I would imagine that I’m not the only one that reads a book and thinks; hey, why not write a review and give this book 4 or 5 stars because I found it such a wonderful read. Then you decide to see what other people thought of the book and you are amazed that this person or that person rated it a 1 star and thought that the author must have just vomited words onto a page and left it as is.
Now, to be fair, I know that everyone reads books for different reasons and everyone keys in on different aspects of writing that they either really like or that they couldn’t stand.
I for one tend to read a book to see and experience things that I would never be able to in real life. I love having the chance to go on adventures with the hero of a book and do battle with the dark wizard or something to that respect. I love it because sometimes I just want to get away from real life for a bit and be someone else.
Now, if I learn something about myself because the characters go through a transformation that’s great. If I learn something about the world around me, the real world, from a book that’s even better. It’s always great to look at things anew after reading something that really touched a chord within yourself. So in this respect I have more of a laid back attitude towards some of the pitfalls of a book. That slight plot hole or somewhat shallow character can be overlooked at times because the story is what I am truly after.
Now if you start and stop the story or there is a lot of dialog or the story just feels like it is dragging or stagnant that is what kills me. I don’t want to me immersed in a great story only to be ripped from it several chapters into the book.
But really?!? A 1 star review.
This makes me wonder why some people can be so critical about writing, or so critical about movies for that matter. There have been a lot of times that a movie was reviewed by people with clout and they gave it the big two thumbs down… My review was a two thumbs up. I can’t help but wonder if they sit there and analyse every page, every sentence and every word and weight them to some impossible standard. It feels like they are missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
One common complaint that I’ve seen is that a book is just a rip off of another older book and that the stories are all identical.
The fact is that there really are no new stories when you get down to the very heart of them. But, just because you are telling ‘the same old story’ doesn’t mean that you aren’t telling it from a new perspective. It’s from this new perspective that you can learn a great deal. How do we learn and grow if we don’t look at things from a different perspective or through someone else’s eyes?
Once again, for me it’s about the story. I’m more than happy reading two books that have the same themes and a similar story if they each have their own unique flavor, and if they tell that one story from a different perspective or give it a different spin.
This brings me to people’s seeming hatred for a Mary Sue or Marty Stu like character. I think a great example of this is Kvothe in The Kingkiller Chronicle, a wonderful series by Patrick Rothfuss. They say that there is no way it is believable for a character to be that good at things, it’s just too unrealistic.
My issue with that complaint is… well, my own life. I’ve always done pretty good in school, I could have done better, but I always got bored quickly. The material I learned was never really a challenge for me. During my service in the Marine Corps I was a helicopter mechanic and I learned much faster than most. I was getting ready to take my CDI test, so that I could start inspecting work and signing it off as safe for flight, in two years when it took most people four. I’ve excelled at a significant pace with my current job because I typically learn new things by seeing it once or twice. If I really applied myself there really are no limits for me, other than maybe math…
I don’t like math…
Now, I’m not trying to say that I am awesome or better than any one else. I’ve seen people that make me look like I know nothing and have done nothing with my life. Just take a look at the people that have multiple PhD’s and have done some astounding work in several fields. How about the person with black belts in several different martial arts. How about the guy that has done both of those and then-some.
There are people out there that have done some absolutely astonishing things and will continue to do so. Look at Bill Gates, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. These are real life people that have achieved some amazing things. Are they too good at things? Are they too unrealistic? No, I think it comes down to people not accepting the true potential to someone. I think it also comes down to overlooking the downfalls and failures of the certain someone because they are really good at other things.
Another common complaint is the use of Deus Ex Machina in a book. My argument is that isn’t it present in almost all stories to some extent? And the books that contain heavy use of if, where a god or goddess to some extent steps in and helps, they use it on purpose. Why would you fault a book for something that was intended to be part of the story. What about the book that has gods and goddesses in it, is the author supposed to cut them out and therefore remove nearly every aspect of their story?
My thoughts are that it makes no sense to complain about a book that has themes and aspects that you don’t like. The book and story were written to be that way for a purpose. I say to read the story for what it is; take it in as a whole and appreciate that it is different. Enjoy it for what it is, not for what it could have been.