A Cautionary Tale

I mentioned a while back that I’m into a novel-reading phase. I’ve always liked medical, military, cop, crime novels. One of my favorite books and probably my favorite movie is Hunt for Red October. I also like science fiction and westerns. (For what it’s not worth, my 2nd favorite movie is Airplane.)

Considering the genres I like, you know I’ve read some crap. But some of it was fairly well written with believable, if predictable, plots and characters.

I’m also not a very forgiving reader when my quite forgiving tolerance level is not met. An author who churns out a few obvious pot-boilers, takes advantage of his/her reputation by publishing previously unpublishable work, or doesn’t even make a half-assed effort to get well-known technology straight gets stricken permanently from reading list.  Tom Clancy finally made that list. It will take a lot for someone to persuade me to read anything new by him again.

And it’s also typical of me that I don’t remember the name of the book that I threw against the wall that put him on my never bother to read again list.

So, I find myself out of town recently with an uncomfortable computer setup and without my stash of reading material. On a trip to the local WalMart (18 miles away) I decide to pick up a novel. I see one by Robin Cook. I vaguely remember the name and reading some of his medical mysteries in the 1990s and earlier. And I wondered why I hadn’t heard of him lately.

Here’s the caution: ALWAYS read the Amazon reviews. If I had, I’d know why I hadn’t heard about him in years and would have not considered buying it. The book I bought – Intervention – garnered 62 (out of 99 total) 1 star reviews. At least one of those reviewers said it got one star because Amazon doesn’t allow zero stars. Several reviewers echoed my thought exactly: The worst book I’ve ever read.

3 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale

  1. I generally haven’t found the reviews of sites like Amazon.com to be very useful, but perhaps I’m trying to use them differently.

    If I may ask: do you find such reviews to be useful in identifying good books, bad books, or both?

  2. Caledonia – yes, no, it depends.

    For fiction, I find the Amazon reviews/ratings to be fairly reliable. For non-fiction, I find I have to weigh each reviewer to figure out if they have an agenda and what it might be. But even there, if a substantial number of people have reviewed the book and there is a lopsided convergence of opinion (good or bad) I find the rating helpful.

    It’s the same with product reviews. I give more weight to reviews detailing how a product worked for it’s stated purpose than those that just say “Great! I loved it!” or “Horrible, don’t buy!”

    So… I guess the first thing is to learn how to rate the reviewers.

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