Fun with overblown criticism

Jan 05, 2022 6:08 pm

I ask you, Is it wrong to mock the mockers? Is there no balm in satire?

If past experience is any guide, some of you may be troubled by what I'm about to do. Look away, O ye of faint heart with trembling limbs. Ye brave may gird up your loins and come with me to the land of irony. Who knows, you may want to mock the mocker mocker. Do send me your mockery if you're so inclined. Those of you who need trigger warnings would not like my books anyway, so you may disengage at this point.

Here's a selective spin on an interesting review. I'll share the entire review later, but here's the review as it might appear with some selective editing:

"...The Shrinking Zone was...a very on-the-nose account...of government oppressing farmers with...surveillance...masks and vaccines... The story in this book is an account of happening in this country today... [B]other with this book."

I could put that blurb on the cover. However, the reviewer--whose Amazon profile shows no other book reviews--only gave the book a single, solitary star--a lone star, obviously inferring that the book is as great as all Texas. Here's the entire review as written:

The reviews for this book in the Kindle app are for another book, Smoke. This one- The Shrinking Zone- was very poorly written. The characters clumsily explain the situation in the current world through their dialogue. It's a very on-the-nose account of the government oppressing farmers with a prison of beurocracy and surveillance. We get it. You don't like masks and vaccines. The story in this book is just an overblown account of what some people think is happening in this country today (it was published December 2021). You may as well just watch Fox News and not bother with this book.

The review is actually a stunning endorsement of the book. The Shrinking Zone is motivational; it prompted the reviewer (who did not purchase the book, but may have read it on kindle unlimited) to action. Out of all the books this reviewer may have read, only The Shrinking Zone goaded her (by the name given in the review, I'm assuming the gender) to put her anxious fingers to the keyboard to tap out her first review.

The reviewer is correct that most of the reviews being shown on Amazon are for my novel Smoke. I don't know why those reviews have carried over to this new book. As for the "very poorly written" statement, one must ask, "Is it really? Would a very poorly written book have motivated this otherwise lethargic reviewer to take it in her teeth and shake it like a chew toy?" Naturally, the call is subjective, but the rest of the review betrays the true nature of the reviewer's thoughts. A poorly written book can be ignored--this is not that book.

As for the allegation that characters "clumsily explain" the situation through dialogue, I must take issue with the reviewer's choice of descriptive modifier. Are there not more apt ways to have taken issue with that particular use of dialogue? Yes. She might have found my technique unwieldy, tactless, without skill, or even clunky, but she selected the graceless and fumbling word "clumsily" to express her ham-fisted displeasure. But what about her point? Is it not gauche and déclassé to have characters explain things? There certainly are other ways to show how the conditions developed in the novel. A prologue, an early info dump, flashbacks, etc, are all possibilities. However, I didn't want to use any of those. I wanted to tell an exciting, action-packed thriller set in a dystopia of the very near future. Dialogue is one way to dribble out details about the current situation as references are made to one thing or another along the way--it helps to pique a reader's interest. I think the reviewer's wrath sprouts from a scene about three-quarters of the way through the book in which one character with more knowledge of how conditions got to that point, explains to other characters what happened at the national and world level, and particularly with the courts, so that constitutional protections have disappeared. I could have omitted the explanation entirely. However, when I read a dystopian novel, I want to know, "How did the people let things get this bad? What brought about these terrible conditions?" Unlike some authors, I provided the answer. My answer spurred the reviewer to action. She did not like my explanation. She did not like it in the book. She did not like its terrible hook. She did not like the course it took.She did not like my awful book.

Notwithstanding the other comments, the reviewer did find something to praise. She said it was a very on the nose account of the government oppressing farmers. I have elsewhere already had some juvenile fun with her use of "beurocracy" and will not repeat that here as my handling of it was no doubt "clumsily" done, artless and inelegant in the extreme, even butter-fingered.

Let me take tackle the balance of the criticism contained in the reviewers words: "We get it. You don't like masks and vaccines... overblown account of what some people think is happening in this country today." In fact, she doesn't get it. She doesn't comprehend that it's not about masks and vaccines. The book is no more about masks and vaccines than The Lord of the Rings is about cloaks and second breakfasts. (Of course exaggerate my protest, but that's the point). She doesn't get the concept of satire. Taking things to the logical extreme and creating an overblown account is precisely what satire does. Has she not read 1984 or Brave New World? Would she condemn Animal Farm because everyone knows that animals can neither talk nor seize the reins of power? Social commentary must be overblown at times to make its point. Where the reviewer sees The Shrinking Zone as a blunt instrument, a hammer-blow against what many perceive as ever encroaching evil, others may see a book that is like onions and ogres--not stinky or green, but with layers. The pages are filled with action, excitement, social commentary, friendship, family bonds, love of country, and more.

I invite you to peel back the layers. Consider what the broken desert might represent, and whether it might symbolize more than one thing. Do the red-eyes stand for something more than they appear? Are the farms and farm families more than they might seem to be?

Read the book and post your own honest review.

You can find The Shrinking Zone here for only 99 cents.

I would love to share some entertaining 5 star reviews.