criticize.

    Anyway, I saw some guy on the Orange Line of the metro reading OMW earlier this week, and he seemed happy enough with it.

  61. Your fine with it??

    I’m not sure I would be… Don’t get me wrong I enjoy constructive cristism but bad reveiews from dumb people would annoy the hell out of me!!

    On a not quit same note I’m almost done “The Androids Dream” and i’m really liking it :) but I’ll leave my bigger response for Joe’s BOTM club review in a couple weeks.

    Now i’ll have to work through the rest of your books :)

  62. Penny:

    Yup. I’m fine with it because I’m happy with the books, and if I’m happy with the books I don’t really care what anyone else thinks of them.

  63. John:

    Is there a certain sense of.. I dunno.. schaden</i<-pride in those reviews too, when you’re happy with your work? I ask ’cause that’s the case for me, really.

    Like someone blasted my work on the Gaming generation article *and* an article I wrote on the spate of video game company mergers for 1up. I mean, actually tracked down my email and sent my a flame.

    And it was just so.. amusing and sort of “wow, look at that, he’s critiquing my work as a whole” that made me smile… and it bounced right off because I’m really, really proud of all the research and work I did on those two articles.

  64. doggo @ 78: You have to read the book!
    Pay particular attention to what they do on their first date at the mall and you will understand.

  65. Tobias Buckell posted one of his lousy reviews (along with a good one) on his blog the other day.

    Yeah, I tend to post them all. I figure people reading my own blog aren’t going to suddenly throw up their hands and say ‘oh, well NOW I’m not going to read his work’ LOL :-)

  66. I’m sure the Campbell Award and the others won and nominated for, as well as the sales figures certainly help take the sting out of the one star reviews.

    #75 hope, I get that with some critiques of my stories. The ones that make me want to ask, “That’s very nice, now WTF story were you reading?”

  67. Well, let me put it this way. I’ve read OMW and GB since Monday (it’s Friday of the same week), and I honestly can’t get the similarity in your writing style to Heinlein out of my mind.

    This is tough. I read the Heinlein novel that Virginia asked Spider Robinson to finish and it was “kinda… sorta”, more of a tribute. So, I bought a couple of Spider’s novels and… I couldn’t finish them. A bit too gonzo.

    But your stuff, John. Wow!

    I never wanted to be a writer, but if I ever became one, I wanted to write like Heinlein, or Asimov, maybe something like Clarke but not as stuffy. Then when I finally wrote my first short story, what came out was religious based fiction (in the Eric Flint 1632 universe). I was amazed that I actually wrote something that sold, much less a religious themed work.

    Now, I’ve written a novella (also in the 1632 Universe) that has also been bought, also with a religious theme. I’m working on a third story, in a universe of my own design, and it’s also based on a religious theme. I don’t know why this is coming out of my mind, I don’t think of myself as very religious.

    My point is that I don’t think you can channel an author’s style as well as Scalzi does it unless it’s completely natural, or he’s a very, very good writer.

    Personally, I vote for all the above.

  68. Steve @ 85

    I would love to read people’s WTF Reviews, but unlike bad reviews, I think they’d have to come with explications. Like: “NB, there was no cat in this story” or “Please note that the main character did not die” or “In spite of being referred to as he and him throughout the review, my character is female.” That last one is true story from Robin McKinley.

  69. I think as a consumer negative reviews are important. When I’m not sure about something I tend to read the four star reviews and the one star reviews. Four star reviews usually seem to be more likely to justify their opinion. With one star reviews, it’s usually pretty easy to ignore the “teh suxor” reviews from someone giving their honest opinion about what did or did not work for them.

    It’s one thing to say, “I don’t like this book” but it’s another to say “I don’t like this book because there was too much boinking for my taste, and the author did not tie up any plot points by the conclusion of the book which is a pet peeve of mine.”

    Reviews of the second type I find very useful because they allow me to look for things that irritate me. Like… say… too much boinking and plot threads left dangling at the end of the book.

    I review every book I read on my own website, and I try to explain *why* I feel the way I do, in the hopes that someone will be able to judge whether a book interest them or not–and also if it’s part of a series that you can pick up in the middle or need the first book of.

    And Kat Richardson? I love your Greywalker series! They are exactly the kind of supernatural fantasy I love. Thank you! (/end fangirl squee)

  70. While I am a fan of his past work, I have to give this lolscalzi zero stars. though the picture is humorous, the caption should clearly be “MY GOD! IT’S FULL OF NO STARS!” Also, there is a shortage of cats and/or bacon. I wonder this image can be classed as lol.

  71. I’ve seen it. I like that John Ringo shows up in the comment and calls it the best review ever.

  72. Why do people write bad reviews?

    Like others here, I tend to skim the five-star Amazon reviews because every book has its claque of supporters. The two-to-four star reviews are the ones most likely to go beyond “rox/sux” and give me an idea of whether I’d like the book.

    I get something from the reviews others have written, and I want to give something back in return – which means writing reviews myself. On a more practical level, people who see thought-out reviews are more likely to post their own thought-out reviews, which improves the resources for everyone. (And maybe some of those people will warn me off a bad book I might otherwise have bought.)

    If no one posts bad reviews, you end up with nothing but good reviews – which decreases the value of the reviews for potential readers.

  73. +++“I have read” =/= “I have bought”.

    I have posted some scathing one-star reviews of books I got out of the library. They were so offensively bad I had to pound on them on amazon.+++

    I take the point, but I do recall that one of them mentioned owning as well as reading, and another expressed regret that he wasn’t likely to meet me so he could beat the cost of four books back out of me.

  74. Well, I did intentionally make myself look like ass, here, Stacey. You know. For the comic effect.

  75. Why do people write bad reviews?

    Like others here, I tend to skim the five-star Amazon reviews because every book has its claque of supporters. The two-to-four star reviews are the ones most likely to go beyond “rox/sux” and give me an idea of whether I’d like the book.

    I get something from the reviews others have written, and I want to give something back in return – which means writing reviews myself. On a more practical level, people who see thought-out reviews are more likely to post their own thought-out reviews, which improves the resources for everyone. (And maybe some of those people will warn me off a bad book I might otherwise have bought.)

    If no one posts bad reviews, you end up with nothing but good reviews – which decreases the value of the reviews for potential readers.

  76. good advice, for life. for dealing with negative people and the past. not just bad reviews. trying to find a way to deal without raving like an “insecure psychotic”. something to work on….

  77. I admit, I didn’t finish Old Man’s War, either (which I read when the owner of the bookstore where I bought Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded gushed and couldn’t BE-LEEEEVE I hadn’t read it.

    Thing is, I ADORED the “dialogs after dialogs.” THERE was the humor and wonderfulness that makes me read this blog. When the war part of the war novel started, I wasn’t thrilled anymore (I felt the same way about Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, and I’m a scary, squeeing trivia-spewing fangirl for the first two books). I tried a genre I don’t dig so much because of the name on the cover. I passed it on to someone who thought Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded was “a bunch of lectures and he LOVED Old Man’s War. That’s what makes life interesting.

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