Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

The Shoe’s On The Other Foot

with 12 comments

You might be aware of Metacritic, the reviews aggregator, and you might also be aware that they stopped doing books because it was too hard. So arise SffMeta which brings together reviews for SF novels. This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. The most straightforward is that it is sometimes handy to gather together a lot of reviews like this, giving an overview not only of individual works but wider trends. The rankings themselves – currently Caine Black Knife by Matthew Woodring Stover is top (with an average of 99 from three reviews) and The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton is bottom (with an average of 33 from three reviews) – are pretty spurious but it is interesting to see what is being reviewed and what the general impressions are.

However, it is also interesting for me because they have included a lot of my reviews which they have had to convert from words to numbers. I’m sure authors read reviews from time to time and are forced to scoff “no, that’s not what I meant at all, you fool”. This, then, is a taste of my own medicine. In part it is the nature of the beast: a five star system provides nowhere near enough granularity and even converting five stars into a percentage is problematic. I might give something five stars but I probably wouldn’t ever give anything 100. The two novels to which they have allocated 100 – Anathem and God Of Clocks – I would probably score as 80. I am more intrigued by the really divergent ones though: The Heritage which they score as 40 to my 70 and Subtle Edens which I would score as 10 to their 40. Still, at least they’ve never given any of mine an N/A rating which is presumably code for what on Earth is Harrison banging on about?

Written by Martin

3 February 2010 at 14:02

Posted in books, criticism

Tagged with , ,

12 Responses

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  1. Oh, this is fun. I wonder why they had trouble with that one? They managed the rest of mine pretty well (the only rating I’d really quibble with is that for Dreamers of the Day, I think). Interesting that I don’t get any 100s, though. And hey, they had trouble with one of Graham’s, too! Abigail is the most scathing of them all, but we knew that.


    3 February 2010 at 14:37

  2. Wait, I do get a 100 — I’d somehow skipped Flood.


    3 February 2010 at 14:51

  3. A Baxter fanboy will out.


    3 February 2010 at 15:10

  4. Fascinating that they feel they have to convert everything to a numerical score. I can see the attraction of wanting to automatically generate rankings, but it’s really a kind of scientism—The Mismeasurement of Books, perhaps.

    Gareth Rees

    3 February 2010 at 17:16

  5. Abigail is the most scathing of them all, but we knew that.

    Hey! Didn’t we decide that this was your fault for sending me books I don’t like?

    I’m shocked, though that my Pump Six review was deemed untranslatable. If I’ve written a 100 review for SH, that’s it.


    3 February 2010 at 17:42

  6. I do wonder whether in some cases they’ve just added the review with the intention of coming back to rate it later. Because as you say, that would seem to be a pretty clear cut case.

    Some other SH regulars:

    Nic Clarke
    Adam Roberts
    Karen Burnham
    Jonathan McCalmont
    Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
    Hannah Strom-Martin
    Paul Kincaid
    Kari Sperring

    Obviously I now want an average by reviewer and by review venue…

    I note they don’t seem to have got around to including Locus reviews yet, even the ones that are online. Also they don’t seem to include the shortlist reviews.


    3 February 2010 at 18:14

  7. Interesting indeed. Although one of the reviews assigned to me was actually authored by the blog ‘Fantasy Book Critic’. So I’m not wholly convinced this is a perfectly watertight process.

    Adam Roberts

    3 February 2010 at 18:38

  8. When I first noticed that I was listed up there I complained about a couple of the interpretations (and I disagree with a few more now that I look again) and one of the people responsible for the site was kind enough to change the mark.

    I find the idea of these types of sites rather distasteful and I’m quietly hoping that this one goes away.

    Jonathan McCalmont

    3 February 2010 at 18:41

  9. This whole thing has to be a singularly awful idea. Take the horrors metacritic and its ilk have wrought upon the video-game industry, where developers can now be made or broken by the average score their products recieve, with bonuses paid out or withheld depending on whether you score above a certain margin – one set as often by amateur revewiers as by professionals. And all for the sake of a too-convenient number that can never truly represent the breadth of thoughts and opinions a review should embrace.

    I’ve had the luxury of abandoning numbered scoring entirely of late, and it’s been incredibly freeing to let readers absorb the things I’ve written and let them figure out a score for themselves, if they must.

    N. R. Alexander

    3 February 2010 at 21:26

  10. At least video game review sites actually give quantified ratings of the games they review.

    That site does not encourage discussion, it devalues it.

    Jonathan McCalmont

    3 February 2010 at 22:42

  11. I don’t know why this bothers me less than any individual reviewer assigning a score to a review, but it does. Perhaps because I think having many reviews of a given book linked from one place is a useful enough resource that I can just ignore the scores, or treat them as froth.


    4 February 2010 at 11:13

  12. […] I have never given a review a grade or a score. When others have attempted to apply a numerical rating to my reviews, I’ve found the whole thing a bit baffling. So perhaps I’m not the best […]

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