This particular topic started when Pat wrote a review of Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains that spent a large part of the review talking about "hype" and how the book "did not deliver."
Hype has a funny way of raising one's expectations to an unattainable plateau. Richard Morgan wasn't even halfway done with the manuscript of a forthcoming fantasy novel which had yet to be titled, and already we were hearing how the author would turn the genre on its head. And given Morgan's talent and reputation, all of us believed that if someone could do it, then the author was the most likely candidate. Advance reading copies had not even been printed, yet early readers raved about The Steel Remains. Fantasy, or so it was claimed, was about to get real.The vagaries of life (or the fact that I reside in Canada) mean that European reviewers already had their reviews up before I even received my ARC. The verdict appeared quasi-unanimous: The Steel Remains probably was the fantasy novel of the year.Now, at this point the hype made it so that anything short of one of the genre's top reads of the year would be a disappointment. Hence, with such expectations, is it any wonder that Morgan's fantasy debut failed to deliver?
So while I was nonplussed by all of the verbiage that Pat gave to that one issue (thinking, as I said in a comment on his blog, that it would have been better to write that review without such implicit references to other reviews and the "hype" and instead focus on why the book didn't succeed), I had just chalked it up to individual reviewer preferences, shrugged, and moved on. Until yesterday, when I read something else on his blog, something that makes me slightly uncomfortable to see out in the open.
Pat posted a series of emails that he and Gollancz editor Simon Spanton (editor of Morgan's book) had after Pat's review. While this had Spanton's approval, I just can't help but to feel some unease at airing out exchanges that the reviewer has with someone intimately involved in the book's creation (author, publicist, editor). Although this exchange dealt primarily with hype and not with Morgan's book in particular, it had the expected result of getting quite a few people criticizing Spanton for being "unprofessional" (to put it mildly).
What really struck me about this exchange was the constant referencing of other authors and other reviewers (even if names were removed). This part of Pat's second response is rather telling:
Might as well say that it's all just cogs in the publicity machine, huh? That or just stop worrying so much about the "hype" aspect of this or that. Other people are going to see things the best they can in their own lights and while I want to agree with Pat that people sometimes get too excited, I cannot, as it seems (and I certainly hope this is just only a misleading impression) that Pat was being a bit dismissive of other opinions there. I know that when I comment on a book, I can only speak for myself and the few times that I started to sound as though I was speaking for others, I got smacked pretty good for it (and appreciated it later when I thought about it).When the advance praise from Joe and Darrin came, we were all salivating! Then the blogger reviews went up, and things reached a new level of excitement. I'm not saying that those bloggers wrote false or exagerated reviews. But I think that in their excitement, they may have, consciously or unconsciouly, overlooked some of the story's shortcomings. I'm guilty as charged of having done that in the past concerning titles that I was really looking forward to, and I was called out on it. Nothing wrong with that. We are only human, after all, and sometimes we really want some books to be so damn good. Just to give you an example, though he wrote a glowing review, [name withheld] came out and said that TSR had nothing on Altered Carbon and Black Man. I believe that, had I read it when you initially sent me the ARC, I would probably have enjoyed it more. As it is, all those positive reviews made my own expectations go up a few notches (and they were high to begin with), and in the end no novel could have met those expectations. . .We, as readers, in a way create and magnify the hype. We want this book to be great, and when reviews keep telling us that it is, well we just keep hoping for more, and more. So I'm not saying that you and the folks at Gollancz did anything wrong. Man, you're riding that wave for all its worth, and so you should! We rarely [see] such a buzz for a book, especially when you're not named Martin, Gaiman, or Jordan. So I see nothing wrong in the way you guys played your card. And I don't think anyone of those bloggers can be blamed of anything but overexcitement at the thought of finally reading that new Morgan fantasy book.
Sounds as though this entire discussion revolves solely around matters of expectations and disillusionment and where the "blame" for the latter ought to be placed. Of course, ironically, 90+% of people who'll go on to read Morgan's work will never have read any of these early reviews and their opinions will be weighted by other matters, which only serves to reduce this to yet another teapot tempest, no?
Edit: I see that Morgan has replied there. He has an interesting take on it:
For me, the issue is the review itself, and the core of the issue, the thorn, is this: I don’t think, Pat, that you failed to enjoy The Steel Remains because the buzz (or hype if you will) gave you unrealistic expectations; I think you failed to enjoy my book because you just didn’t like it – and I think you’re being too diplomatic, or possibly just too nice, to come out and say that. Or you’re fooling yourself.No finger pointing, no appeals to authorial authority, just his take on the whole matter that personally jibes with my own initial take of that review of his. Curious to know what others think about authors stepping into such morasses. I myself don't mind if any contact or question me about how I approach things; such things make for interesting conversations. I just don't care for it to be aired out in public, that's all.