The OF Blog: The Troublesome Review

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Troublesome Review

Right now, I am struggling to corral my thoughts regarding two books. One of these really has to be done in the very near future, as it's for another publication and the other is the book that precedes it in an epic fantasy trilogy. When I first read them back in mid-February, I thought they were really good, but a re-read (with notations done of passages and character shifts, etc.) has downgraded my opinion of these two books. I have come to disagree with how the author went about developing his characters and how these characterizations really do not seem to fit well with the types of situations in which these characters have been placed. But yet there is much to recommend these works for many readers and I am trying to find that balance between exploring what irked me in these two books and what I felt were some very strong points that are going to appeal to certain types of readers.

This is not the first time that I have found myself at a lost for words when it came to attempting a review of a book. Before this, I read Elizabeth Hand's Generation Loss this past year and while there was much that I really liked about the book, there was that je ne sais quoi element to that liking that I could not render into words; the weaker elements I recall were easier to discern. But yet I ultimately thought this book was a strong effort, one worthy of award consideration, but I just could not find a suitable approach for discussing this in a review essay.

Normally, I would wait until some time had passed and do a re-read before writing, but for the case I mention in my opening paragraph, I just cannot, as I really have to have these two written and submitted before the end of the month if at all possible. It's like this block that I'm having; I cannot seem to go around it. I have read books that I really do want to review, but I feel as though I have to get these two completed to my satisfaction before I can in good conscience review these others. Some of these are excellent books, such as Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods, which I finished reading tonight, or Tom Corwin's Mr. Fooster: Traveling on a Whim, which is due for a June release. I really want to explore those as well as writing a comparative essay on two new books that touch upon issues of privacy in a modern world in very different ways, Isamu Fukui's Truancy and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. But not until I can come to terms with myself on my ultimate feeling regarding those two books. Perhaps I'll just work this uncertainty into the reviews and perhaps it'll all coalesce into workable reviews in the next day or two. But damn it's frustrating when books make for troublesome reviews.

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