The One-Star Review

I’ve seen/heard so much about the dreaded one-star reviews my fellow-authors receive, after I published my first book last year, I almost felt disappointed that I hadn’t gotten a one-star of my own.

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?

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14 thoughts on “The One-Star Review

  1. Could it be that the reviewer can’t follow the plot because she’s too blinded by her own prejudices to get the picture?

    Which would be ironic given Pik started the journey suffering from the same ailment. I’m impressed that she stuck with the story though, even if, in her eyes, it didn’t make sense. Perhaps the plot will click someday.

    But she had to love that dance scene. Who couldn’t?

  2. Yvonne,
    Pay this reviewer no mind, even with her comments about the plot. I read this book cover to cover, and although if it had been preachy you would have been preaching to the choir, it was not at all preachy. The plot was well done, the character arcs strong, the story itself unique. Unlike the one-star reviewer, I am not a fan of science fiction, and for that reason had refrained from critiquing this story when you sent it through our crit group. But I did read it after it was published and was shocked at how much I enjoyed the story. One star does not make anything worth fretting over when it’s one among many four and five star reviews. I think your assessment of her prejudice blinding her from seeing the other fine points of the story. I pray that one day she comes to realize that the Jesus on the cross kind of Christian point of view is the very thing she is lacking, and that she realizes it before it’s too late.

    1. Thank you so much, Pam!
      After posting this, I realized that her review is actually very encouraging–perhaps the most gratifying of them all. The cross of Christ is an offense to some but resurrection power to those who believe. The fact that she was offended tells me my portrayal of it is recognizable no matter which camp you’re in. The reviewer claims she couldn’t follow the plot, but clearly, she understands the crux of it. That’s really all I hoped to accomplish through the story.

  3. The editing critique kills me. I know Indie Authors have to work extra hard to make sure things don’t get through, but there’s a missing comma on the first page of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. People need to relax. No book has ever been perfect.

    Thanks for pointing this out. Even the Big 5 have typos.

  4. Is she taking issue with God or the world’s belief in God? If God existed and she knew he existed, then maybe she wouldn’t take issue with him. So far it’s just everyone’s speculation, which is why there is such a focus on faith.

    It would be easy to take issue with the many various beliefs on God floating about the world today. I don’t think it’s fair to your reviewer to think she is somehow doomed because she doesn’t have your belief system.

    1. I find it gratifying that the reviewer understood the point of the book even though she disagreed with it; she’s certainly free to do so. And it’s not up to me to determine who’s doomed (or damned, if you prefer) and who’s not. I’ll leave that up to God.

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