So what do you do if you’re an author and your book has just been given a thoughtful and thought-provoking review that is by no means complimentary?
Well, I could do the obvious: which is ignore it or pretend that the reviewer was in some sense misguided, but instead I would urge everyone who’s interested in my rather long dystopian novel No Future to read the review by Jim Bade and draw their own conclusions.
The review can be found on the following link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337805
So, in true New York Review of Books fashion, I shall address Jim Bane’s criticisms.
First of all, it’s not all negative. He does say the following:
Mr. Stoke has a definite gift for writing. His phrases and terminology are both apt and well chosen to convey the intended meanings of his story, plot and characters. I found the book fairly easy to read and only a few spelling and grammatical errors. Not bad at all for a self published book.
And also since I’m pretty sure that I’m not “an over educated, narcissistic, foul mouthed, sex obsessed, drug addict with a paranoid irrational dislike of authority and a total lack of faith in humanity“, I guess I must therefore be what Jim describes as “just the opposite and one hell of a writer“. In fact, if I had no faith in humanity, I don’t think I’d ever write something which is intended to somehow counter its worst vices.
I’m no fan of any of “Isaac Asimov to James Michener to Tom Clancy to Danielle Steele“, although since I’ve not really read of any these writers I’m not saying that’s because I wouldn’t like their fiction if I did read them.
However, the main thrust of the criticism is that the whole enterprise is flawed by being unrelentingly pessimistic and even misanthropic. Jim says: “there was not one character that I could identify with. ALL of them were sex and drug obsessed, most of them swore in every sentence, most of them were hypocritical in an almost extreme sense, and oddest of all, most of the characters were very well educated, though pretty much every one of the female characters eventually became prostitutes and the men Johns. I guess my point is that nearly none of them were what most people would consider normal. None of them, to me, were people I would wish to be friends with.”
This is criticism I won’t even try to counter. I think it’s absolutely spot on because it does highlight exactly the kind of people dealt with in the novel. These are not generally ordinary people in the normal sense of the word, although in their own milieu they would probably be considered normal enough. The most normal people, such as Alex, are pretty much flawed and the most moral people, with the exceptions of Roland and Diane, have to make unpalatable decisions to survive.
I can’t directly thank Jim Bade (as he doesn’t publish his e-mail address), but I would like to say that I am genuinely very grateful for his review and I hope he reviews my other novels.
However, although No Future is probably the most misanthropic and unpleasant of my novels, I suspect there is enough in almost all my novels that Jim will not like.
And for this I can only apologise.