Sunday, October 3, 2010

sameness in the blogosphere.

I can't be the only one who's noticed it.. because I know I've read some other similar comments lately somewhere.. but does it seem like an awful lot of blogs all seem to review the same books.. and always seem to give them good reviews?

Do they never review a book, and then think.. my god that was horrible? the cynic in me thinks they review these "big release" books.. and then give them glowing reviews whether they really like them or not.. just to keep the gravy train of ARCs flowing. Many Many of these same blogs who are guilty of this dodgy reviewing scheme also seem to continually post pictures of "what came in the mail today".. which generally is all the books that aren't the ones the publisher really wants to push. Are the blogs simply being used as part of a marketing scheme?

I know I got taken by it once already, I bought in to the hype of the First Law trilogy entirely. So I'll admit that perhaps I'm just skeptical now about anything that reviewers like. Though it does seem to be an inordinate amount of stuff from PYR and ORBIT that gets the reviews these days.. and having read an author each from PYR, Joe Abercrombie and ORBIT, K.J.Parker.. I can't help but find the only similarity that these authors have.. with another pair of authors that are tremendously hyped on the blogs but I can't stand. China Meivelle and Richard K. Morgan.. they are all British.. so what happened in Britain? Is British fantasy going through a period like British Sci-Fi went through in the 60's and 70's? or British Comic Books went through in the 70's and 80's?

I feel it's important because, just like the Comic books.. it seems to be spreading to this side of the pond.. through the likes of Scott Lynch and Sam Sykes.. Authors I've never actually read but feel no desire to read simply because they have either been compared favourably to one of the British authors I mentioned.. or have been reviewed favourably by a blogger who gave high marks to one of the British authors I mentioned.

I find the grim and gritty, morally shady, cynical to a fault fantasy novels to be at complete loggerheads with anything remotely resembling what I would consider to be good. I like Anti-Heros as much as the next guy.. But I feel that a balance must be met some where. I personally see enough "bad" people exploiting "good" people in real life.. and part of the reason I like the Fantasy Genre is.. the bad people actually get punished.. instead of in real life where they just get elected to high Office or install themselves as president for life in a coup.

I know I've wandered a bit by this point.. But I just feel as if bloggers, in their efforts to score free swag are contributing to the destruction of something I really enjoy. It's really pretty bad.. I've actually found myself reading the blogs to find books that the reviewer dosen't like.. and then seeking them out just to be contrary.. and in some cases really enjoying the books.. but of course the criticisms leveled at these books tend to be things like "too traditional" or "Too black and white".. I think I'd happily read hundreds of Tol-clones rather than be subjected to one more K.J. Parker..

But if thats the case, and "traditional Fantasy" is a clear category.. what exactly does this new stuff get called? my own vote, of crap, is a bit too laced with hyperbole.. but I'm open to suggestions.


Trey said...

Perhaps I'm misreading you but it seems to me you're suggesting that just because you don't like the books they like they must be bought of?

Having a different opinion isn't a conspiracy.

I think I agree with you on Howard and Leiber, and probably others, but disagree on Mieville, Karl Edward Wager, Abercrombie and Lynch (not that I would carry much water for the last to, but I don't see the gulf between them and the older writers we both revere in terms of heroism that you seem to). I would hate to think that would keep us from having a civil discussion on any particular writer.

Lagomorph Rex said...

no, I think I worded it poorly.

What I'm saying, isn't that because I disagree with them that they are bought off.. but just because every blog who reviews them seems to always think they are great. And I'm trying to reconcile this with the idea that Surely there must be at least a few dissenting opinions someplace? Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place?

To use, "The Steel Remains" as an example, knowing how divisive it is on discussion forums.. you basically have three types of people commenting on it. Those who think its a great book, those who thought it was a horrible book but read it because it was edgy and felt they would be called Bigoted for not reading it, and those who read it and hated it. Yet when I see a blogger with a review of it, all of that stuff gets glossed over and its just a glowing review. always either 4-5 stars.

Not every book is a winner, and certainly not every blogger is going to like it. I think it's less they are bought off and more they just don't want the free books to stop. I don't really think its a pact with the publisher, or anything like that.

But like I said, It's an extremely cynical part of my brain that feels that way.

I think the last time I made some comment about this, and you said that it was the feeling of the books or something along those lines.. that makes me look at them differently.. I still think you are absolutely right.

It could be simply, I can see Conan or Fafhrd and the Grey mouser.. doing something soley becuase it needed to be done.. even if in the long run they didn't get anything for it. But I can't see Zianni Zatses (from Parker's Engineer Trilogy) doing anything like that.. after all he engineered 3 genocidal wars in order to go home to slap his wife in the face for cheating on him.. not exactly an upstanding guy.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Also, no under no circumstances would it prevent us from having a perfectly polite conversation about.. just about anything. I'm perfectly content to let whoever wants to enjoy these books do so..

I guess it's really that, I think a lot of these authors are really good authors.. who write books that I don't like. I just wish they were writing books that I did like, so that I wouldn't constantly feel like an anachronism.

Jared said...

I agree very much with your sentiment, if not the actual examples you use. I'm a massive fan of Abercrombie, Mieville, Parker, etc. (plus Lynch, while we're at it!), but I find review-tsunamis a bit frustrating.

Being a UK blogger, there is a *very* tight-knit blogosphere over here, unusually so. And to the point where some of the savvier publishers (say, Gollancz) probably recognize half of us by sight. I'm sure your theory of ARC-distribution actually isn't completely unfounded! And authors like Mark Charan Newton are putting bloggers in the acknowledgements section of his latest book. We're a very small island sometimes, and having the chance at being something "more" than a critic is heady stuff.

That said, I think you're also right in the anti-hero trend (I generally start it with George RR Martin) is very hot right now (especially in the UK). And if you don't like it, then you may definitely feel like you're swimming upstream. As someone that doesn't like, say, Brandon Sanderson (or Robert Jordan) (or Jim Butcher. Or Twilight. Or whatever...), I feel in the minority sometimes as well.

Anyway, to each their own... and I wholeheartedly agree that just because something is popular doesn't mean it is good. Especially on the blogs!

Jared (

Jared said...

Oh, incidentally, one author that we totally agree on? REH.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I'd typed up a huge reply to you, Jared. But Blogger ate it.

I appreciate you stopping by, you said a lot of the things I felt better than I was able too. I think that could be it simply.

I think that, when it comes to Reviews.. one needs a certain amount of objectivity or else you do risk coming across as just shilling for the companies. Even if it isn't intentional. And having 10-20 fantasy reviewers all review the same book in the same week, does feel like a deluge.

I can only imagine how you must have felt in the 90's, and how you ever found anything to read. that was definitely the reign of the MTE (multi-tome epic). It sort of is book ended by Tad Williams (Though Kate Elliott deserves a mention too) and GRRM. TW is the last (and in my opinion best)of the Tol-Clones started by Terry brooks. and GRRM is the first of the grim n' gritty authors who are so popular now. sort of with a big period dominated by the likes of Robert Jordan, Goodkind, Drake, Farland etc. writing those huge series.

I think when it came to REH, he predated Game Theory. so while he may have had some social darwinist leanings to his writings.. as a lot of writers of his time did. It wasn't the pure, distilled version we have now.