What are reviews for ?

I’ve been reviewing books for a few years now. I wrote occasional reviews right from the outset of this blog, and then not long afterwards began reviewing from the (much missed) The Fix. And my regular articles for The Guardian often hide a few book reviews.

So I’ve been enjoying a brief exchange of views about the nature of reviewing between @gavreads @paulgrahamraven @nialharrison and @cherylmorgan and probably a few others by now, started by Gavreads proclamation “The point of reviews: should you spend your money on this book – yes or no? The rest is just filler.”

Needless to say I disagree. I believe the job of a reviewer is to open up the meaning of a book for readers. I want a review to cut to the heart of a book, reveal what it’s really about and show how it works. And I want a review to put the book in its context and tell me the authors influences and the dialogues the books is part of. Saying whether a book is good or bad or ‘worth buying’ is probably the least interesting thing a review can do in my opinion.

But I might be wrong, it has been known to happen. What do you want from a review? Do they help shape your thinking about the books you read? Or do you just want a indication of where to spend your next £8.99?

Alt.Fiction 2011

Alt.Fiction has a special place in my heart, as the one and only SF convention I have been to every year for its entire five year history. I’ve even written about it for the GU book blog. This year I’ll be on a number of panels about various aspects of SF writing. I’ll be hoping to start a few good arguments in the panels, and have a good chat with lots of friends in the bar. I hope you’ll be among them.


Alt.Fiction Festival 2011
25th-26th June
QUAD, Market Place, Derby
Saturday 25th June, 10am – Midnight
Sunday 26th June, 10am – 5pm

Weekend pass £45
Saturday pass £30
Sunday pass £20

Alt.Fiction marks its fifth year with a fantastic weekend for readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Bringing together some of the UK’s leading talent in the genre, Alt.Fiction presents a two-day programme of readings, panels, workshops, film, podcasts and much more, giving you the chance to hear from your favourite authors, find out more about the world of publishing and learn more about the writing process.

This year’s Guests of Honour are bestselling science fiction author Alastair Reynolds and acclaimed comic book writer and novelist Dan Abnett. They will joined by speakers Tony Ballantyne, Keith Brooke, Mark Chadbourn, Paul Cornell, Peter Crowther, Stephen Deas, Paul Finch, John Jarrold, Graham Joyce, Juliet McKenna, Graham McNeill, Mark Morris, Adam Nevill, Mark Charan Newton, Sarah Pinborough, Robert Shearman, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates, Conrad Williams, Chris Wooding and many more.

Alt.Fiction is truly a weekend not to be missed for book lovers and writers alike.

Contact the QUAD Box Office on 01332 290 606 or visit www.derbyquad.co.uk/altfiction

Visit altfiction.co.uk to find out about Alt.Fiction’s year-long programme of events.