I’ve never bothered much about the reviews on Amazon, especially for books. I occasionally scan for the negatives about other stuff, but even those I discount. “This product doesn’t do this thing I want it to!” is commonly complained, leaving one puzzled because the thing it doesn’t do isn’t what it’s advertised to do. But mostly I know what I want, have done my research elsewhere. What I’d never expected was the existence of claques and claquers. Just never thought about it. Naive chap.
Then a while back, maybe a year or so, via a children’s author I follow, I stumbled across a controversy of sorts in the world of fantasy and science fiction, a sort of cat fight among authors. Not very interesting, it seemed to me. There are folks who enjoy winding people up, and when their objects start to smolder enjoy throwing kerosene. It looked like they’d punctured some folks who take themselves a little too seriously, and I thought no more about it. People who follow the field know what I’m talking about. Those who don’t, have no reason to care.
Then I barked my shins on the involvement of some of these mischief makers in the Rise of Trump. They seemed to be making merry in the wake of the Trump Scow. Now, people who are wrapped up in politics, Right or Left, are almost as deadly serious as Left-Leaning Authors, and indeed there’s something about the entire Trump campaign that strikes me as unserious and intentionally disruptive – pranksters run amok. But that’s not the point. A book by one of the participants was cheap on Amazon, so I read it.
It was horrible. Not quite in the class of Amanda McKittrick Ros, but then nothing is. If the Bulwer-Lytton awards were given honestly, for bad fiction that somehow found its way to print, it would have swept the table. A sample, from a description of a building: “Each detail was impregnated with the weight of time.” Such offenses occur on every page. There are vast and boring sections of a sort of Christian porn, frequent and luxurious description of sexual temptation that do nothing to advance the plot. There’s a bizarre, violent, Boschian climax. It’s just plain bad. Further, it reads like a very rough draft, words slammed down in hasty violence.
But this isn’t a review. After hastening through it, I decided to look at the reviews on Amazon, and was astounded to find them mostly in the 5 star range, comparing this tripe to the work of C.S. Lewis, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. It was then that truth dawned – he has a claque. Some members of the pack had followed him into Amazonia to swell his reviews. How very interesting.
I note that my local library has a number books by the same author. Beginning tomorrow, back to school day, Grandpa-sort-of-liberation Day, I shall have the time to sit in the library and scan some of them . I’ve sent the one I purchased back to the cloud, never to be recalled, and I really don’t want to bring another into my home. Trying to maintain a tone, here.
The point of this little oxbow is that some of what’s going on now is mischief, a malicious leveraging of frustration and irritation for the sake of irritating and frustrating others. Be discerning in what you listen to and read. Don’t let the mischief makers wind you up.