Cheeseburger Gothic

Bezos buys a newspaper

Posted August 8, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

If I was working for the Washington Post I'd probably be a helluva lot more relieved than concerned about Jeff Bezos buying my ass wholesale this week. Chances are the business desk will never write another decent story about Amazon's business practices, but other than that Bezos seems to be shaping up as very old fashioned hands-off proprietor in the tradition of American billionaires who buy a newspaper as a sort of charitable indulgence rather than a commercial investment.

He paid $250m for a masthead once valued at over a billion, and he probably overpaid. But he can afford it. Dude's personally worth over $25 billion. He could lose fifty or sixty million a year on the Post for the rest of his life and still die megawealthy. and that's without Amazon paying him another cent.

The thing about Bezos, he plays for the long run. He's playing for the long run in trying to monoplise the publishing industry, and probably in trying to roll over retail competitors like Costco and Walmart. He could afford to sit and wait for years, decades even, while the slow death of the old media kills of most of the legacy print competitors leaving a few globally recognised mastheads to survive as megasaurs in a radically changed ecology.

I can very easily imagine a future where a handful of brand titles like The New York Times and now the Post, become less about serving their local catchments and more about selling an increasingly rare - and thus valuable product - hard news, to a much wider market. (It's noticeable, for instance that the stories selected by the editors of the NYT for each day's live read on Audible seem very strongly slanted towards an international audience). I'd also add that there's no guarantee the Times will survive, given their parlous finances. But they're a lot better placed to do so than most papers.

4 Responses to ‘Bezos buys a newspaper’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted August 8, 2013

It is charming and quite reassuring that the ultra rich of today are behaving like the benevolent robber barons of the past. I'm not being critical. I think it is wonderful that Bezos will be keeping the Post alive independent of any profit motive. It is even more reassuring to know that the accumulation of enormous wealth might foster the kind of man Karl Marx hoped would result from communism.

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted August 8, 2013

Nah, just another Dot Commer slowly coming to the realization that their industry is the one that killed serious journalism and that pyjama journalism isn't going to fix the crap that happens to democracy next.

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HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted August 9, 2013

WAAAAAY of fkn TOPIC, I see that MURPH has popped up here!

"A 600-year-old statue residing in a museum in Florence, Italy, has one less finger on its left hand thanks to an American tourist who came in contact with the artwork and broke off a digit.

The tourist, whose name has not been reported, allegedly broke off the left pinky finger of the statue while attempting to measure it. The incident is thought to have been an accident, but officials in Italy questioned the American and are weighing what action to take.The fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is: do not touch the works.

Reports have described the tourist as a 55-year-old man from Missouri in the US.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/travel-news/american-tourist-breaks-finger-off-ancient-statue-in-florence-musuem-20130808-2rixt.html#ixzz2bPnryP9C

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The Alastair Reynolds book we should have read

Posted July 3, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

Whoa.

That's right. Whoa.

Alistair Reynolds has written a Dr Who novel, and it's set in the Pertwee era, with Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and Jo Grant and the Beardy Master. Deets at iO9, including spoilers.

"...he clearly has a lot of affection for the "UNIT family" era. But at the same time, Reynolds can't resist making things more intense and cosmic, and he winds up delving into some of the weirder contradictions of the UNIT era, including the sense that reality is always just a few threads away from unraveling, that runs underneath all the comfy "trundling around the English countryside in a yellow roadster" stuff in that era...

...

Reynolds is clearly having a lot of fun getting to play around with the Doctor Who universe, and he tosses out more ideas than he quite knows what to do with, somehow making the whole thing come together at the end. He's not just revamping the Pertwee era, he's making some interesting customizations to the show's mythology in general — particularly a lot of stuff about the Time Lords, and by extension the Doctor's own origins and ideals.

Reynolds brings out a lot of the weirdness that's inherent in a paramilitary organization coping with mind-bending terrors from outer space, and a lot of the threat that UNIT is dealing with this time around turns out to be existential in nature. On the TV show, UNIT soldiers deal with being frozen in time bubbles, de-aged into babies, mind-controlled by evil computers and whisked away to an antimatter universe — but Reynolds comes up with a possibly more surreal and jarring danger for UNIT to struggle against, as a result of the Master's evil-doing."

As much as I struggled thru a few passages of Chasm City, I'll be making my way from this place directly to Audible to see if there's an audiobook. And if not, an ebook.

11 Responses to ‘The Alastair Reynolds book we should have read’

Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 3, 2013

Got my copy a week or so back but was too busy re-reading Chasm City to get to it. :)

Now onto KSR's 2312 from my Hugo voter packet, but soon I will read Al's new shiny. Soon, I tells ya.

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted July 3, 2013

See, I look at that spaceship and think, "Mickey Mouse."

Don't ask me why.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Maddoug swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 3, 2013

Well I look at that spaceship and think it's a good thing the "mouse ears" are concave instead of convex, or it wouldn't be Mickey mouse i'd be thinking of...

