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Genre critics and reviewers

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Kelly Shaw
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 06:16 am:   

I'm not sure if there's a thread on this subject already started...?

Either way, I was just wondering who everyone's favorite genre critic was and why?

After just reading the latest Locus, it's easy for me to start with that group of critics. I definitely prefer Gary K. Wolfe's reviews to Faren Miller's. Wolfe seems able to praise and criticize in equal measure, whereas Miller seems too free with his praise.

One other small thing bothers me with Locus. Last year many of their critics praised Clive Barker's Days of Magic, Nights of War, calling it a potential masterpiece, one for the ages, etc. However, come the year-end best lists (the Top 5s, not the Recommended Reading), Barker's book was no where to be found. This makes me wince and ask, how many masterpieces are coming out of genre literature each year? Are there really more than 5 books for the ages published each year?

For the record, I love Locus and devour it as soon as it hits my mailbox each month.
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MarcL
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 12:00 pm:   

For the record, Faren is a "she."

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Kelly Shaw
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 01:47 pm:   

My apologies to Faren.
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JKS
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 03:06 pm:   

Love Spider Robinson's reviews in 'Galaxy' :-)

As for devouring Locus: Ditto.

best,

Jonathan
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Jonathan
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 03:07 pm:   

Kelly, I think you need to look at *who* says what. I'd have to go back and look at reviews etc, but my admittedly vague recollection is that the person who praised the Barker novel to that extent didn't actually do a Top 5. I'd have to double-check that, but it's my recollection. Jonathan
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Tim Pratt
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 04:11 pm:   

I'm the one who reviewed Days of Magic, Nights of War in Locus (I think I said that if this upward trend in quality continues with each volume, Abarat could well be a classic series by the time it's done), but I didn't do a year end essay, so I didn't have a Top 5 to put it in. Not sure it would have made my Top 5 in any case, since I read quite a few strong books last year. I talked mostly about how much better Book 2 was than Book 1, as I recall.
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Jonathan
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 04:24 pm:   

And you were right. I always felt that Barker over-relied on the illustrations to carry the descriptive weight of his story in Book 1. Book 2 is a much superior novel, though I don't think it makes for a good YA (which, ostensibly, it's supposed to be). The most interesting thing I heard about Book 2 was that Barker junked the entire first version of the book, and completely re-wrote it. It may not be the case, but it appears as though that made all the difference.
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Kelly Shaw
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 06:12 am:   

You're absolutely right: Abarat 2 was only formally reviewed in Locus by Tim Pratt. It was, however, if my memory serves me right (it may not, I shoud really go and look at the February issue), mentioned in the year-end wrap-up by numerous individuals (I know Jonathan Strahan was one of them), all who praised it without offering any reservations.

I guess I was just hoping for someone in the genre community to apply some criticism to the book. I have enjoyed much of Barker's past work, but the Abarat books have been a huge letdown for me, and it disappoints me when authors receive undeserved approbation.

But I guess Matt Cheney discussed this in his blog already last week. This is a small community, and applying criticism isn't always easy.

Still. Barker is hardly part of the genre community anymore. He's more like a millionaire rock star than a genre writer.
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Jonathan
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 03:51 pm:   

Kelly, you started by asking about fave genre critics. I started reading F&SF and fell in love with A.J. Budrys's review columns, which had a profound effect on me. I also loved Ellison's film columns. I then discovered Clute's reviews in Interzone. I think the reviewing work he did then was some of the best I've seen. I also was immensely taken with John Kessel's reviews in F&SF - I think he may be the best SF critic not currently doing criticism. Who else? Michael Swanwick is terrific on short fiction, and I really enjoy some of Liz Hand's reviews.

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