I feel like a little kid caught in the whirlwind of puppy love picking petals off a daisy while saying, “She loves me… she loves me not…” What makes someone passionately love or hate a book?… The response from readers I got and continue to get to my bestselling novel Immortality is a curious thing. All the professional book critics love Immortality and Publisher’s Weekly gave it a full starred review which is the highest rating and praise they bestow.
Readers mostly either wildly love Immortality or hate it viscerally. There does not seem to be much middle ground. Almost 70% of customer reviews are five or four stars. Only 8% of the reviews are one-star but those one-star people hate the book and some are even outraged at me!
I get a surprising number of people saying they hated the book and also saying they did not read it or read only a small percentage. When Immortality was first released there were calls to boycott it by some religious groups. This amazed me since it was not an anti-god book at all. Back then I got a lot of hate mail and reviews from people calling me a &@%#$! atheist. I am extremely spiritual but do not follow organized religion at all and some of my feelings in that regard came through in Immortality but it seems hardly enough to warrant the response. A remarkable percentage of the 1 star reviews are from people who hate my views on the environment and think global warming is nothing to worry about. I’ve been told to keep my “lefty political environmental” views to myself and that political views do not belong in a novel. I guess those folks don’t know the long history of literature and the prevalence of political views and messages in literature.
Excluding those two obvious reasons to hate me, politics and religion, I have been scratching my head and doing my homework since 2007 when Immortality was published. Why do so many people love it or hate it with no middle ground? I have since formed some broad theories. Some people bought the book thinking it was something it was not.
Some people buy the book thinking it is a straight up action thriller, a book which is mostly action and none of that boring depth or breath that forces you to think, just a big long shoot ’em up joy ride. Now I love a good action thriller and read them by the boatload but Immortality is far more cerebral than that. Some people buy the book because of the title, “Immortality” and expect it to be about heaven and angels. Sorry no angels… so please don’t hate me for that too. Maybe I should have chosen a better name for the novel? ; – )
After studying this love-hate dilemma for the past 8 years, I think the biggest reason for 1 star and 2 star reviews is that there is no meeting of the minds between myself and that specific reader. A good story is like fine wine. I like red. You like white. Even if I am a famous connoisseur of red wine, I may think a great white wine is awful. If a reader of a book thinks in similar patterns and rhythms as an author they will likely get the story, like the writing, and think the story is great. If the reader thinks in dissimilar patterns and rhythms, they will likely hate the story. This is one of the big reasons why one person can love a great book and another person can hate the same book. This is why some of our most beloved literature is also hated.
As an author I care deeply when someone doesn’t like my story and I want to fix the problem. It has taken me a long time to realize that I can’t fix it but knowing that does not stop me from feeling hurt when someone writes a 1 or 2 star customer review. I can only write the way I think, and hope you, the reader, enjoy the ride as much as I enjoyed writing it!