Will certainly pick up a copy for myself in any case, I love his books and it'll be interesting to see what he does with Pertwee's Doctor.

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Spanner mutters...

Posted July 3, 2013

Oh man *kicks nearest table* I just used my latest audible credit on Part 2 of Wise Man's Fear. I don't wanna wait another month. If only I had a time machine...

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted July 3, 2013

Time Lords

Delete or insert a bounded 'event horizon'.

I always wondered how quickly time travelled once changed.

It is instant as some would have us believe.?

How quickly can time/information dissapate?

'Non locality' and measuring Plank's constant is

Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted July 3, 2013

It's a Lebesque

Stanislaw Ulam saw it, 0 to 1 with non linear coeffiecents making it difficult.

I'll shut up for a while and drink some pleasurable contemplation.

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Dave W is gonna tell you...

Posted July 3, 2013

Has he done any screenwriting for the current incarnation (or upcoming...)? In any case, I saw it on amazon this morning and you've just made this tome more enticing.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted July 3, 2013

Yup - it's on Audible. I'm about half way through. The amazing thing is, especially in the first few scenes, he's managed to write aliens that look a bit like crap early 70's special effects.

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Quokka would have you know...

Posted July 8, 2013

I clicked that link. ROFL and Barf, all at once.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted July 8, 2013
Eek, how did that happen? I thought I was clicking on 'respond' to Barnesm in the MOS thread. Never mind. disregard and carry on.

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The digital future of genre

Posted June 27, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

Last year was a dark time in publishing. The year before even worse. The Australian retail market contracted by 25%, mostly due to the collapse of Borders, which had itself driven a number of independents and smaller franchises to the wall.

There are glimmers of improvement about though. The end of Amazon's effective monoply on ebooks is one, and the return of genre, especially sci-fi another.

Sci Fi has been deader than Elvis as a publishing industry segment for a long time. A few authors make a good, not great, living. But otherwise the era of spaceships and big fucking ray guns was judged to be over.

Until punters started buying SF titles in bigger and bigger and ever accelerating numbers in electronic form. It seems that like comic books and short stories, genre and SF in particular have found something of a 'mass niche' on tablets and ereaders.

Wired has long piece about it here:

There are multiple theories for the genre dominance in digital publishing, including the appeal of anonymity offered by e-reader devices, which don’t display the cover of a potentially embarrassing book for all the world to see. As Antonia Senior wrote in The Guardian last year, ”I’m happier reading [trashy fiction] on an e-reader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.”

But the digital delivery system also offers immediacy and ease of access for material that often is serialized and written to make you want to know what happens next, as soon as possible. Liate Stehlik, senior vice president and publisher at Harper Collins, subscribes to that idea, at least partially. Genre fans, she says, became “early adopters” of the digital format because e-books are the optimal format “for people who want to read a lot of books, quickly and frequently. Digital has replaced the paperback, certainly the paperback originals. I think the audience that gravitated to eBooks first really was that voracious reader, reading for entertainment, reading multiple books in a month across multiple genres.”

For both Random House and Harper Collins, moving to a digital-first publishing model not only offers a higher return on investment for genre publishing, but also opens the door for those publishers to experiment in a much more cost-effective way than print. “It’s not that we couldn’t publish these books before,” Dobson said, “but [now] that a certain consumer has migrated online, and the ease of buying these books has grown that consumer base substantially.”

This sits well with my own judgment that the industry will shake itself out into two fields over the next ten years, with disposable fiction migrating mostly into digital. Doesn't mean you won't ever see a hardback or even paperback SF title in future. But most of those titles will probably be consumed on iPads and Kindles.

15 Responses to ‘The digital future of genre’

pi puts forth...

Posted June 27, 2013

I'd say that the other advantage that is helped via e-books is the simple volume of books that you can carry around with you. Many sci-fi books form part of a greater 'universe' (if only Mr Bankscould take a bow... sigh) and if you want to access these books on a whim, you'd need to carry along a crate with you.

I also re-read sci-fi in a way that I don't read in many other forms. The whole immersion thing. When you have all of these titles at your finger-tips, this is possible. Otherwise, it's back to the crate thing.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted June 27, 2013

"”I’m happier reading [trashy fiction] on an e-reader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.” This is a contributing reason I think why 50 Shades of Grey was a monster best seller.

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pitpat reckons...

Posted June 27, 2013

Certainly gels with my personal experience. Prior to my kindle I would re-read old books until I got the chance to get into the city. The best option in my neck of the woods is Berkelouws and they don't have a huge Sci Fi/ explodey range but have great thinky range. With various devices I now have multiple options and it is very very easy to pick a new title or even just browse a chapter or even try your luck in the 99c or free range.

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Trashman is gonna tell you...

Posted June 27, 2013

God, I hope not. I only buy digital when there's no other option. I don't care what people think of what I read, I'm a geek to the grave.

Much prefer dead tree - I read faster and I enjoy it more. Don't ask me why.

Plus, I can sell it on second hand (but never one of yours JB!).

