Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reviews that look beyond the surface

"Nothing really makes sense, mind, but one of the themes of the story is a commentary on the limited nature of science and what humans can see, so it’s not setting out to make sense, it’s trying to do something different."
I read this comment in a review, and I really liked it.  I like when a reviewer doesn't simply dismiss and hate on a book but actually tries to understand the purpose of the story, which may not be to be a perfect, traditional book. 

Another review I read here told me something about the structure of the work that blew my mind.  The story involved someone training to become a professional opera singer, and apparently, the plot was structured in such a way as to mirror classical opera plots.  What a great review, much better than the ones I've read that complain about how the plot isn't in any standard structure (and thus sucks).  This careful reviewer looked beyond the surface and into the purpose of the crafting.

I understand that it may not be possible for a writer to do that with every book reviewed.  It may not even be the reviewer's purpose.  I love liking things and trying to understand them, so it makes sense that I would prefer to read reviews written by people who like something and rhapsodize about its virtues while not making false claims about its perfection.

If I ever publish, I'll value one thoughtful review like these (even if they don't like it, as long as they look carefully) more than ten that fail to kindly look beyond the surface.  Just remind me of that if I'm freaking out over a shallow, dismissive, hate-fest review.  (I hope to be able to own those reviews like John Scalzi does.)

Have you read any reviews that made you rethink your opinion of a book you've read and apparently not understood?

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