Cold Commentary

I was struggling to get the review of Rochelle Mass's "The Startled Land" ready for this issue, when I realized a couple of things.  1. I'll never be an in-demand reviewer, especially on any kind of deadline.  2. I probably can't trust the reviews of most reviewers.

This second statement is inflamatory.  Shout me down! Shout me down!  What I simply mean is that those reviews that you read before the book comes out, or shortly thereafter, are written by people who read really fast and are expert at condensing their thoughts into tiny paragraphs.  While its true that I eat these reviews up when looking for new reading material, I just don't know if I can trust them.  However, most of them are harmless enough.  Just short little book reports that aren't really supposed to be called reviews.  They give you a taste of the book and then you can decide whether the book sounds interesting to you.  I decide based on two key aspects.  The title and the cover art.  

This is a revolutionary way to find a good book.  Maybe I'll write a book about it.  Problem is I don't think it could have a good title.  Think about it though, a title is the first thing you see, unless it is a large portrait of the author on the front of the book, which is only slightly more repulsive than one on the back and no liner notes.  Who cares what you look like.  Those are books I would avoid.  Other books to avoid?  Well, the last Grisham book, not the present on, but the one before it, "The King of Torts," was horrible.  Did you see the cover?  No wonder it stunk.  I don't know if I can get into another Grisham novel ever again.  Well, okay, the cover of his new novel is a big improvement.  But is his face plastered on the back?  I'll have to check.  At least he's ruggedly handsome.  

Other books to avoid are those with titles that your three-year-old could have thought of, and their's probably did.  

Some books, however, prove ambigious.  "Timeline" for instance.  It didn't do anything for me.  And the cover .....  Would you beleive I was about half-way through the novel before I realize that was a helmet from a suit of armor?  But the book was great.  Okay, so you may not even know what these books look like, so this is really bad writing.  I was going to provide links, but I don't remember the address to my store where pictures would be easily accessible.  

Now, my method is not foolproof.  Sometimes a book with have a good title or cover and really let me down.  I can't think of any examples, but I suppose its possible.  

In any case, my method sure is better than listening to the advice of some speed-reader from New York City who has a file of cliches suited to specific genres.  

Okay, okay, I'm being a little harsh.  Most of the reviewers have good intentions, and some of them do a good job.  Fact is, I wouldn't know.  I don't read real reviews.  I don't have the time.  All I know is that I need at least 3 months with the average book.  And then a lot longer if I want to review it.  Call me bitter, but don't call me butter.

Brad Shimp
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march 2004