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted June 27, 2013

I imagine Amazon is already setting up the ability to sell back your kindel edition. At a much reduced cost of course

Trashman asserts...

Posted June 28, 2013

That way they control the second hand market as well.

It's only electrons, they don't physically exist and can be sold and then resold ad infinitum. At least a physical copy can only change hangs so many times before it falls apart.

They get their profit multiple times, you get a pittance and the author gots nothing.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted June 28, 2013

I think you just successfully pitched the idea for Amazon.

Trashman reckons...

Posted June 28, 2013

Damn!

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tqft mumbles...

Posted June 27, 2013

I think the real money will be for the person who can make an AI editor rather than one of those pesky humans with bills to pay. At least some software that can do a lot of the grunt work.

Revenue will be determined as always by what people want and are prepared to pay. But costs? Someone somewhere probably has this idea in train. I was reading a post the other day by a person who does editing as a side job. She almost sent it back in digust as the just the formatting was making the work unreadable.

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Anthony swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 27, 2013

But how am I going to get a signed copy of an e-book?

pi would have you know...

Posted June 27, 2013

liquid paper.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted June 27, 2013

Yep. Also franchise lines I reckon. The equivalents of Cussler and that bloke who did Red October. I also believe Dickens would have been into it like Havsy at a muppet capping.

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted June 28, 2013

Be nice if there were more SF out there that didn't pound one in the head with their particular ideological bible. I love science fiction but man most of what is out there these days is so much third hand, politically correct sermonizing thinly coated with something that might vaguely be called a plot.

The most recent novels I've read are by Ted Kosmatka, The Games and The Prophet of Bones respectively. Both are solidly plotted, character driven novels serviced by either crunchy SF in one case or crunchy SF in an alternate universe. Politics is a spice in the later novel, not the main course, side dish and three trips to the ice cream machine at Hometown Buffet.

Frankly, I wish I could find more novels that were like Ted's. If I want some half baked poli-sci sermon, I'll just crack open the latest generation of American History textbooks.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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S.M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted June 29, 2013

Yup. My royalties used to be derisory. They've gotten to be six-figure serious, and it's being overwhelmingly driven by ebooks.

They alter buying patterns, especially in genre(*). People read one book, and then go out and buy the entire series. Sometimes everything the author has ever done.

(*) apart from the particular genre known as "literary".

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Anders asserts...

Posted June 29, 2013

Also the fact that they actually have a sci-fi section to shop in. That really helps.

Aside from GRRM, Pratchett and OH GOD ALL THE TWILIGHT, there's scant few Fantasy/SF titles on the average bookstore's shelves. Borders was where I got most of mine in recent years, before that (when I was in a state without any) it was second hand stores. But on an e-reader? It's a never ending slide down the "recommended" list.

I'm also a lifetime member of Singularity & Co's "Save the Sci-fi", which serves up bizarre classics. And I also really appreciated the Humble eBook Bundle which introduced me to the remarkable "Zoo City" by Lauren Beukes - that kind of bundled approach is probably my preferred way of getting exposed to new authors as the content is curated, but costs are still low.

Finally a shout-out to Boroondara Library Service for having a HUUUUGE SF collection that I have plundered over the years. Since moving to this area, they're a definite reason for my purchasing habits declining.

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I dips me lid to the prof

Posted June 16, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

My thanks to Professor Bryan Gaensler for delivering up this weekend's freebie read, an edited chapter from his awesome book of thinky science things about the universe. Yes. The whole fucking universe. Today's extract is a roaring piece about the loudest sound never heard, and Extreme Cosmos is chockers with stuff like this that kids and teen geeks in particular would love.

It's probably also worth bookmarking for Father's Day

1 Responses to ‘I dips me lid to the prof’

BigWillieStyle reckons...

Posted June 16, 2013

Meh. I don't care how many letters Bryan Gaensler has got after his name. I get all my sciencamatific knowledge from Alan Jones. Everyone knows the universe is not 13.8 billlion years old, and there was no Big Bang. It's all just leftist lefty leftard lefty hogwash, designed to cover up the fact that we'll soon be ruled by One World Order, and all of our income will go directly to single mothers and drug addicts.

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From the archives: Cell

Posted June 12, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

Got a mess of my own making to clean up today, so I thought I'd reach back into the archive for this one, a review of Cell by da King. It got a relevence refresh with news that a movie adaptation is back on track and scheduled to begin shooting later this year. John Cusack is set to star. Given the success of The Walking Dead and the anticipation surrounding Under the Dome, it's almost a lay down certainty to reach the multiplexes sometime next year. I remember this as being one the creepiest King books ever, and viscerally horrifying with it.

