It appears it is open season on reviewers again. There was a little kerfuffle on Twitter this morning that Damien G. Walter has on life support over here. In addition Rose Fox put out a heartfelt plea for candor on Genreville.
I’m all in favor of candor, and apparently I’m not alone as John Clute called his SF Weekly column “Excessive Candour”. But sadly candor can only take you so far. You see, no matter how candid you might think you have been, once your review is published you will discover that for some people you were anything but. If you liked the book you’ll be accused of flattering your friends, sucking up to the author, taking bribes from publishers, and if you are lucky of being a secret agent of a Mormon conspiracy to take over science fiction. If you didn’t like the book, well you were just trying to be clever, or you are a horrible nihilist, or you are exacting revenge for some slight the author has given you.
Just like any other piece of writing, once your review has been published it ceases to be yours. It then mutates in the mind of each person who reads it. They may bring with them cultural filters that completely change the meaning of what you thought you wrote, or they they may simply take it as a personal insult that you did not have the same view of the book in question that they did.
Despite all this, I still try to be candid. That’s just me. Other people’s mileage may differ. But being candid won’t save you from being accused of hideous bias. The only thing that can save you from that is not saying anything at all.