Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review Scale

Each morning I happily go through my feed list and read all the updated blogs, make comments where I think it's appropriate or if I have something I want to say.

This morning over at Aaron Polson's Blog, I found a review on Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest. In Aaron's explanation of his final mark, he seemed (to me) to be hedging his mark a little lower. Instead of the 4 out of 5 he'd given it, it was almost as if it was really a 3.6 and he was rounding it up.

Books that others have given a mid range mark to, regardless of the review scale they use, worry me. Especially when the comments seem to point to the final mark being generous. In a perfect world, a book should make a solid impression on someone and aim to be as high on the review scale as possible. We are all far from perfect, but it's what we, as writers, should be striving for, and what we, as readers, should be demanding.

I know I'm a harder marker than some. I'm not out to shoot books down in flames - I love books; I want to see good books published so people can enjoy a good read. I'm fully aware I'm only a fledgling writer learning the craft who nobody takes any notice of anyway, but I'm an honest individual who tells it as I see it. Whoever said "I might not know art, but I know what I like," hit the nail on the head. I may not know what makes a great story in the eyes of literary aficionados, but I know what moves me, I know what fills me with a sense of joy and wonder. And that's how I review. Honestly and from the heart.

A little while ago, I mentioned the scale I use. I'm not interested in a mark out of ten - it shouldn't be that difficult, but I find a mark out of five insufficient. So I use a scale of 1-6.

It goes like this:

0 - If anything ever scores a zero I'll be amazed, but if it does, run for the hills and poke out your eyes so you may never have to endure it's torture. If I've given it a zero, I have probably already done serious damage to myself.

1 - Chances are this will go on the kindling pile for use next winter. Do not buy this.

2 - This book was okay. If you can get it from a library, a free copy from elsewhere or have received it as a gift, then reading it won't be too bad, but never ever fork out the hard earned for this - there are much better titles to spend your money on.

3 - This was a pleasant way to spend time. I was transported to another place and/or time and gained enough enjoyment from the journey that I don't feel cheated in parting from my cash in the purchase of this title.

4 - A good, well written book. I would happily recommend this to my friends. I would happily buy this as a present for someone I cherished. Recommended purchase to all and sundry.

5 - Outstanding. You must buy this book. If money is tight, then steal it.

6 - Genius. This is literary perfection. This is modern-day Shakespeare. This is written by as close to the hand of God as I've ever encountered.

Examples of how I judge books so far:

I have no examples of the first two thankfully.

2 - One Foot Wrong by Sophie Laguna

3 - Infected by Scott Sigler or The Schumann Frequency

4 - Gratia Placenti by Apex Publications

5 - Books of Blood by Clive Barker

6 - Until now I haven't found anything even close to approaching this.

Most books seem to rest comfortably in the 3 or 4 range. Occasionally I find a 5 and even more rarely, thankfully, I find a 2.

Lastly, remember this is only my opinion.

Your tastes may be a long way north or south of mine (or should that be left or right??). If you disagree with my review, I'm happy to discuss things. I'm also happy to hear about similar conclusions you've reached.

If you're an author with books you want reviewed, particularly prior to Australian release, (but I'm happy to read and review for any book in any English market) then feel free to contact me - or leave me a comment in any blog post with a contact email and I'll see what I can do for you. Arrangements for reviews can also be made through contacting Shane at HorrorScope: Australia's Dark Fiction Weblog.


  1. I guess I have never scaled a book. I either a) enjoy it and will recommend it or 2) I will not enjoy it, not finish it and forget about it.

    I do recall some books I was forced to read in college that would fall closer to (2) that (1) but I can't remember what they are.

  2. I can understand that, but it's becoming more difficult for me to think that way, partly because of my reviewer work, partly because of my slushing work, but I think it has more to do with my writing.

    I tend to take more notice of things in a book now. And if the book is average or worse, the bad things stand out more. If the book is good, I am more able to put my finger on why.

    I still enjoy reading a good story and can immerse myself into a fictional world quite easily, but I am getting better at pulling stories apart and being able to define it.

    I think my system will only become valid for others if they read the same books and come up with similar reactions.

    There will always be differences. Some people are happy to give full marks to things they really enjoy. Some people are happy to smash another person's work. I'm neither of these.

    I'd like to think I know a little of what goes into writing a book, the process behind getting onto a bookshelf, the stress the author has gone through. I also know if I don't like it, others may. I try to read with my readers hat on, and then review with both a readers and an editor/reviewers hat on.

    Hopefully others gain something from that opinion.

    In the end, it is only one person's opinion, and apparently reviewers don't have a big impact on things anymore anyway.

  3. I can't review books, it's too stressful. Movies on Netflix are pretty much as far as I go.

    Which is good, since I don't always know how I feel immediately. One book (in my mind a 1) struck me as more or less fine when I first read it. Years later, I realized how profoundly I loathed it.

  4. I find I'm an easier marker than most, if I review it, generally I like it a fair amount but that's maybe because I haven't finished that many books lately, the ones I put down probably deserving lower scores and the ones I finish actually being good...

  5. Wow - the 4 you gave MageSign was very high praise indeed then. Thanks! :)