The supermarkets and mega stores like Borders will probably discount Stephen King's latest novel, Cell, using it as a loss leader to drag punters into the shop. You might even get it for less than twenty bucks, but don't imagine for a second that's all you're going to pay. There'll be a heavy toll levied on anyone who reads this thing from cover to cover; vivid nightmares that wreck your sleep for however long it takes you finish and get the creepy thing out of your system

As with the best of King's work, Cell comes with a simple premise. At 3.03pm, US Eastern Standard Time, some sort of Pulse runs through every mobile phone in the world. Anyone using their natty little Erricson at that time goes violently insane. And as the author points out, who doesn't own a mobile nowadays? As millions of zombie's possessed by their batphones suddenly turn on the rest of the population, those not affected at first begin to ring friends and
family to warn them or to find out what's happening, and they too get zapped by Satan's Own telco. Only a small percentage of people remain unaffected, either because they don't have mobiles, or they stay off them long to realise that they are the source of the problems.

Keeping such a global disaster personalised is the role of Clay Riddell, 'a young man of no particular importance to history', a graphic artist caught in Boston during the Pulse. The book follows his attempts to make it home, a hundred miles away, to his twelve year old son, for whom he had only just purchased a mobile phone. Clay throws in his lot with an ensemble cast of suppporting survivors; notably Alice, a traumatised teenager and Tom, a confirmed bachelor of much less than heroic stature, who turns out to be one of the most sympathetically drawn gay men you'll ever find in pulp fiction.

Possibly the goriest of Stephen King's books so far, it won't be for everybody. Never one to resile from painting humanity in the worst light, recent events seem to have darkened his view of us even further. The book is current enough to include references to Hurricane Katrina, and the aftermath of that disaster informs the shocking and occasionally sickening portrait of a world in collapse which takes up the first part of the narrative.

With it's legions of blank-eyed, shuffling undead unpeople, Cell quickly reveals itself as a zombie horror story, in the style of George Romero, one of King's favorite auteurs. And like Romero, King uses the iconic figure of the zombie for satircal as well as scarifying purposes. When the phone crazies, as they are quickly dubbed, begin to exhibit flocking behaviour, and march in jerky lockstep to nearest mega mall to strip it clean of rapidly decaying foodstuffs, they recall scenes from Romero's Dawn of Dead, which was as much a commentary on American materialism as it was a low budget splatterfest.

As usual, King's story is loaded with references to the world of real things – a phrase of which he is very fond – and while some of these merely provide verisimilutde, others point to a deeper intent on the writer's part. The opening scenes are purposely drawn in the shadow of 9/11, and Al Qaeda's mass casualty attack haunts both the action and the thoughts of the main characters throughout. King is also The King however, and a world full of flesh eating zombies isn't nearly
interesting enough to keep him at the keyboard. He amps up the story wattage with a developing subplot about the victims of the Pulse beginning to act as a single organism with weirdly otherworldly Stephen Kingly-type super powers.

It might all sound like a load of old cods, but all of his books would, when viewed in blurb form. King pulls them off because he has that rare facility of making you believe it could happen. I challenge anyone to read this book and feel comfortable making a phone call right afterwards. Indeed, like all true art, the Cell lingers in your mind, having its greatest effect when the immediate experience of the work is over. It's like a depth charge, sinking deeper and deeper into your subconcious and detonating days afterwards in the form of some
very unpleasant dreams.

It can and will be read on different levels. As simple freak show carnography. As a satire on commercial culture. A homage to Romero. Even as a reflection on the war in Iraq. (One character makes this link explicit). For me though, it marks a stunning return to form of the heaviest hitter in the world of the airport novel. If you don't mind being pursued through your dreams by a ravening host of zombies, this one is for you.

13 Responses to ‘From the archives: Cell’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted June 12, 2013

Thank Darwin, I thought this was that awful serial killer movie starring Ms Lopez as child psychiatrist Catherine Deane who can enter the dreams of her patients.

Will check it out, $13.76 for the kindle. Personally I think I should only pay $9.99 that means I can steal it doesn't it?

This Stephen King fella is he any good?

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted June 12, 2013

"At 3.03pm, US Eastern Standard Time, some sort of Pulse runs through every mobile phone in the world. Anyone using their natty little Erricson at that time goes violently insane" I wonder if this was sparked by the series one finale of Dollhouse which mentioned similar idea, and why they wanted to head to the bunker.

You had me 'zombie horror story'.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted June 12, 2013

so July Cheesebuger bookclub chosen I take it?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted June 12, 2013

You'd have to lobby hard.

Jackie would have you know...

Posted June 12, 2013

Got my vote and I just purchased it the other day to read so I'm good to go :) #julybookclub :)

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Rob puts forth...

Posted June 12, 2013

Hopefully it will be faithfull to tthe book. I read a review of world war z and I'm already disapointed. So I will wait for that to be released on DVD to watch that particular puppy. The book has a really a really good well plotted story that goes from point a to point b, with dollops of Stephen King meloncoly thrown in. The creepy moments of the hives of zombies all listening to the same tune in the car parks as the characters sneak past was amazingly inventive. Stephen King has always had his eye on movies and their push through make sense logic. I even enjoyed Maximum Overdrive which King didn't like, but as a trashy B film it was brilliant.

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John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted June 12, 2013
Dollops of melancholy you say? I'd have thought oceans of it.
I wonder if they'll change the ending?

Rob asserts...

