In following the discussion of THE BEEKEEPERâ€™S APPRENTICE over in the Virtual Book Club, it has struck me that negativity can be the paprika enlivening your mashed potatoes. In a forum dedicated to one authorâ€™s work, especially when the participants know said author is lurking (LuRKing?) somewhere in the background, itâ€™s not too likely that super-critical remarks are going to fly. So I looked at the comments section on the BEEKEEPER listing in the Giant Brazilian River of Books, to see the other side of the argument.
Amazon encourages comments from both ends of the spectrum, from the unremittingly five star reviews that make you wonder why the author hasnâ€™t been given a Nobel to those that have you speculating about hydrophobia, such asâ€”
â€œQuite frankly, the other reviewers are talking out of their nether regions. This is by far and away the stinkiest pile of hokum-kokum ever written. Sherlock is a bufoon and Watson is quite obviously gay. If I were Sherlock, I would take a stick and beat Watson soundly with it, the big queen. The beekeeper plot is a complete pickled herring. I know for a fact that Sherlock dosent even like honey! So how could he be any use at all? It’s ridiculous. I could write a more interesting and believeable story sitting on the bog, pants round my ankles, with no bog paper, in the middle of a power cut. Sort it out Doyle.â€
And I donâ€™t have a problem with reactions like that, honestly. I accept that one of my functions as a published writer is to permit those who need it a place to vent. However, some of the reviews at the Giant River site (and I havenâ€™t read them all, by any means–probably less than a quarter of them) have some less rabid criticisms that give me pause for thought. I am, it shall be noted, not one of those writers who claims never to read reviews: I value reviews, thoughtful and analytical reactions. And if I place more importance on those that have been run through a spell check, well, call me a snob.
One of the concerns the Book Club has touched upon is the creepiness factor of, as one positive Amazon review put it, â€œSherlock Holmes meets Nancy Drew.â€ Which is fine, having Holmes and Nancy meet, but having them then marry? Eww. The subject, of course, is strictly speaking outside the scope of the current title, since it isnâ€™t until later that we find out what happens, but as far as spoilers go, the fact of the Russell/Holmes marriage is a pretty poorly kept secret. (We did take off the reference on the main BEEKEEPER page on the web site, at the request of an irritated reader, but after the mid-nineties, itâ€™s probably safe to say that a fair number of the people who read the book knew where the two characters ended up.)
Take the reaction of one reviewer, who gave the book five stars, butâ€¦
â€œBut as said in the title of this review, I won’t read the follow-ups of the Russell/Holmes series despite this very delightful first installment. I read this book’s “Prelude: Author’s note” after I finished the story, and I was appalled to find that the “Prelude” was signed off by “MRH.” Why can’t the author keep the affection between Russell and Holmes as that between a daughter and father?? Holmes’ over 50 when Russell’s only 15! Plus, while it is welcome to make Holmes more human, it’s too much to make Holmes a husband. Arr… I think I’d be better off closing the book still pretending that Russell is just like a daughter to Holmes. With that, to me their adventure comes to a close with this wonderful book.â€
Interestingly, this is a common reaction to the series as a whole, beginning to endâ€”â€œThe idea doesnâ€™t appeal to me so I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll try them.â€ Although when that person does give one a try, often as not he finds himself a fervent convert.
So, what do you think? Valid criticism, or just sad that the reader wonâ€™t give the next books a chance?
Oh, and by the way, I didn’t imagine anyone would want to think about polenta in the middle of summer, but in a day or so I’ll post how I make it. Maybe those of you in the southern hemisphere will enjoy it.