Hmmm...

Feb. 28th, 2009 02:37 pm
lady_schrapnell: (Default)
[personal profile] lady_schrapnell
Review of Gullstruck Island in the Guardian, by Patrick Ness. (Taken from Achockablog, where Michael Thorn makes an interesting point about the length of children's books, though one I still don't consider very relevant to this particular book.)

I will admit to a bit - or maybe more than a bit - of defensive protectiveness, but this still seems to me a pretty weak review for a number of reasons. For one thing, what's the point of the first paragraph? By saying 'it's only middle-aged reviewers who complain about the length of children's books, not the children themselves', and then following up with suggesting that the 504 pages of Frances Hardinge's "delightfully inventive" AND "endlessly creative" book may "sound exhausting to you" but that's why it's a children's book - then I want to ask in return why he thinks we should pay any attention to his discussing the length at all? Those of us who read children's books because we love them are going to be less than impressed with this little bit of over-the-head-of-the-child nod to the other adult readers of children's and YA books who suffer along with him. Those who read them for purely professional reasons might wonder why he thinks his middle-aged reading reaction has any relevance if it is so out-of-keeping with the 'intended' audience's response.

Further on he does a similarly sloppy bit of thinking in "There is, in fact, probably too much more, not in terms of page length but in that Hardinge lets herself get bogged down too often in necessary explanations. How churlish to complain, though, about too much imagination." Yes, it might be, but he's actually complained about the author's supposedly letting herself get bogged down too often in explanations. Quite different things, even leaving aside the fact that I very much disagree about any bogging down's happening.

Next up is this: 'If the "blissing beetles" - which make a sound so beautiful everyone who hears it dies of pleasure - are a little too Hogwartian, then there is more than enough else to engulf young readers, holding them captive for the long haul.' (italics mine) Too Hogwartian? Which is supposed to mean... ? And as he's several times mentioned the fact that young readers are captivated by the Harry Potter books anyway, this is another non-sequitur.

And ending with a return to the thinly disguised jab at the book's being too long in "Blame JK if there just happens to be more of it than there used to be."

If he wanted to criticise the book, he should have picked out things that he felt were actually flaws in the book and discussed them. If he wanted to make himself look smart by implicitly condescending to the child (actually teen) readers - that kind of cheap trick is pretty sad. Especially in a children's book author. And for the record? According to Amazon The Knife of Never Letting Go (only Book 1, btw) is 496 pages. Impressive conciseness in comparison to Gullstruck Island!

Date: 2009-02-28 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steepholm.livejournal.com
Heh - when I reviewed The Knife of Never Letting Go I said it would have been stronger had it been 50 pages shorter! Maybe Ness read that and took it to heart... (The reason - it grew repetitive.)

Date: 2009-02-28 04:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-schrapnell.livejournal.com
Heh indeed! Ness obviously should have read it and taken it to heart - and maybe learned a thing or two about review-writing while he was at it - but the second book in the Chaos Walking series, due out in May, has ... [insert dramatic drum-roll here] ... 536 pages. Can you make any sense of that in light of what he says in the review?

Date: 2009-02-28 04:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steepholm.livejournal.com
None whatsoever, especially as his first book wasn't even really the first book in a trilogy in the sense that, say, Northern Lights is - i.e. a book that tied up enough plot lines to give you some sense of closure while also gesturing towards the events to come. It simply ..... stopped, halfway through the adventure, with nothing resolved and the main characters in mortal peril. In other words it was simply one half (or possibly third) of a much longer book - a book that now apparently stands at 1032 pages and counting!

Date: 2009-02-28 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-schrapnell.livejournal.com
Now that sounds exhausting to me...

Date: 2009-02-28 04:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gair.livejournal.com
If the "blissing beetles" - which make a sound so beautiful everyone who hears it dies of pleasure - are a little too Hogwartian,

How enormously embarrassing that he hasn't read the Odyssey and thinks that everything non-realist must be a reference to Harry Potter, is all I can think...

Date: 2009-02-28 11:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-schrapnell.livejournal.com
Ooh - he writes stark realism himself, like Pullman you think? Hadn't thought of that!

Date: 2009-02-28 05:02 pm (UTC)
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sheenaghpugh
If he wanted to make himself look smart

Which is, alas, all a lot of reviewers want to do.

Date: 2009-02-28 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lady-schrapnell.livejournal.com
What a waste, isn't it? Those reviewers should definitely do somethin' else!

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