Friday, October 19, 2012

Thinking About Reviews and Reviewers

I've been thinking lately about the people who review works on Amazon and other places.  Of course, you have the die hard fans of whatever/whoever, and when you're writing something like Sherlock Holmes novels, these people can be the hardest to please because they're the purists.  The ones who can name every story, in order of publication, that Conan Doyle released about Sherlock Holmes.  The ones who can quote passages, and will know what deduction came from which story, or when Holmes used someone's thumb print to be able to find the culprit.

These are the people who I feel can be most unforgiving in newer Holmes stories where the character strays (a little or a lot) from what he was in the original stories.  I had a taste of that myself from none other than Alistair Duncan.  On reviewing my first novel, he made mention that I had used 'pants' instead of 'trousers,' and said how Watson would never have done that, it was an unforgivable mistake.  I felt 'unforgivable' was a bit of an overstatement, but in thinking about it later, I can see where he's coming from.  I myself am something of a perfectionist in other areas.  (Ask me how I felt about the 2004 movie of Phantom of the Opera.  Or better yet, don't, unless you want me to go on, literally, a half hour or more rant about everything they changed/screwed up in that movie.  You want a MUCH better adaptation?  Go to Amazon and buy this.  It is SO much better.  Amazing, amazing job.)

Anyway.  Then there are the people who aren't going to like the work because it's not Conan Doyle.  But of course, since they love Holmes, they'll "give this a chance," and inevitably hate it for the author 'trying to do something clearly out of their realm of ability,' or some such line like that.

Then there are the ones who genuinely find something to enjoy about it, even if it's not Conan Doyle style, or even if it's not the kind of situation Holmes would've been placed in within the realm of the Canon.

Fourth, there are the ones who are familiar with the author, and therefore, even if the book is terrible, will not give it anything less than five stars and talk about how wonderful of a book it is and how excellent the writing was, and how they can't wait for the next one, etc., etc.

I won't name it here, but there is one such Holmes-ish book that embodies the last category's qualities.  I regret to say I haven't even been able to finish the book, so bad were the grammatical, spelling, and POV errors.  It truly seemed like it had a very interesting premise.  It seems like a very interesting case, the characters seem engaging (though not entirely adult or well thought out,) and the blurb makes it sound like a very intriguing book.

Yet, I can't help being reminded of another book.  Hope is the story of a girl with schizophrenia and how she overcomes the obstacles in her life, including hallucinations, being in a mental institution, and losing a baby after she is married to a man she met while in the institution.  Intriguing premise, right?  Well, Hope is one of the most God-awfully written books ever self-published.  There are misspellings, grammatical errors, and sentence structure problems.  It feels like the entire story takes place over a few months, perhaps less, because there is no real sense of time passing.  In reality, the author has the story span about a decade.

Yet, with Hope, and with the other book I'm referring to, there are only good things said about it.  (Okay, Hope has one 1 star review.)  I understand that especially when a person knows the author, or is connected to them by something like Facebook or Twitter, they're not going to be as willing to put an honest review out there because they don't want to hurt the author's feelings.  But at the same time, it doesn't help the author at all to be heaped with praise for a book that truly doesn't deserve it.

Have I given five star reviews?  Heck, yeah.  Darlene Cypser's books, for instance.  Specifically, The Crack in the Lens, and the Consulting Detective Trilogy, Book One.  Yes, I heap praise on her for those books, because truly, they are amazing.  However, there are things about them that drive me up the wall, such as her constantly using the characters' names in sentences, instead of other descriptive terms.  But that's merely a difference in writing style between us, and while it bugs me to no end, it's also something I'll endure for the simple fact that the stories are masterful.

The same cannot be said of this other Holmes-ish book.  The mistakes grammatically, the odd POV switches, and the lackluster characters overpowered any sense I had to finish the book because the plot truly didn't hold my interest.  I just found myself truly not caring, because the main character would go off into these complete non sequiturs about a potential love interest, or what a relative of theirs would have done, or some such like that.

True, I hate the fact that I've gotten 1 and 2 star reviews, especially since I gather that in at least one case, the person didn't even read the book, but at the same time, I'm proud of them.  Those reviews are coming from a place of honesty.  Someplace that I don't feel all the reviews for this other book have come from.

One day, I will have to sit down and force myself through the middle and end of the book.  Perhaps it'll improve after page sixty-odd.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Thoughts

So, I watched Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson.  I went into this honestly not expecting much.  I mean, after the BBC's Sherlock, how could anything compare?

I was actually pleasantly surprised, however.  And I wonder how many other people caught the reference to the Mary Russell novel, BeeKeeper's Apprentice.  Or, the alternate title, Upon the Segregation of the Queen.  Which is something 'Holmes' paraphrases after Joan finds the bee hive at his place.

The fact that the characters are named Holmes and Watson is something that throws me, honestly.  BBC's Sherlock puts Holmes and Watson in modern times, but the way it's done works.  It has an old-fashioned feel, but definitely updates the characters enough so that they seem somewhat Victorian, yet fit in with the modern day conveniences like cell phones, texting, and computers.

Elementary . . .  The characters just don't seem to fit with the setting.  And I especially didn't like how 'Holmes' seems to, when he's making the deduction to the one guy about how the murder was pulled off, practically beg the guy to admit that 'Holmes' is right.  Holmes doesn't beg.  Holmes doesn't apologize.  Holmes doesn't guess.  And yet he does all of these things in Elementary.

I think low expectations were a good bet with this one.  I knew it wasn't going to be anywhere near the caliber of Sherlock, and I was right.  But on the same token, it'll provide what I hoped for.  It's good enough distraction until the next season of Sherlock comes out.

All in all, I give the first episode of Elementary 3 1/2 out of five stars.  Not wonderful, but a passable enough rendition of Holmes that I'll like watching.