Rating System

December 11, 2007 at 5:22 pm (Random Thoughts)

If anybody has been reading my reviews, not that there are many of them, you may have noticed my lack of a rating system. Such an odd choice considering that the generally accepted system is to offer a judgment on the book by a scale, be it out of 5, or out of 10. What good is a review without a rating?

Literature is art, and art is subjective. And old trope, to be sure. But that doesn’t make it untrue. As such, I don’t feel that I can quantify art. I cannot justify it to myself. Furthermore, I’m not really qualified to. What right do I have to slap a number on art? I am no expert, just some guy who happened to read a book.

And how accurate are those scales anyway? When so many factors need be considered for a rating – strength of prose, characterization, plot comprehension, originality, entertainment value – how can we be sure to come to an accurate score? Well, I submit that one cannot. Even the scales themselves are subjective. Whenever I look at a review, and see a score of “7/10” on the bottom, I see that as a bad mark. After all, if it were any good, it would have gotten at least an 8. But is 7 really all that bad? Surely it’s not a great book, but is it so low that it shouldn’t be worth consideration? And then I see another that scores “5/10.” Well, that says to me that it was awful. True, it’s only halfway down the scale, and that should indicate mediocrity, which is still not bad. But perceptions are what they are.

Now, one could shrink the scale to 5. A little less specific, but it also leaves less room for misinterpretation. But if a 4 can be anywhere between a 7.5 and an 8.5… That’s a pretty significant difference when you think of in those terms.

How can I rate to a scale when I can’t even decide how they work?

So if literature is art, and I cannot put a numeric rating to art, then what is the purpose of this blog anyway? It’s purpose is opinion. Nothing more. What value is my opinion? That’s up to those reading it to decide.

In my reviews, I will try to give a comprehensive summary of the work. I will try to be informative on the technical aspects of the novel. I will try to expound on it’s themes (where I notice them). Will I succeed? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe sometimes. I can guarantee no more. But what I will do, is give an honest opinion about it. And if there are any external factors that may be skewing my perceptions, I’ll be sure to make it known.

I think, the most important thing in a review, is whether or not the book was any good. That’s what we want to know, why we’re reading it in the first place, right? So I do it in a very broad sense. While a novel can be crafted of beautiful prose and technical accuracy, it can also be droll. While it can be sloppily written, it can also be fun. Poor characterization but an intriguing plot, and vice versa. Yeah, but was it good?

I’m going to make recommendation on this blog, as I would to any friend in the real world. When someone asks me what I thought of a book, I don’t toss numbers at them (maybe some people do). I say, “yeah, it was pretty good,” or what have you. That’s what all I’m going to say for my “Overall Impression.” What help is that? Admittedly little.  But that’s what the rest of the review is for; to clarify my vague assessment. If you don’t feel like reading my lengthy word vomits, then I’ve included the “Final Thoughts” section. Just a quick little summary of my opinion.

Is it worth reading? Again, that’s up to you.

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