Posted June 12, 2013

ending?....Must read it again....get me to my bookshelves pronto.

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Analog Penetration mutters...

Posted June 12, 2013

It is a great read. I liked his reference to "robo-80's radio stations" that are all called some guy's name like Mike or Bob. We don't have that here in Oz, but I was working in radio in Canada when I read this, and that is part of the landscape there (my town had a Jack FM).

And Moby was hurt/flattered by being bagged in one scene too.

Hope the movie lives up to the book. Although they seldom do, especially with King.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 12, 2013

Oh, man, I vaguely recall that Moby thing, but can't quite bring into sharp focus. I might have to revisit the book after all.

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Microbe74 ducks in to say...

Posted June 12, 2013

I remember being un-nerved by the premise of this book, uncomfortable with my phone while in the process of reading it but as with much of King's work, absolutely transfixed by it.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted June 12, 2013

I was mostly unnnerved by the gore and violence.

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On reviewing for money, love and hatred.

Posted May 20, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

Nobody believes you when you say, "I don't read the reviews," and they probably shouldn't if you're just some baby author, gamely pretending to give less than a shit about the cruel and unusual judgment of others. But eventually, as a writer, or any kind of public performer I guess, you do stop reading them because ... you just stop caring. Really. Either the punters liked the book and bought it, or they didn't. It doesn't mean you would not be wounded by a harsh word. But eventually, you don't bother to seek them out as you once may have.

Mainstream reviewers in the print media judge often titles by criteria that shouldn't apply to them. It can make for an entertaining read, for instance when somebody who's been forced to grapple with Dan Brown takes out their resentment and superiority complex on the poor dumb rich bastard. But it's not going to affect Brown's sales, or more importantly, his writing. He'll just keep doing what he does and banking the royalties.

Dr Johnson contemplates a poor review of his latest work. Considers challenging
the slubbering wantwit to a duel. Decides on pie instead.

The other reason I don't read reviews is that having done my fair share of reviewing for money I know how fucking dodgy and unprofessional are many of the published reviews in the mainstream press. I avoid writing them now because there just isn't the money in it to justify my time. A hundred and fifty bucks for a week's work? No thanks. And it is a week's full time work to do it properly. I've always believed that a proper review demands at least two read thru's – the second one as you take notes – before you even put pen to paper. There are pro reviewers who work that way, but not many, and they are almost all fulltimers at a broadsheet.

But just because you read a regular 'name' reviewer in a broadsheet newspaper doesn't mean you're getting a better review than you would from a committed amateur at their blog. I've known a few fuckwits who simply reviewed the cover art and the blurb. Met one or two who boasted of trashing a book for purely personal reasons, or because they were simply paid to by a media outlet with a grudge. It's never happened to me, but it has happened to a few unfortunate authors I know of, most famously Matt Reilly. (And again, seriously, to what end? It's not going to affect his sales or his writing technique).

Anyway, long story short, I don't pay much heed to what's happening in reviewerland. But this piece, by Michael Robbins in the Chicago Tribune, was an engaging peek into their world. Partly because it was so honest:

No one dreams of being a book reviewer when he grows up. You might dream of writing poems or novels or essays or even, if you are perennially picked last for teams in gym class, literary criticism (“We don't want Robbins, you can have an extra player”; “We don't want him, either!”) These forms have their glamour, even if only the novelist is much prized by the united malls of America. But as Samuel Johnson almost said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote book reviews, except for money.” ...

Most reviews are merely serviceable, because reviewing is a service industry. Readers want to know whether they should read a book or skip it. Some publications append letter grades to their book reviews, a development I view somewhat as William F. Buckley regarded the Second Vatican Council. Deadlines are deadly to the polish of prose. Daily or weekly reviewing requires that something be said about works of which often there is not much to be said beyond "Read something else."

I'm kind of curious, given what a sophistumucated, worldly readership we gots here at the Burgerstand, just how many of you do read book reviews?

40 Responses to ‘On reviewing for money, love and hatred.’

Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted May 20, 2013

Never. Same with movies. And wine. For these things, there are so many variables and personal preferences that it is rare that a reviewer has the same set of requirements as I do at that particular time.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 20, 2013

I don't much look at the reader review web sites. How can you get anything from them? As you are reading a 5 star review for a particular book, you know a one star review will soon follow.

I do read reviews in the papers. It is just pleasurable reading about books. You can usually tell if a reviewer is being unfair, or has not actually read the book. I don't read the books that newspapers are currently reviewing. All the books I read are not current. I tend to read literature classics or remaindered genre fiction.

When I am grazing thru the remaindered table, those quoted reviews on the back covers of books do affect my purchase. I dismiss quoted reviews that are by other authors. I assume that are mates, or in the same publishing house, or it is a return back scratch. Anything with a review quote by James Patterson, I put down. I don't think JP has actually read the book, so I think it is a bit of a fraud. If I see a good review quote from the New York Times or The Times, I will almost certainly buy it.

