Contemplating Caliban’s Reviews

CalibanIt’s one thing for me to review a novel or book. It’s quite another to receive a review of one of my own works. I’m always trying to decode them. Sure, it would be easy to default to the assumption I’m tetchy when it comes to reviews of my novels. But what I’m honestly trying to do is figure out if a negative review is the result of my own failing, or of a lazy, perhaps uninformed reader. Truly, I don’t know. I am trying to be objective. But after decades at this profession of writing, I’m still no closer to figuring out what’s going on, especially in light of some of the reader reviews about authors who are giants, in my opinion.

For example, I read a reader review for Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle, in which the reader only gives the novel three stars, and complains about exaggerations and perceived  implausibilities. The offending passages had to do with an abandoned First Nations reserve ringed with barbed wire, and a school bus parked to block the entrance on which the epithet: Indians go home is written. Huh. Doesn’t seem that implausible or exaggerated to me. But I guess it depends on cultural perspective.

Then there’s the two-star review of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. I quote:

I tried to get into this book, believe me, I tried. For me, this experience was a bit like trying to climb to a cloud on a glass ladder. Each time I thought I was getting somewhere, I lost my place…or realised I was still back where I started. Rushdie is a master of words, that’s true. But sometimes knowing all the words isn’t enough. I felt like the book was always behind a wall of intellect, making the content tricky to connect with. Sometimes there are pages of literary magic, but then those pages are followed with twice as many pages of Debbie McGee breaking wind at a bus stop. Outside a chippy in Portsmouth.


I have no words. Well, I did, and my review is here.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is everyone has an opinion. Those opinions are neither right nor wrong. They are just opinions. And that’s all reviews are—opinions. I don’t care if you’re writing a review for The New Yorker, or Goodreads, it’s still an opinion. Not necessarily well-informed or considered.

Thus I bring you to the paltry few reader reviews I’ve received for Calibandespite having sent out myriad review copies. These come from LibraryThing.


As other people have said, it was a little difficult to picture the characters. I feel that connecting in that way is integral for the reader to really be involved in the story. I’m hoping the author will go back and beef up those sections a little more. There are a lot of good things in this book, some beautiful language and ideas. It is certainly a lot different than much of the sci-fi offerings currently available and that in itself is encouraging.

I think with a little polish, this could be quite beautiful. The author certainly has shown she is capable of crafting an engrossing story. Now just to build the world around that a little more, part the curtain, let us see more of what’s around our protagonist.

I’m minded of Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, in which she never describes exactly what is shifgrethor. It is a word which apparently means shadow. But within the novel it has so many shadings (yes, I’m aware) as to be nebulous. I wonder what 3-stars would have thought of that?

Then there’s 2-stars from someone with the handle: NotaTurnip. Cute, eh?

I tried to read this book, I really did. It’s really unusual for me to not be able to, but I was 10% into this book and I had no real idea of who the characters were, or what was happening. It wasn’t compelling so much as confusing.

This isn’t to say that the story isn’t salvageable. If the author put down the thesaurus and worked more on ordering character introductions and world-building in a more logical way to the reader, I know it would make for a compelling read.

The tone is also inconsistent in some points, we pass between ephemeral susurrations down to shit-shows and fart jokes. I’m a huge fan of humour in fiction, but there’s a time and a place and they were both off in this story.

I don’t think this book was quite ready to be published, but with a few workshops and discussions with readers to find out what’s easy to understand and what doesn’t follow, it would be well worth the read. As it stands, it’s incredibly confusing.

Thesaurus? Seriously? World-building? Good the gods, the world-building.

And then the ever-so-informed and lazy 3-stars:

An intriguing novel to begin with, but the author’s style simply did not hook me (personal opinion only.)

Well, at least DaccariBuchelli had the grace to admit this was only personal opinion.

Huh. So, years in the writing, in the revision and crafting of a world so utterly alien, of aliens so utterly alien, of cultures and paradigms beyond human experience. Looks like probably I shouldn’t have bothered, because, after all, we want something safe, that doesn’t challenge, that refuses to allow you to say, Oh, I hadn’t considered that.

Oh well. I”m not going to apologize for Caliban. But I am going to challenge you to pick up your own copy, make it an eBook so you’ll feel comfortable about the monetary expenditure, and then  draw your own conclusion. Write your own review. Make it public. Even if it’s 2-stars. Why not?

After all, any exposure is good exposure, as the saying goes.

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