This kind of feedback usually reveals more about the reviewer than the book in question. I don’t know about you, but when I start reading a book I dislike—whether it’s poorly written, dull as unseasoned egg white, or outright offensive for some reason—I cut my losses, put the book down, and start another. I read fiction for pleasure (as well as professional research); why torture myself reading something I don’t enjoy? Merely so I can blow off steam composing a scathing review? I don’t get the point.
I’ve said all along that the consistently positive reader feedback I’ve received so far in no way indicates that everyone loves The Story in the Stars. All it means is that the people who dislike it have been too polite to say anything.
Until now. Yesterday, I discovered a one-star review posted on Goodreads by a reader calling herself International Cat Lady.
You might think it would upset me, but it doesn’t. I’m serious about that. I’ve disliked a number of books that others raved about; it’s only reasonable to expect that others won’t like what I love. And I’m aware there are many who won’t agree with the basic premise of the story. So, my curiosity aroused, I read the comments to see if the views expressed were merely personal, or if she addressed real errors that should be corrected.
Here’s the review in its entirety:
Such a disappointment! This book popped up on my Goodreads suggestion bar as a recommended Goodreads author, and all of its reviews were 5 stars. I love good sci-fi, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Boy was I disappointed. For starters, it was Christian fiction. I am not a Christian (I am not religious at all), although I do respect people of all religions. I try to avoid all religious fiction (not fiction in which characters are religious, but fiction with an intent to proselytize) because I do not wish to be preached to. Not only was this book Christian fiction, but it worked the Christianity (and not an allegory like, say, the Chronicles of Narnia, but straight-up Jesus Christ on the Cross Christianity) into the outer-space-and-aliens story so subtly it was like being run over by a truck. When it got to the part about how Darwin was wrong, I nearly threw my Kindle across the room.
But it wasn’t just the overwhelming Christianity. There were typos and grammar errors, and the Kindle formatting was awful. The plot barely made any sense, and the resolution certainly didn’t. I won’t write any spoilers for those of you who will disregard my review and read the book anyway, but let’s just say the plot did not hold up. (And no, it would not have held up had Anderson substituted a fully fictional religion for Christianity.)
The religious objection doesn’t offend me. In fact, I very much appreciate the fact that she specified the problem was its “straight-up Jesus Christ on the Cross Christianity” rather than just religion in general. It shows she’s aware of the subtle but significant difference between external religion and the supernaturally transforming faith of biblical Christianity. If she’s offended by the idea of Jesus as Christ, that’s her problem, not mine. (And for her, it’s the very biggest of problems! I pray she resolves it before she takes her last breath.)
However, typos, grammar errors, and “awful” Kindle formatting do concern me. It’s rare to find a print book with no errors, and I’m aware of a few in Stars that slipped through the editing and proofreading screens. Typos, that is. I’m not aware of any grammar errors. I seriously don’t think either is a glaring problem with this book, and those that exist certainly aren’t serious enough to knock four stars off an otherwise good review.
I can’t speak for the Kindle formatting, since I have no Kindle and have never had the opportunity to see what the ebook version looks like. No one else has mentioned these formatting problems, but if you’ve found some, I hope you’ll let me know what and where they are so they can be corrected.
The plot issues she cites are the greatest cause for concern. An incomprehensible plot would, in fact, make a book deserving of a bad review. But her complaint gave no specifics. Is something missing? Does a character lack believable motivation? What scenario doesn’t hold water? She doesn’t say; she merely states the plot barely made sense, especially the resolution.
If she’d pointed to something in particular, I’d definitely take a look at it to see if it can be fixed. If I’d received similar comments from others, I’d be making a serious analysis of my story line. However, when everyone else who’s read and commented says the story engrossed them – when readers accost me to complain about lost sleep because they couldn’t put the book down – and when one tells me she read it twice, once quickly because she had to find out what was going to happen next and then again more slowly so she could thoroughly enjoy it – I have to conclude that the comprehension problem is with the reader rather than plot construction.
The story is about laying aside deep-seated hatred and distrust in order to understand others. It’s about how the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (straight up Jesus Christ on the cross, down from the cross, and up from the grave – accept no substitutes!) can free us from misconceptions. It illustrates this through the interaction of the two main characters, and the resolution occurs when they both come to understand it.
Could it be that the reviewer can’t follow the plot because she’s too blinded by her own prejudices to get the picture?