I always told myself I would never do a Top 10 list. But then I realised I was quite angry about a fair few things, and that a fun way to tell people about that fact would be to do a Top 10 list. So, like the spineless cretin I am, here is the Top 10 Things I Hate About Online Book Discussion.
1-Top 10 Lists
This grievance comes in two halves. The first is that lists dominate book discussion. Trying to find discussion on individual books is like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the haystack is endless Top 10 SF Books, Top 10 SF Authors, Top 10 Books You NEED To Read. If a book is so good, dedicate a whole article to it. You cannot possibly squeeze all your thoughts into a single paragraph in a list. And if you’re going to make a list, why does it always have to be 10? Sure, 3, 5 and 20 sometimes get a chance, but 10 dominates. I get it, 10 is a nice round number. But what if I think there are only 8 great books. Or 11. Having a top 10 that features ties is the coward’s way out. Just make your list the size it needs to be to accommodate the books in question. Or better yet, don’t force your thoughts into a list in the first place.
Honestly, I was tempted to include BookTube as a whole here, but that would be a disservice to its redeeming features. As it happens, BookTube is a great place to find author interviews. Unfortunately, the thumbnails employed by the majority of BookTubers sums up just about everything wrong with the medium. They’re basically all the same. A picture of the book, some wavy arrows pointing various things, and finally the BookTuber pulling some facial expression that probably is in no way indicative of the content of the review (assuming it even is a review, and not just some rambling ‘everything wrong with…’ but I digress). Maybe it’s just me, but I’m here to hear about your opinions on the book. Not to see your gurning expression tell me nothing until I click on your precious links.
3-Talking Down Tie-In Fiction
While there aren’t a whole lot of review sites that cover tie-in media, there are plenty of readers out there. But a lot of these readers will say things like ‘It’s pretty good for a 40k novel,’ or ‘It’s entertaining, but not high literature.’ Just today I saw someone criticise a space opera novel by saying ‘it reads like a Halo novelisation trying to be a real book.’ Well here’s a newsflash. Halo novels are real books. I know because I’ve seen them. They’ve got pages and ink and everything. Readers and reviewers alike seriously need to start examining tie-in books the same way they’d talk about original works. Yes, there are other layers and factors at work, but one is not lessor or greater than the other. There are Warhamnmer novels that rank among the best Military SF. Star Trek books that are great space operas. The fact that they also build on existing universes does not diminish their literary merit.
Yeah, I snuck an extra BookTube complaint in. So sue me. It goes for blogs too, but videos are the main culprit. I don’t need to sit through ten minutes of someone telling me the books they’ve just bought (or been sent). By all means, mention you’ve acquired some new books, but surely it’s better to talk about them when you’ve read them. I admit, I have a book haul section in my monthly roundups. My justification? Unlike some, I actually expect to get around to reading my hauls within a few months.
Look, I like Dune. I think it’s a good book. In terms of the SF canon, it’s a great one. But it’s not the perfect book that some people hold it up to be. Considering the book’s central warning against hero worship, it’s ironic that so many fans are such sycophants towards Frank Herbert’s work. I’m all here for lively discussion and debate, but there’s a hardcore subset of Dune fans that take any critique as a personal attack. The sort who’ll tell you that, if you don’t enjoy the book, it’s because you’re stupid. Oh, and woe betide anyone who dares enjoy the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson novels. I’ve all but given up on bringing these wonderful expansions of the universe up in online conversation due to the abuse I receive. What a lovely community we have.
I understand what ARCs are for. They are sent out to reviewers to build up hype for an upcoming book. Building a book’s reputation before the book’s release encourages pre-orders and first-week purchases. This is all well and good. Except it seems like everyone gets ARCs these days. I don’t, because I don’t apply for them. This means by the time I get around to reading a book, the conversation has already moved on to next year’s releases. And it’s not just a personal concern. I feel like there’s a real wedge being driven between reviewers and general readers, to the point that the two groups are talking about entirely different books.
‘It’ll either be the biggest thing ever, or a total failure.’ That is a genuine sentence I had to read in relation to an upcoming TV show, and it really sums up a lot of the online community. Either you think something is perfect, or you have to tear it to shreds. It seems as though people have forgotten the existence of things that are simply good. Thankfully, there’s not a whole lot of overt negativity in actual reviews, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen something called ‘the best ever’ of its kind. Truth is, not everything will be the best. But things can still be brilliant, or amazing, or decent. Not everything has to be your new favourite book.
Books can be a costly hobby. I get that. I make cutbacks in other areas to fund my reading habit. But what I don’t do, is encourage people to send me free stuff. I certainly don’t set up a Patreon or a merchandise store. None of that is necessary. there’s a weird pressure to monetise everything these days. No. Just no. It’s absolutely fine for talking about books to be nothing more than a hobby. Don’t turn it into something you need to pay taxes on. Just enjoy yourself a little.
9-No, Bloggers Are Not An Author Support Group
Most reviewers get started because they want more people to read the books written by their favourite author. I know I did. But a weird thing happens online. Authors and reviewers get to know each other. They become friends. And suddenly it’s not about reviewing their work, it’s about promoting it. This is something I’ve noticed a lot in self-publishing circles, where there is a strong taboo against writing anything negative about self-published books. I get it, you don’t want to offend your friends. But analysing a book in an honest fashion is something I’d much rather see than just encouraging people to check out a friend’s book. Not that you shouldn’t do the latter, of course. By all means do so. But I personally feel that when you change your focus to uplifting authors instead of simply talking about the good and the bad, you lose something very important.
10-There Is No Number 10. Not Everything Has To Be A Top 10
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