Over The Top

I’ve read a few science-fiction books in the past several years, many of which I’ve enjoyed, and a few of which I haven’t.  One of the most common things about a book, especially a new one, is the blurbs that appear on the back cover, as a way of selling the book.  These blurbs may also appear in catalogs of books, again as a selling point.  The blurbs are short quotes from reviewers, either paid or unpaid, posted in print or online journals.  They’re used by authors or publishers to try to drum up support for the book by giving the reader a taste of what a professional author/reviewer/whatever has to say about it.  Presumably the casual buyer, scanning the books in a bookstore or supermarket or airport shop, will read these quotes and decide to buy the book. Why?  Because someone said it was good or great or astonishing or fantastic, or some other superlative.  Personally, I don’t think they work very well.

The reason I don’t think they work well is two-fold.  First, I don’t pay much attention to them.  I’ve never bought a book based on a blurb on the jacket or in a catalog.  In fact, I rarely even read them.  I buy based largely on the first chapter.  Some people may decide to buy a book based on the blurbs, but if I’m one who doesn’t, there may be others who don’t either.  Second, I wonder about the blurbs themselves.  Some are so far over the top I find myself questioning what the reviewer was thinking when he/she wrote it.  Either they’re exaggerating, or they’ve been off the planet for a while.  Here’s a few examples.

“The best book I’ve read in ages.”  (Ages?)
“The world-building is incomparable.”
“The zombie novel Robert A. Heinlein might have written.”  (How would the reviewer know that?)
“The most original fantasy since The Lord of the Rings.”  (Yeah, right.)
“This book is definitely your new crack….”  (That’s hitting below the belt.)
“…will keep the reader impatiently waiting for the next book.”
“I don’t think a books [sic] like this come along more than a few times in a lifetime.”

Part of the problem with these blurbs is that they reflect only the opinion of the reviewer.  Another reviewer might feel considerably different.  So, I really wonder why the exaggeration.  Do the reviewers really feel that way?  It’s rather puzzling.  In any event, I’m not sure I want overstatement and hyperbole like that on my book.  (When I get my book(s) published, that is.)  Personally, I think I’d rather have an honest assessment of the book by an honest reviewer.  Let the reader make up his/her own mind.

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