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.”
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