A gem! A triumph! Four stars for whimsy!

One of the things that I find most terrifying (and liberating) about the Internet, is the fact that it puts the power of evaluation–the ability to both praise and censure–directly in the hands of the Everywoman. (For purposes of clarification, I don’t tend to write with the assumption that I am inherently speaking to or about men. I think the way we use language says a lot about how we, as a culture, think about gender and if you really take the time to pay attention to people’s speech patterns, you’ll recognize centuries of socially ingrained sexism.) But that’s another blog post for another day. I’ll proceed with what I was discussing before for the two people who weren’t turned off by the mention of sexism and language and still happen to be reading.

Everywoman reviews are powder kegs. As often as not, the reviewer in question doesn’t have to attach her name to the evaluation. And while you stand some chance of finding thoughtful, well-reasoned, and engaging product summations, you also stand a pretty good chance of reading a product review in which the consumer goes off on a rant about how her neighbor is stealing her mail (for which crime she deducts stars or points from the crockpot she’s reviewing on Amazon). Reading these reviews on a Friday night with a bucket of popcorn and a bottle of Arbor Mist is actually better value for your money than going to see most movies Hollywood deems fit to vomit onto the screen. But if you are in dire need of a crockpot that works efficiently without burning your house down, sifting through cutiebell5’s 2-star review that devolves into a rant about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs accomplishes nothing beyond wasting your time. And possibly contributing to your theory that humanity is not, in fact, evolving but devolving into a species with the intelligence of a turkey but, sadly, the ability to continue blogging and tweeting.

If I sound especially worked up over the simultaneously comedic and tragic potential for consumer-generated reviews to accomplish a great deal of harm it’s because I’ve been panicking about what sort of reviews Scourge of the Righteous Haddock would generate on Amazon and Goodreads (mostly Amazon). I can handle a review which thoughtfully assessed the book’s weaknesses, but I’m still deathly afraid of someone venting their frustration over a bad day on my book, this progeny that took more than a year to write and publish, this thing that I hold so terribly dear and which speaks so loudly about who I am and what I think and believe. The scientists who put together the crockpot might not be sitting at the edge of their seats, waiting for the first round of reviews, but I sure as hell was.

And I’m happy to report that the first two reviews are in! And ecstatic to say that they’re measured, reasonable accounts of what these reviewers view as Scourge of the Righteous Haddock‘s strengths and weaknesses. They neither rant about mail carriers nor construct a scathing list of reasons that heathen Ashley Schwellenbach should die a slow, painful death. (It might sound like I’m engaging in theatrics here, but we’re talking about the Internet here, not polite tea with someone’s bachelor uncle.) Without further ado (and with the hopes that these two reviews will remind readers to hie themselves to Amazon and Goodreads and let me and hopefully other readers know what they thought of the book), here are my first two reviews:

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By Miranda Meek on September 23, 2013

Format: Kindle Edition Amazon Verified Purchase

This is a curious and whimsical novel that accomplishes what every good piece of art should: it makes one think deeply and feel a wide range of emotion as the author takes you into her fantasy world. While being a sarcastic and light read on one level, it also probes into many social, philosophical, and religious questions with an intensity that belies its seemingly innocuous surface. The author is particularly talented in writing striking descriptions which paint a vivid picture in one’s mind, a most enjoyable trait in a book. Although I don’t agree with every premise in this book, and personally hold very different beliefs than those presented, there are also many beautiful truths scattered throughout. It should be read with a mind that is both open and discerning, and I would advise parents to carry on significant dialogue with their children about it should they choose to read it. Well done.

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By colin rigley on September 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

(I know the author, so take the following with a grain of salt.)

“Scourge of the Righteous Haddock” creates a wonderfully bizarre and whimsical world in which you want to lose yourself.

The story expertly weaves a hefty collection of unique characters that live in a universe steeped in religious and social satire. Though this book is billed as a young adult novel, it has the depth and intense symbolism that will engage older readers, as well.

Despite intricately crafted prose, the playful writing style might put off some readers with its use of anachronistic slang at time. And despite a relatively modest 394 page count, “Scourge” asks a lot of its reader, introducing dozens of characters, plots, sub-plots. This is not a book for a casual weekend read, but it rewards readers who pay attention to the subtle jabs at religion, homophobia, and environmental destruction that help mold the world.

Overall, this is a book that will remain divisive among many readers, and likely offend those who gloss over the subtext of its broader message. But “Scourge” is the type of novel that will leave you reflecting on it long after you’ve finished reading.

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