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Jo Walton reviews Starman Jones for Tor 
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Post Re: Jo Walton reviews Starman Jones for Tor
James Gifford wrote:
It's the fluffiest, content-lite blurbing passing for a review I've read in a while. She doesn't seem to know what a review - even of a classic novel - is supposed to consist of. So while we're at it I demand to know what color nail polish she's wearing and also what she plans to have for lunch. I mean, that's the point of the Twitter gener... SQUIRREL!...

First, to answer your question as best I can, she wasn't wearing nail polish the last time I saw her.

Next, in the piece she notifies the reader there are spoilers after the first three paragraphs. Beyond that link, she analyzes the structure of the novel. She comments on what each of several characters brings to the story. She observes two levels of the book:
It’s easy to see the overview as a set of adventures, leaving Earth and going to other planets, getting promoted, but it all has one goal: getting to that position where Max’s freak talent is the only thing that can save them, where he becomes captain and astrogates them home. Everything leads to that. It’s climactic. You couldn’t predict that is where it would end up (I think, I don’t know, I first read this when I was twelve), but there aren’t any false leads. And beyond that, the real story is Max learning lessons—from Sam, from Eldreth, from his experiences—and ending up back on that hillside with a job to go to. Both stories end up at the same point, and everything reinforces the theme not just of Max growing up but of him learning what it is to grow up and what he actually values. At the beginning he’s a kid with a freak talent, at the end he’s a man who has lied, told the truth, seen a friend die and brought his ship home. There are no false moves, everything goes towards that. And it’s a great end. All his juveniles have great ends.

And she concludes with some remarks about how Heinlein constructed stories-- as a novelist herself, she frequently thinks about, and comments upon, the process of how a writer structures narratives. The essay is 1400 words long.

This seems to me a reasonable attempt to chew over the text, and quite far from Fluffy, Content-Lite Blurbing Passing for a Review. I'm at a loss to understand why Jim thinks this is so shallow.

It's also a sequel to Jo's recent review of Friday, a book she loves despite perceiving big flaws in its plot.

I'm greatly enjoying her series of "re-reading" articles for Tor. Starman Jones isn't the first Heinlein book she's covered, and she's devoted to Heinlein, so I daresay it won't be the last.

Bill Higgins

Sat Jun 20, 2009 7:55 pm
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Post Re: Jo Walton reviews Starman Jones for Tor
beamjockey wrote:
I'm at a loss to understand why Jim thinks this is so shallow.

*Shrug*. Sorry. I read a lot of book reviews in a lot of venues from the NYTRB down to rather self-important book blogs, and I can adjust my expectations to the venue.

For something posted on Tor's site, this review was *abysmal*. I would find it a waste of time even on a nobody's blog. She simply doesn't seem to have any idea what to do with the space or what to communicate to the reader in a "review." It's a fluffy bloglet thing, apparently bashed out as she read the book in the other hand, without a trace of analytical thinking or coherence.

If I've offended a friend, my apologies. But she stuck her neck into professional woods - mine, among others' - and *bang* went the axe. She's welcome to return the favor - fairly, I would hope. Perhaps I will write a shallow and misdirected review of one of her books to give her a good target.

LATER ADDENDUM: I should note that the entire problem is in terming this post a "review." Her posting is not a review in any meaningful sense of the word. It's not even a particularly thoughtful essay or critique. It's a blog entry, unfortunately all too typical of the medium, that should have been titled "A old book I read this week and some random thoughts about it." As Jo should know, drafts, rewrites and editors all have their place. All too many blog entries read like a first draft, never reconsidered or rethought - probably not ever reread. While I might be deeply interested in her considered thoughts about this book, her stream-of-consciousness fill-a-blog-entry writing is no contribution to useful discussion of Heinlein's work. (Do better next time, Jo.)

Sat Jun 20, 2009 8:46 pm
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