Varying Opinions

August 11th, 2007

An interesting spread of opinions appearing over the last few days. Dreamwatch online had this to say about The Blade Itself:

“The real joy of the book, though, is the writing style, which is fast-paced, deeply sarcastic, spitefully witty and well observed. The dialogue is razor sharp, the author is comfortable changing voices depending on viewpoint and there is very little to find fault with.”

And then this about Before They are Hanged:

“The story is by turns darkly humorous and incredibly well observed. The sheer number of brilliantly drawn characters is a joy to read and Abercrombie once again proves he is deft at changing voice as he changes point of view.”

Everyone loves me, right? Well, er, not entirely. No less an organ than Publisher’s Weekly voiced their opinion on The Blade Itself thusly:

“British newcomer Abercrombie fills his muddled sword-and-sorcery series opener with black humor and reluctant heroes … The workmanlike plot, marred by repetitive writing and an excess of torture and pain, is given over to introducing the mostly unlikable characters, only to send them off on separate paths in preparation for the next volume’s adventures.”

Aaaaargh, my eyes! My valuable eyes! I mean it could be worse. Only the other day I saw a review in which watching a certain television show was likened to wading through thigh-high excrement. But I’d say it’s about the worst review I’ve had. Can this really be the same book about which various staff of Waterstone’s say:

“Enter the rip-roaring world of an imagined medieval nightmare and cringe at the cruelty, marvel at the descriptions and laugh heartily at the silly jokes.”

“This is fantastic! Not over the top, it is perfect for someone wanting to try something different as well as a hardened Sci Fi fan. Definitley 5 out of 5.”

Not to mention:

“Words can barely describe how much I love this book, probably the best debut I’ve ever read! Put simply, it’s a cracking read! Take it!”

Believe it or not, yes. If you think about it for five seconds, of course, it stands to reason that different people like different things. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and blah, blah, blah. But there’s a difference between blithely saying it and actually seeing it, stabbing you in the face in merciless black and white.

“Why don’t they like me?” I blubber, my tiny hands beating piteously at my keyboard. “Why? Why? Why? How can the same characters be both brilliantly drawn and mostly unlikeable? What is the nice man at Dreamwatch missing? How could the good people at Waterstone’s have got it so wrong?” There are no answers. It’s all subjective, and we all know it, yet somehow, as an author, the bad opinions never quite stop feeling like a red-hot coal down the pants.

“But Joe!” I hear you cry, “what are we to think? Who’s right? Publisher’s Weekly or … everyone else?”

You want my opinion? Buy The Blade Itself. Then you can be the judge.

Posted in reviews by Joe Abercrombie on August 11th, 2007. Tags:

8 comments so far

  • j.g.thomas says:

    I read an interview with Robin Hobb recently where she said something similar; that no matter how high the good reviews make you feel, the bad ones always seem to plunge you lower.

    Still, it’s not all bad Joe. David Gemmell once had a review that went as follows: “The only thing I liked about this book (Tolkien rip-off with no characterization) was the butch chick on the cover.”

    I think in comparison you got off pretty lightly…

    For what it’s worth, I think the First Law series so far is brilliant and that the British Fantasy Society should be ashamed about the fact that The Blade Itself was not included on their list of novel of the year nominations.

    Shame! Shame, dammit!

  • Hey J. G.

    Perhaps the lack of a butch chick on the cover is where I’m going wrong…

    Many thanks for the support. Very much appreciated.

  • Isis says:

    See, this is the problem with doing a job where you actually have to care about the opinions of others. You have find a way to accept both the positive and the negative. It’s all about focus…

    Have you thought about connecting you blog to LiveJournal btw? That way all your blog posts would appear on there too along with a link to your blog. I probably wouldn’t read Gaiman’s blog or Pat’s Hotlist as often as I do without them being right under my nose on LJ every day. Did I already say this on Friday night? I meant to but Pimms is clouding my memory somewhat.

  • Flying Monkey says:

    I personally find Publisher’s Weekly inconsistent (for me).

    They’ve given bad reviews to some of my favorites, and good reviews to books that IMHO are crap. And the other way around. Needless to say I don’t find their reviews objective.

    PS: Your books are awesome.

  • John Picacio says:

    Good luck with the Pyr/US release of BLADE, Joe! I’ve heard a lot more raves than anything about your book, so I wouldn’t jump off a cliff over the PW review.

    As an illustrator, one of my favorite artist/critic stories is this one:

    In 1916, a painting is unveiled for the first time, and the critics’ response is geers and cries of “immoral” and “utter rubbish.” Some recountings say that there were threats of physical harm to the artist for having the gall to display this painting (which he had actually completed nine years earlier).

    Fast forward to 2007 — this painting is now regarded by many art critics as the single most important painting of the last 100 years and undoubtedly one of the most pivotal creative works of the last 500 years. Thanks to this painting, the act of “seeing” was forever changed and the world has never been the same.

    The painting: “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”
    The artist: Pablo Picasso
    Moral of the story: Just keep working….sometimes the so-called critics are the last to know….

  • Ninja, many thanks.

    John, thanks for stopping by. I’m a big admirer of your covers for Pyr and others, and congratulations on yet another well deserved WFA nomination. It means a lot when an artist of your calibre tells me that my book is one of the most pivotal creative works of the last 500 years.

    That is what you meant, isn’t it…?

  • disrepdog says:

    Bad reviews must hurt as no one likes criticism; but for what it’s worth I’ve been telling people left right and centre to go read your books.

    I also heartily agree with j.g’s comment about The Blade not getting to the short list of BFS best novel, totally big pants.

    That Pimms sounds a plan though….

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *