A Small Rant About Fantasy Reviews

Seeing a conversation (and links) on Twitter between @MarkCN and @nextread got me thinking about this subject again…
Why is it that fantasy authors always seem to be compared to other fantasy authors? And seem to be judged more harshly because of it? I don’t see this happening in any other genre nearly as often.
I read my fair share of fantasy, but I haven’t read half of some of the more popular ones out there. And I do get a bit frustrated when reading reviews comparing the author’s writing to some other author and calling it derivative when I’ve never even heard of the author to whom they’re referring. It may not always be the case, but it sure seems like a majority of new fantasy authors get this same treatment by many critics. And why does it seem to be just the fantasy genre in general? Are fantasy fans overly critical?
Maybe it’s just me, but if a certain book reminds me of someone else’s work, it has no bearing on whether or not I enjoy it.

Rant over. Feel free to discuss.

12 thoughts on “A Small Rant About Fantasy Reviews”

  1. Sometimes I think it’s the reviewer trying to appear smart by showing off how much they’ve read.

  2. I’ve noticed that the Fantasy and SF communities tend to be a bit insular and so do a lot of the amateur reviewers as a result. There’s a tendency to try and out-geek one another by being able to skewer all possible references and influences. Slamming a book as “derivative” is a great opportunity to show off your geek-cred by citing supposed offenses against the canon.

  3. I think it is good to mention who an author might be similar to. In other words if you like X you’ll probably like Y. Having said that not all of my reviews mention another author, but most do as one book may remind me of others and since it is a thought that came to me while reading and reviews are supposed to be your thoughts about that book I’ll menioned it in the review.

  4. In fantasy, the “reality” created by the author makes up a big part of the appeal of the novel (are there monsters, demons, vampires, wizards…?). Insofar, it makes sense to compare the fantasy-reality of author X with the fantasy-reality of author Y. You might do it to say where an author had a really good or original idea or where you think s/he was influenced by someone else (and yes, I realize you run the risk doing nothing but annoying name-dropping).

    However, it’s also true that there are certainly trends many authors follow, so why should a reviewer not be allowed to point that out? If authors write and re-write the same plots or the same characters again and again, why should I not say so?

  5. I believe that frankly, this is one of the main reasons that many people don’t read a lot of fantasy… because, in my head, I do this… I look at a book, see the cover, read the splash, and I think.. hmm.. looks like Lord of the Rings…and I put it back on the shelf.

    Maybe I am biased in another direction.. but in my mind, how many ‘small person/animal/woman goes on quest for ring/rock/ultimate power and fights a Dragon/wizard/evil sorceror – books can one read?… the reviewers are right to point out that its the same thing, rehashed… what’s needed is a new model for ‘fantasy’ books, and the rules should be;

    No dwarves, Orcs, or Elves, etc…
    No Wizards or Dragons..
    No ‘ultimate quests’

    it’s the books that are about something fresh and new that truly become the ones that everyone wants to read.

  6. I think the bar is higher for originality in fantasy than it is in many other genres. Why? Because the heart of fantasy is the sense of wonder, imagination taking us places we haven’t been before. A Western novel doesn’t need to reinvent the American west, it just needs to give us characters to follow as they struggle within that familiar milieu.

    Tolkienesque/D&D fantasy has become so familiar to many that it has lost all sense of wonder. Some, of course, are happy to visit the generic fantasy universe over and over. But for others, cliche fantasy is like sf with stupid science or mysteries where there is no puzzle.

    For myself, I don’t mind occasional “generic” fantasy for the simple escapism it offers, but I much prefer fantasy with at least some fresh angles to explore.

  7. Well as a reviewer of fantasy, I’d say that this most likely just another example of Sturgeon’s law – 95% of the reviews out there are bad (especially on Amazon, where I’d bump it up to 99.9%). In general, I’d say that direct comparisons to other authors are lazy and terribly informative. However, they do have a place at times and can be done well.

    And with all the above said, pretty much every discussion I’ve seen on message boards about what people want from reviews has at least a significant plurality (and sometimes and outright majority) who say they want direct comparisons with authors that they are familiar with. So, while I’m not a fan, I think we will be stuck with statements like ‘fans of __ will love this book’.

  8. I avoid to read amazon reviews. There are several blogger whom I trust after some experience. There are several reasons why I read reviews:
    – I read the book and would like to read what other people think about it;.
    – I use them as a “filter” in this ocean of releases.
    – I use them for decision making whether to buy a book or not.

    When I started to read reviews I was always looking for the kind of statements which Neth mentioned in his post. Nowadays I don’t need it any longer.

    I tried to write reviews but I failed. I think you need some talent to write good reviews.

  9. You bring up an interesting point and a foible that I am, very often, guilty of committing.

    Part of it is, I think, how narrow the list of elements that make up a fantasy story can be to many (myself included).

    A lot of it I blame on the covers, which give us certain expectations.

    But like with all genres, I find it more interesting and fun if we have an author who takes those “standards” and runs with them in a new way. For example, I love the books of Charles DeLint, the Dresden Files and the new one by Richard K. Morgan. Because each one takes the toys of the fantasy world and plays with them in a new way. Unlike other authors who it seems have a checklist who want to put in a, b and c to make sure to meet some kind of fantasy quota. Or they deliver a doorstop-like tome that would be better if you edited out some things…

  10. As a reader and marketer I think the comparisons are used because it a great marketing ploy. When I’m promotion a product/service/event I know that my users are creatures of habit and comfort, like anyone and I will give them an “anchor” to grasp the benefit of the product/service/event. That comparison helps with the sell of the product moreso than the value of the product. You see it a lot in book retailing, movie pitching because of the investments being made in competitive industries. No one wants to bankroll a dog of a movie and publishers don’t want to invest in a book from an unproven author. So the subject matter is want will get the sell. When I read a review of a book and that reviewer is spot on then I’ll go back for more. However, the ultimate goal is to help mitigate any risks(time, maybe money) to the purchaser/reader a certain book.

Comments are closed.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com