Back around the eighties, it was a bit of a game to try to find a nice trashy read that didn't have a complimentary review quoted from either The Scotsman or The Yorkshire Post. Those papers seemed to have a competition to see how many back covers they could get on. It was a good laugh.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 20, 2013

' I dismiss quoted reviews that are by other authors. I assume that are mates, or in the same publishing house, or it is a return back scratch.'

Wise you are to dismiss such things, young Jedi.

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Murphy asserts...

Posted May 20, 2013

Hmm, well, I read the reviews of your novels. Then again, as your research consultant, I feel like it probably doesn't hurt to give them a once over. Besides, I sorta got the job by blogging about Weapons of Choice.

And I did/do read the reviews of Tearing Down Tuesday and The Limb Knitter, sad as that may sound, even all these years later. I think what frustrates me, honestly, is that I didn't pick up a negative review which often prompts me to wonder why I haven't been able to sell anything again.

Different topic.

To be honest, when it comes to the work of others, I don't bother with the reviews. There are writers I will invest time in because I know them. There are writers I will invest time in because other writers recommended them. There are books I will try simply because I think they might be decent. But has a review ever influenced my decision to buy or not?

Nope.

Fair disclosure. I have written book reviews and yes, I did write them for money. However, I wrote them as a student writer at the campus paper where the pay was the review copy plus twenty bucks. At Strange Horizons, where I published my one and only serious review of a science fiction novel, Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City, I netted thirty bucks which I promptly donated back to them because I didn't have a paypal account.

At the end of the day, I gave up on reviews. Not worth the time, not worth the money, and if you get a book you hate, not worth the honesty. For instance, no one forgives you when you take Kim Stanley Robinson out to the woodshed. They'll claim you did it for personal reasons (perhaps because others would do so for those reasons). No one likes it when you pick on Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, which everyone but yours truly likes. And God forbid you say something nasty about the twit who wrote Ork and Crackhead up north with the Canadian types.

Better things to be doing, like, uh, writing novels 'n shit.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

P.S. I read my Rate My Professor ratings too. :)

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 20, 2013

'and if you get a book you hate, not worth the honesty.'

Fuck yeah. Truer words were rarely spoke. When I was still reviewing I rare did negs because it just wasn't worth the grief and ill feeling. But also, even bad books were somebody's labor of love, and it sits ill upon me to go kicking somebody's baby just because I don't like the look of it.

I should add, of course, that Mruph and I met because I read and appreciated his intelligently critical review of Weapons of Choice. McKinney too, as I recall, came to my notice for a nuanced conservative response to the same book on Amazon.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 20, 2013

'nuanced conservative response" and "on Amazon" now there's teo phrases you don't often see together.

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013

I believe Cheeseburger Gothic exists because of that review as well.

Ironic given that I've more or less placed my blog on the Inactive List. I just honestly don't know what the fuck to blog about anymore.

As for Weapons of Choice, it is a good first novel. As I work through mine I am finding that I am making many of the same design choices which I'm sure I'll regret in later years. Still, WoC holds up well.

Back to honesty, as someone who is pathologically honest I've found that it has not served my writing career particularly well over the years. One is better off if they avoid giving their opinion on any given piece of shit.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Naut has opinions thus...

Posted May 20, 2013

I barely have time to read books, I am not going to waste that time reading reviews.

Seriously though, we live in the digital social age. Reviews by friends and celebrities are far more important than even a well performed review by a quality source. If I was an author I would be less worried about reviews and more worried about building a conversation on Social Media.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 20, 2013

Much more likely to go by word of mouth, or in this case, word of blog. I've started on a few great authors by lurking on the Book Club comments. Not necessarily the ones being discussed either. Probably read more of the dodgy pro or anti reviews on Amazon when the sockpuppet scandal was fresh than at any other time, and that was morbid curiosity. Although the lovely Anne Treasure did describe one of my reviews as "sublime" - a comment I shall 'treasure'.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013

"And it is a week's full time work to do it properly" What isn't everyone doing that for Cheeseburger bookclub?

I read reviews, there are a few website I have on my reader (curse you google for taking tit away) , Tor, SF Signal, Skeptics, I09 and when they offer reviews I read those.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted May 20, 2013

I rarely read reviews simply because they are so subjective. I'm only likely to consider reading a review if the subject (book/film/whatever) is something I'm already interested in and if I know or recognise the reviewer.

Word of mouth recommendations from friends or trusted sources will always get my attention, though not always appropriate follow-up - too many books, too little time and the depredations of Planets Asperger and Parenthood at Chateau Dysfunction conspire to foil my grand intentions on most occasions.

I do like to write book reviews when in the appropriate mood, but they are not for payment and are generally for a closed audience (the bookloving members of a message board I help moderate). Even then they exist primarily as just me passing on what I thought about what I have read, whether it be good or bad. It's essentially just a running commentary on the flow of books that accompanies me through the perils of RL (and keeps my brain engaged, just quietly.)

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 20, 2013

A mate of mine reviews books for a newspaper.

