Reviewing the situation

One of the benefits of having written an awful lot of reviews is that I have a fast idea of when I should pay attention to people reviewing me and when I shouldn’t. It is astonishing how many reviewers haven’t read the book, heard the audio, seen the play or whatever that they are either decrying or praising. It is also surprising just how rapidly you can tell this.

You’ve got be thinking that I’ve just had a stinker of a bad review but no. I haven’t had reviews in a while now, good or bad, and I do miss them a little. But I’ve also waited until now to discuss this with you specifically because I haven’t had a bad review and I know you haven’t either.

I know you’ve seen bad reviews – bad as in just not well done, not bad as in unfavourable – because you use the Internet. An author mentioned recently that she came close to crying over a 1-star review someone had given her novel because they hadn’t received it yet. They have some delay in the post from Amazon and they’re off leaving 1-star reviews.

Then look on App Stores: you can’t go by the five-star reviews as they may have been posted by the developer’s mom and you can’t go by one-star reviews as they were probably left by the competition. So you’re left looking at the mid-range three-star apps and there’s no ready way to differentiate between them.

Then you get the nutters who buy a book about birdseed and complain that they would give this a zero-star rating if they could because it didn’t also cover Formula 1 motor racing.

You can argue that people are dumb and you have plenty of evidence but I’m going to be generous and assume that it’s a different type of ignorance. People who do not know that they cause damage to sales through pratting about trying to look good. The thing is, you can say that about some professional reviewers as well as Numpty99 on Amazon.

I have been a professional drama reviewer and while I hope the emphasis was on the word professional I have got to have made mistakes and misunderstood and leapt to fast conclusions. I’m not proud of that, of course, and it’ll keep me awake now thinking of it, except for one thing.

That eejit one-star book reviewer may do some damage today. The Formula 1 fan may not have seven brain cells to rub together today. And I may be just a stupid man today. But none of us matter.

This is really why I picked this topic today. I read a thing about Marie Curie and how apparently she was so reviled and decried over some trivial scandal that Albert Einstein wrote her a fan letter in support. I can barely hold the detail of the scandal in my head, but I still recommend you have a read about it. That’s chiefly because I read it on Brain Pickings which is a simply fascinating site.

But it’s also because of the last line on that site, which concludes: “She endures as one of humanity‚Äôs most visionary and beloved minds. The journalists who showered her with bile are known to none and deplored by all.”

Damn right. I’m not knocking how much you learn from reviewing, but I am knocking people who only review. Go make something.