As is Aidan from A Dribble of Ink, Dark Wolf from Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews, Larry from OF Blog, Jeff from Fantasy Book News and Reviews, Gav from NextRead, the entire crew at Fantasy Book Critic, and many other book reviewers throughout the genre blogosphere. As are many other book reviewers from other genres. And the professionals who get paid to write book reviews for high-brow publications, such as the Guardian - many of them are supposedly cowards too.
Well, because we don't put a little number at the end of our reviews.
Or at least, so says Paul Stotts from genre blog Blood of the Muse. In an interview over at Temple Library Reviews, Paul said the following:
" I think writing a review, and not giving it some sort of numerical score is a cop out; it’s cowardice—pure and simple—since many online reviewers don’t want to upset publishers or authors.
So they write reviews that are open to interpretation, using nebulous terms like good, overemphasizing the positive aspects of the book, trying very hard not to have an opinion. It’s okay, you’re entitled to have an opinion, you’re entitled to take a stand and let people know what you think.
See, words lie; numbers don’t. And I don’t want to lie to my audience. So I score every book on a scale of 100. Like any review, the number is completely subjective; there are no underlying components. I score books by ranking them against other novels I’ve read in the genre. It’s rather simple. But effective."
I beg to differ. To me, the suggestion that all book reviews that don't incorporate a numerical rating are a 'cop out' because said reviewer doesn't want to upset the author and/or publisher, is nothing short of ridiculous.
As those of you who have followed this blog from the start will know, I used to use a numerical rating for my book reviews. Eventually I ditched it because I felt I was not being consistent enough with my use of it, and I decided that in any case it simply wasn't necessary. To my mind, a good book reviewer should be able to make their feelings on a book clear without having to rely on a numerical failsafe. Now, that's not to say that I think reviewers shouldn't use ratings - personally I don't care either way. It's up to the individual blogger to decide. I just so happen to think that - along with a good many of my fellow bloggers - that they just don't add much value to a review, and can actually cause confusion when the number doesn't seem to correlate with the opinions expressed in the review.
Suggesting that us bloggers that don't use numerical ratings are being cowardly is bizarre - I just don't understand where Paul's coming from here, nor can I comprehend what possible evidence he has to support his theory. Just because you stick a number at the end of your review doesn't mean you're being honest and that your integrity is intact. Sure, there are some reviewers out there - probably - that are a little scared to be too critical, and maybe they don't use ratings as a result (note the emphasis on 'maybe'). Even if this was the case, they're still a distinct minority.
I just find it amusing that my credibility is being questioned simply on this basis. If I was a coward and was scared of upsetting, say, Gollancz, then why did I give one of their books a scathing review? What about Solaris - if I was worried about what they thought of me, would I have given one of their books a pretty awful review? As it happens - I have excellent relations with both publishers, and not once have either of them expressed annoyance at any of my reviews and not once have I compromised my own integrity or principles by writing a falsely-positive review in order to stay on good terms with them.
Perhaps Paul could kindly explain his theory a little further, maybe with some hard evidence. I'd also be grateful if he could explain his own rating system to me, because I'm afraid I don't understand what the difference between an 83% rating and an 86% rating is.
Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. In fact, I think I'll hide underneath it 'cos that's what a coward would do, right?