Amazon One-Stars

I was reading a recent article on Salon.com in which the author, Jeanette DeMain, picks a few of her favorite books and then goes to Amazon.com and checks out the reviews for those books. Many of her picks are classics, such as Charlotte’s Web or Grapes of Wrath and to make things interesting, she chooses to read only the one-star reviews: the reviews where people think the books are terrible. Encouraging others to do the same, I have taken her up on her offer and decided to duplicate her experiment with some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy books.

Ender’s Game

Why I Like It

Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel (originally a short story, later expanded) written by Orson Scott Card. It’s story revolves around the young life of Ender Wiggin, who is inducted into a Battle School with the purpose of training him to fight a future space war with an interstellar enemy known only as, “Buggers.” I appreciate it for its insight into what it means to be a human, as well as its story, which broke the science fiction mold by focusing on a cast of children instead of the usual group of adults. The book, in my opinion however, though standing well on its own, stands up far better when taken as part of the series as it has always been meant.

What a One-Star Review Thought

In this case, I did not choose the most absurd one-star, instead choosing one that offers at least a bit of insight into why someone might not like this book.

I know this is going to make me unpopular, but it must be said: It seems to me that this book has become famous for being famous. I can’t account for the overwhelming popularity in any other way.

It isn’t particularly well written, although others who disliked it gave it credit for technical proficiency. It is essentially a story about bullies, video games and cookie cutter characters bought for half price at the Stereotype Barn and jazzed up with reflective neon tape applied to their fender flares. The misery of plodding through page after page of what amounts to the Lazer Tag Semi-Galactic Finals is made incalculably worse by the glacially slow pace at which these less-than-riveting events unfold. It’s like enduring a root canal in slow motion. Without benefit of anesthesia. While the dental assissant reads aloud the latest celebrity gossip congealing around Paris Hilton. Ok, to be fair, it’s not QUITE that bad, but lord! it sure ain’t good. I can suspend belief with the best of ’em, but I have limits, and nothing these children do or say strikes me as being authentic. The problem with so many novels that feature young children or teens as their protaganists is that the author is writing through a filter; he is attempting to reconstruct the thoughts, feelings and dialogue of childhood from the perspective of adulthood. Please read ‘Tom Sawyer’ again and compare it with ‘Ender’s Game’. The disparity is glaring.

Comparing this to the genuine classics of the genre does not improve Ender’s overall credibility. Both Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ and Joe Haldeman’s ‘Forever War’ are so much more compelling and thought-provoking. If you rated this book 5 stars do yourself a favor and give the titles mentioned a shot–you’ll be rating them at 10 stars or beyond. 🙂

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Amazon One-Stars

  1. Strange that so many nice books got such crappy ratings. I do agree with the rating for Jonathan Strange…starts off promising, but really slow and wordy.

    Just stumbled on your blog today from my Tag Surfer…really enjoying reading your posts 🙂

  2. I am glad you like my blog so far! I enjoy comments and I enjoy new readers just as much. Your blog seems interesting as well, and I will make sure to keep up on it!

  3. Andrew Carroll

    Jon,

    If you like Le Guin you should read her new book Lavinia. It is the Aeneid from the point of view of the Latins. I thought it was very interesting. Let me know if you want a copy of it.