Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Kirkus Reviews (And I'm Glad They Do)

Recently saw my KIRKUS review of The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2). Very nice. I like. I'd love to show it all to you, except... Ah, it gives away a lot. I know many readers don't like spoilers, and this one has some - both to do with stuff in this book and with things about Acacia: The War with the Mein.

So, I offer a portion of the review, the nice bits that say happy things in a general sense. I'll cut out the spoilery stuff though. I promise that I'm not cutting out any nasty bits. I'll even include the one bit of criticism, wherein they say the book is in need of list of characters, etc. (Not a bad point that. Next time, friends...)

So, herewith, a bit of the folks at KIRKUS REVIEWS had to say:

"Old wars are re-fought, new alliances and conflicts arise in the middle volume of a fantasy trilogy set in the embattled land that calls itself the Known World... Moving into fantasy after three well received historical novels, Durham (Pride of Carthage, 2005, etc.) handles his many-leveled plot with impressive thoughtfulness; racial stereotyping, exploitation of defenseless populations and tribal enmity are among the subjects whose continued relevance - for the novel’s characters and its readers - becomes increasingly evident... Desperately needs an annotated list of characters and a detailed glossary distinguishing various tribes and factions. But little else is missing from this ambitious work, which boggles the mind and transcends genre."

Any thoughts on that "transcends genre" comment?



Blogger The Real Deal said...

My first inclination is to think that means the series can't be pinned only to the fantasy genre. It speaks to your fluency with historical fiction. Perhaps your novel is so realistic that the writer of the review felt that "fantasy" didn't quite cut it as a defining genre.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Steven Till said...

I agree with the previous comment. "Transcending the genre" is certainly a compliment. To me, it means your novel crosses over and can bring in readers who wouldn't otherwise read fantasy normally. It's a gateway book, or series, like we've discussed previously. Nice review.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Bryan Russell said...

Frankly, I think it's typical code for "Has more depth and better prose than is typical of the genre." Which is a fine compliment. The problem arises, I think, with the implied conceit that to write a great book you somehow have to leave the genre. You can't write a great book within it... but must somehow transcend to reach the highest level of artistic merit. That's a problem in the phraseology of a lot of reviews, though most times, I'm guessing, it's done rather innocently - it's the sort of typical language that is often absorbed and reused without much conscious analysis. But I do think it speaks to some of those unconscious cultural gradations that occur in regards to literary value.

Though I think the intent here was to craft a compliment of high praise, phraseology concerns aside. Which is how I took, minor annoyances aside. :)

My best,
Bryan Russell

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Niall said...

What Bryan said, more or less. It's a compliment, but as a genre reader it rubs me the wrong way. If I see it in a review, it suggests to me that either the reviewer is just being lazy, or that they don't know much about the genre they're talking about. The possibility that the latter is the case means that if it crops up in a review of a book by a writer whose work I don't know, there's a good chance I'll be a little wary of taking on trust that the book in question really is groundbreaking in some way. Fortunately, you don't have that problem!

4:47 PM  
Blogger Jonathan DiMarco said...

The review gives away a lot? *Sniff* no fun. Guess I'll patiently wait for the UPS man to hand me the book. I like my mind-boggling straight, no spoiler.

As for the "transcends genre" comment, I can't improve on what Bryan Russell said above.

What's interesting is how the accelerating dominance of online retailers might either help dissolve or reinforce genre segmentation. While online retailers have no physical floor plan that rudely divorces "literature" from "fantasy," they maintain such massive product databases that micro-categorization becomes an essential organizational tool. But when is a genre a genre, and when is it just a field? Or am I just afield?

Anyhow, can't wait for the book. Cheers!

2:13 PM  
Blogger Jonathan DiMarco said...

And let me second Niall also in saying that perhaps the reviewer is unfamiliar with the depth and breadth of speculative fiction. Or perhaps he actually isn't, but as the first two commenters suggested, he'd like mainstream readers to "take a chance" on the book. Which is noble, and if Mr. Durham's lucky, maybe millions will take heed, postpone that Amazon pre-order of "The Lost Symbol," and pick up Acacia 1+2.

2:31 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I'm in agreement with all of ya. I read that statement the same way, cautions and enthusiasm and caveats included.

And if we can get that movement to exchange Dan's latest and try mine instead started I'm all for it. I mean, we are out the same day. Same publisher. It wouldn't be at all difficult to arrange. ;)

5:21 PM  
Blogger Bryan Russell said...

Hey, you don't even need to take all of Dan's sales. Just, maybe, 3 or 4 million. I'm sure he won't miss 'em. How much difference is there, really, between selling 14 or 17 million? He can spare a couple million at least.


5:49 PM  
Blogger Corby Kennard said...

I am not generally a fan of the words "transcends genre"; it feels like they are saying it can't be a literary work and be genre. I suppose they meant it as a compliment, it just seems a bit backhanded to all the other writers who don't "transcend genre" but just write solid fantasy novels.

6:35 PM  

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