I have completed and submitted for publication my review of Eric Dezenhall’s new novel, False Light. The review will be published later this month—I’ll post the URL here when it comes out.
For all the years I’ve been reviewing books, I’ve stuck by one rule: never pan a book. If I judge a book to be of such poor quality that I can’t recommend it, I don’t review it at all. The Dezenhall novel presented me with a dilemma I’ve often faced: what do I do when I don’t really like a book but recognize that my personal taste does not justify condemning it as being of poor quality? Answer: give the book an impersonal review based on universally accepted writing standards.
False Light was, on the whole, was not my kind of book. Granted, there were aspects I enjoyed—the humor, the ingenious plot, the likeable protagonist. But too often the writing struck me as amateurish and longwinded. I was impatient for the author to get on with the story and stop rooting about. I suspected, as I so often do, that the author was deliberately adding text to make the book long enough to qualify as a novel. Nor was the story about life-and-death issues that can rivet my attention.
In short, the novel was not to my taste. That didn’t make it bad fiction. So I did my best to give it a fair review. I stressed the aspects I enjoyed the most and downplayed my negative reactions. I allowed myself to mention the aspects I disliked but ended with the qualities I most enjoyed.
I guess that’s about as fair as I can get.