In a previous post I said I would return to the star system beloved of review sites. Online review sites almost always insist on every book being categorised in the range of 5* (best book in the world) to 1* (worst book in the world).
I have a problem with that. If I was to put my mind to a genuine categorisation of every book I read, then on the whole each would be different. If compelled to stick with 1 to 5, then I want to be able to give stars for lots of different reasons: how good a read was it, how involved did I become, was the characterisation believable, was I lost in the fictional world, did the facts stand up, was the background research meticulous and objective, how was the opening page, did it grab me from the first sentence… I could go on. And what a waste of time!
I also have a problem with allocating stars to a book that did nothing for me. Do I say ‘Bored rigid from start to finish. 1*’? That doesn’t seem fair if what bored me was that it was a historical novel and I wasn’t in the mood for a historical novel because I’d just finished a sci-fi book. If I knew the period well and could say, ‘Bored rigid by anachronisms and lack of research,’ or if it was non-fiction and I could say, ‘Bored by lack of accuracy and out of date research,’ that wouldn’t be so bad. At least those are valid objective reasons.
But who am I to put off other readers with my 1* when it’s based on a subjective judgement?
The other thing I won’t do is review a book I haven’t read, and that takes care of the examples above because I wouldn’t have finished a single one of those books. Why would I be ‘bored rigid from start to finish’ of any book? I don’t go out of my way to seek out boring experiences.
Despite all this, I still rather treasure an early review that appeared on Like False Money, which is now published as part of the Falling into Crime trilogy.
“Really enjoyed the book but it came badly packaged – 2*”
I review books that I have enjoyed and with very few exceptions, I give them all their stars because I rarely have an objective reason not to.