Monday, June 18, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: Sharon Hinck & The Restorer, Day 2

The Trouble with Tribbles, errr, Reviews

Once upon a time, a young writer tried to console an older, more experienced writer over a bad review. Actually, the review wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t as glowing as the older writer would have wished. But the older writer was struggling against feeling crushed by the reviewer’s perception (and to a certain extent, misunderstanding) of her storyworld and characters.

The young writer reminded the older writer that no one story will appeal to all readers. No one story will be understood by all readers.

We, the participants of the Christian SFF blog tour, are believers in Christ, at least in name, and thus part of a larger family. Some Christians feel that all Christians should be strive to be “nice” in their reviews, that is, only speak things that are kind and agreeable. Others feel that Christians above all have an obligation to “call a spade a spade,” and be honest above all things.

In reading the reviews for Sharon Hinck’s The Restorer, one can find everything ranging from high praise to an avowal of this work as “a good example of everything that’s wrong with Christian SF.”

Strong words.

Funny how one or two disparaging reports can mar all the praise. And more, call it into question. So, what’s up with that?

First, everyone’s entitled to his opinion. And really, that’s all any of us are posting—our opinions. Second, I think much of it goes back to expectation. What did this reader expect? After reading the rest of this person’s blog, I would say, something that was more hardcore SFF.

But Sharon Hinck deliberately did NOT write a piece of hardcore SFF. She’s very open about the fact that she wrote this for those—yes, mostly women, since some men have commented on that—who weren’t already SFF fans. She did her best to make this accessible to the average Christian reader, and I believe she’s succeeded.

To those who feel the main character, Susan, is complaining about nothing (at least two men referred to her “perfect life”) … well, I have to admit that as a mom of 8 myself (Susan has 4, and they’re old enough to really help around the house), I did think the opening circumstances were just a little too pat and easy (and her husband too readily understanding of her feelings) … but I’d read The Secret Life of Becky Miller and sort of expected something lighthearted, at least to start with. (Of course, I know a couple who have 14 kids, 6 of them adopted, who live a deliberately simple lifestyle in a converted barn with no indoor plumbing … anything after that seems pampered and easy to me …)

Some complained about worldbuilding. Well—as others pointed out, the strength of this story was in relational issues, not the techie stuff that most men enjoy in SF. (Karenee does a good job of defending the story in that respect.)

I’m sorry that some read this book and were disappointed, or didn’t “get it.” (To those who don’t understand how oppressively monotonous mothering can be, I’d love to avail myself of that gun in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy …) For me, I was forewarned that this was not heavy-duty—and I'm a middle-aged mother of several, myself, and identified readily with Susan—and I was not disappointed.

Sharon knew what she was doing, writing this. Jeff knew what he was doing, taking it on as a publishing project. And I think God knows what He’s doing, opening the doors for it and letting us all have our minute or two to squabble over it. :-)

Tomorrow, my attempt at a review of Restorer’s Son

Please add these two to yesterday’s list of participants:

Wayne Thomas Batson
Merrie Destefano

2 comments:

  1. 14 kids in a barn with no plumbing?!?!?

    AHHHHHHHHHH! I thought you were talking about SFF, not HORROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. I am not one of those who expects Christians to only do "nice" reviews. That sort of defeats the purpose of having one.

    However, I think Christians shouldn't be doing mean and degrading reviews, and there are lots of those on amazon.com. I mean, brutal, brutal.

    I allow a middle ground for publications where a certain tradition of humorous and satirical content is upheld--ie, the humorously mocking review. Authors should probably just stay away from those, period.

    In this case, I knew--from blurbs, from Sharon's blog--what type of story I was getting. I don't ask a story to be what it's not. I don't ask for a contemporary fantasy to have the high-flown language of Tolkien. I don't ask for a hard sci-fi novel to have a 50% romantic subplot. I don't ask for a pagan paranormal to suddenly jump up and give me the gospel in the mouth of a fairy.

    Expectations. You're right. It's about accepting the work for what it attempts to be.

    For what THE RESTORER attempted to be, it succeeded. I think it's a very good, highly readable, enjoyable Women's Fiction/Alternate Reality Fantasy.

    And while I haven't seen some of the really rough reviews you have due to limited browsing of blogs (I've been crazy busy writing and getting a synopsis together for an editor who likes my current WIP), I do think that male readers tend to scoff at stories that hue to the conventions of WF/romances. What matters to women are relationships. For many SF reading men, what matters is the techie stuff, the big bangs and booms, and the intellectual massages. For many, maybe most gals, we want to see characters in their relationship aspects--who they love, what their emotional needs are, how they deal with families, etc. There's a reason romance has gotten belittled for decades. Men don't "get" what women do.

    Which is why, despite my not being a huge honking feminist, I loved when feminists got on board the "women's fiction/romance" support bandwagon. They saw that this was women writing as women, not women writing as men would want them to write.

    And I can't wait to read the next book.

    Mir

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