I know my mate's taste in books and I knew that receiving a 500+ page tome of something of no interest to him was a lot less than a joy. I could tell that he had started to not read those books because his reviews started including a lot of biographical info about the author.

He remarked, the editor has chipped him to return to actually reviewing the book.
I said, "Mate. It was starting to get a little obvious, but I didn't like to say anything."
He nodded ruefully.

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 20, 2013

I used to enjoy reading the long review essays that ran in the ALR supplemt the Oz usd to print. Wrote a few of them myself, and was happy to do so at a buck a word for 3000 word pieces.

But the emphasis in those essays was on the essay. The books – there were always three or four of them, thematically linked – were more of a reference/resource/jumping off point.

In the days before the long form web explosion it was a free read of high quality every month. But I rarely if ever bought the books reviewed. And I read the essays for their general subject matter rather than to check the individual titles.

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013

The ALR. That was a terrific read. As you say, the books being the jumping off for a meditation on stuff.

Less of an example of that, Mark Mordue's ALR review of the film 'The Road' still lives in my mind for its awesomeness..
http://www.markmordue.com/2010/02/towards-love-another-vision-of-road.html
But, I still have not seen the film.

I stel

damian reckons...

Posted May 21, 2013

Always liked that style of essay, indeed.

I've never been much of a reader of reviews as such. However literary reviews where the reviewer is good (and maybe famous) writer too are readbale for their own sake, and I always quite liked this. TLR stuff, like Eagleton on Dawkins (one I keep hapring on about) for instance.

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted May 21, 2013

Thanks W,

That is a great link!

Reviews that are great reads.

I don't read reviews cause I don't often see them.

Out of spite I won't visit that 'Stephanie' (http://www.readinasinglesitting.com/ )site that won some useless award that so should have been given to CBG.

I won't I tell ya I won't!

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TC would have you know...

Posted May 20, 2013

I enjoy reading reviews for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's often very difficult to get an idea of what an unknown book is actually about at its release (apart from vapid cliches and unrealistic marketing), so a well selected review can help me determine whether the subject matter of the book is something I'm interested in. Secondly, I love reading reviews about books that am certain to read at some point in the future (favourite authors, etc), simply because I'm a hopeless addict when it comes to reading.

But to answer what is more likely to be your underlying question of whether book reviews help me choose a book; the answer is no. I often find the reviewers' opinions amusing and sometimes quite enlightening, but rarely does a review determine which book - or other art form - I will go on to shell out the slippery squids for.

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alexmac reckons...

Posted May 20, 2013

Without sounding like a complete fucking tool, I reckon the only reviews worth reading are the kind you find in The New Yorker/The NY Review of Books/The Monthly, in which a person who is deeply involved in the subject matter does the reviewing. Often they're comparisons between non-fiction pieces and they're usually an awesome primer on a field of study. But it's the same old story, you have to look out for the bias of the reviewer.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 20, 2013

Does anyone else get tired of having something spoiled by the fucking review? I went back and forth with the Strange Horizons features editor for weeks with a busted collar bone, typing one handed while hammered on Heinekens to dull the pain over spoiling the fucking novel.

I finally managed to get something submitted to him and published which gave you a taste of what Alastair Reynolds had accomplished in his second novel (which also holds up well today) without ruining the plot.

First and last one I ever wrote. Not too long after I found out about their List of Thou Shalt Nots for Fiction and decided I was done with SH for good. Never regretted it. Trying to follow their guidelines was akin to trying to have intercourse while wearing an ill fitting, undersized condom. Nothing like being cock choked while fornicating to ruin the mood and kill the stiffy.

Same can be said for such Thou Shalt Not Lists and Fiction.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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YB mutters...

Posted May 20, 2013

I have almost never read a book review. I read books based on the cumulative positive suggestions of friends.

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Tim Richards reckons...

Posted May 20, 2013

Since I've started buying ebooks (rather than just borrowing books from libraries), I've been reading the book reviews in the Saturday edition of The Age fairly regularly, and have bought a few of those reviewed.

I appreciate having my attention drawn to various books I probably wouldn't have stumbled aross otherwise, especially since I generally stick to one or two genres unless prodded to change course.

In a sense I don't care about the credibility of the reviewer so much, as I can download a free sample section of the book and get a feel for the writer's style and approach. But it's good to be alerted to the book's existence in the first place.

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Crushed Ants and Cigar Boxes puts forth...

Posted May 20, 2013

I always read reviews, but after I've read the book (or watched the film, or listened to the album)- it's really good fun to to hit "enter" on the googles and see what others think..

I know I'm preaching to the converted, but twitter is amazing for finding books to read- when someone I follow mention a book they've liked, well, off to ibooks, book depository or New Farm Editions I go. Which is why Im halfway through "Night Games", and when I'm done in a day or so, I'll be back to the Burgerstand to see what ol' JB thought of Anna Krien's work. Found it because Benjamin Law tweeted about it.

I read "The Comfort of Strangers" last week because someone tweeted a link to Ian Martin's (who wrote "The Thick of It") "60 thoughts about turning 60". He said that novel, by Ian McEwan, was the only book he truely regrets reading. Well, after reading that comment, I had to read it, to see if I'd regret it too. (I didn't, but you wouldn't read it twice..)

