As writers and authors, receiving reviews (good or bad) are par the course. Nothing makes us feel writing is more worthwhile than when we receive a great review, be it on Amazon, Goodreads or anywhere else. We all accept our work is going to occasionally receive a bad review too. It goes with the territory. Okay, a bad review knocks us back a bit, makes us disheartened, but for the majority, we pick ourselves up, ignore it and move on. We know our work will not appeal to everyone, one man’s meat and all that.
I read many books, but I don’t often review as I find them difficult to write. If I’ve really enjoyed a story, then I may say a few words: “Great read.” “Couldn’t put it down.” “Best this author’s written to date.” “Can’t wait for their next novel.” Some books, especially lately, I don’t finish, I get bored with a story that’s going nowhere, or brings in a subject matter I dislike, and rarely have I given a bad review just because of this, although some people do. Occasionally I have written one for a poorly written novel, one that hasn’t been researched properly or is full of errors, be it facts, grammar or typos, but it is an extremely rare occurrence.
I do, however, invariably read a few reviews before purchasing a book, the good and not so good. And this is where I sometimes get angry. In particular on Amazon, it’s clear many reviewers don’t realise that it is not Amazon itself they are reviewing and will give a book a 1* rating for things such as “arrived late”, or “cover was sticky”, “packaging damaged” – things that bear little consequence for the book they have bought, and little realising the detriment they are giving the author, who has no control whatsoever over how and when Amazon delivers their goods.
We writers are well aware there are trolls on Amazon and Twitter who have nothing better to do than slight authors, probably through jealousy, often through spite as in one I came across: “I only gave it 1* as I didn’t like the cover!” But what really made my blood boil and want to scream exceedingly loudly at the writers of a couple of reviews I was made aware of recently were two of the most absurd bad reviews I have ever come across. They truly beggared belief. And it wasn’t only me who couldn’t believe what they were reading, judging by the responses others had left on these two particular comments.
The book, written by a popular and high-sales author, is a dual timeline story set in the previous century and 2020. I make no apologies for including the two reviews here.
“…when I came to a chapter set in 2020, I asked myself, ‘when is the author going to say something about Covid-19?’ The answer is – never. I found that very disturbing and distracting. The author … made the assumption that summer 2020 would be just like other summers, with large wedding parties, no social distancing, etc. Bad assumption.”
“…was really thrown off my[sic] the dates in June/July of 2020 with no mention of the global pandemic. … Clearly many of the events in the book would not have happened during present times … but it was still a little jarringly disconcerting every time. It’s like reading a book set in the 1940s with no mention of WWII or … a book set in the 1920s with no mention of prohibition.”
Both reviewers acknowledge the book was “probably” written before 2020. Fine, we all know what’s been going on in the world during this year, but they seem to have ignored the fact us writers are not psychic. We cannot know or read the future. Never have, never will!
And I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to read a book all about lockdown and Covid and its restrictions. I want escape, I want adventure, romance and laughter. And I certainly don’t want these two reviewers reading my next big adventure — a time slip set in Ancient Greece and the present day… just in case something almighty happens in the forthcoming year I haven’t foreseen as I write.