Finally, as someone said, it's way too difficult to find a reviewer who you think gets it right most the time. Far better to look for one you find to be an idiot, and read/watch/listen to whatever they think is rubbish

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 20, 2013

Rofling at that last line.

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Lulu asserts...

Posted May 20, 2013

I watch D & M regularly for move reviews but that's not so much about watching everything they judge worthy of 4 (or more) stars. I've been watching them long enough that I know how their tastes relate to mine, and whether I'll like a film or not based on what they've said about it.

tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013

I am like that too. Sometimes David pans it & Margaret likes it or the other way or any of the other combo's possible and I know whether I will like it or not.

For books there is no one individual I trust enough. So I keep a list and add books to buy to it and try and pick them up when I have money or they are free (hello Amazon specials). But typically either when the author has enough cred with me to be simply trusted (David Brin) or has enough recommendations from a wide range of people to get added to the list.

Lifeline bookfest in a few weeks :)

damian mumbles...

Posted May 21, 2013

Yeah actual discussion of the content beats "ratings".

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JG is gonna tell you...

Posted May 20, 2013

I don't bother reading book reviews, but I'll sometimes read movie reviews. I like watching Margaret and David's At The Movies now and then.

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Johnny B Gone mumbles...

Posted May 20, 2013

Generally only when I'm travelling and need something decent will I use the kindle reviews as guide. Otherwise it's usually on recommends from friends.

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MarkM swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 20, 2013

As an ex-music journo/reviewer, I tend to completely ignore reviews, unless it is after I've read/listened/watched whatever is being reviewed and then it is to see whether the reviewer in question thought the same as I did. I was burnt badly by reading a glowing review of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and then making a foolish mistake of believing the reviewer. I'll never get that 48 minutes back, nor the lunch I lost, nor the memory-space taken up by that shit.

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JBtoo asserts...

Posted May 20, 2013

I'm with those who use reviews as a guide to new books (and films) I may not otherwise discover. They can sometimes also be useful in deciding what not to read and watch. For example I have always been a sucker for reading the latest big thing, just to find out what the buzz is about and make my own decision. This is why I wasted my time on the first Dan Brown and Twilight. From these bitter experiences I read a few reviews and decided I really didn't need to read 50 Shades of Grey.

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ShaneAlpha reckons...

Posted May 20, 2013

One Oprah Book Club trumps 10 New York Times book reviews.

Commence sobbing.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 20, 2013

If something has a glowing quote from Publishers Weekly on the front, I might pay a bit more attention, but I am lairy of promotions/reviews by other writers for the reasons outlined above. I prefer watching the Jennifer Byrne's book club on the ABC (which has starred the noble JB, I recall) to reviews, mainly because opinions are often so divided and with the presence of writers on each show, the analysis of the book is both entertaining, critical and informative. I have occasionally actively pursued or avoided a book as a result of that book club.

Yesterday I sought out book reviews for a Novel I Shall Not Name, which I have not finished reading yet, because it was kind of driving me nuts for various reasons, e.g. the writer changing close third person points of view with dazzling rapidity within scenes, and my less than zero investment in any of the main characters. Did anyone else have the same issues, I wondered? All I could find was reader reviews which were either one or five stars (the one-stars were all unhappy for the same reasons I was). So I really only seek out reviews when I'm feeling grumpy with the book and I want to virtually commiserate.

In a bookstore, I read the back, randomly open a few pages to check out the writing style, and then make a decision. Or if possible, download a free sample for e-books.

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she_jedi reckons...

Posted May 20, 2013

I find these days the rabbit hole / six degrees of separation in the meta data on sites like Amazon to be useful in finding new books to read; looking at the books of an author I already like and trust, and checking the meta data on "people who bought this book also bought..." has unearthed a few gems.

At the risk of sounding like a lickspittle, JB has proven to be a fount of good book recommendations too. I bought my dad Anthony Bevoir's book on the second world war after JB raved about it and he was THRILLED. It's kept him quietly occupied for the last month.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 21, 2013

I live to serve, Madam Jedi.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted May 21, 2013

I don't bother with them. Prefer opinions of people I respect.

tqft would have you know...

Posted May 21, 2013

One website I used to spend a lot of time, one guy used to go to just about every movie & read a few books nd gives his thoughts in the personal space there. Fortunately for him he seems to have gotten a life and that source is gone.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 21, 2013

I just read a glowing blogger review of a novel which ended with the sentiment that she'd like to shag the author. Rest easy JB, it wasn't your book. :)

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 21, 2013

Really? Was she hot?

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Gavin ducks in to say...

Posted May 29, 2013

The secret is to find a reviewer that shares you trust.I love Crime Fiction. I always look forward to Graeme Blundell's book review column that comes out once a month or so in the Weekend Oz. I've bought and read a lot of great books after reading his write up.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 29, 2013

Yeah, Blundell is good value.

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