The Masterpiece Problem

I am always surprised at the image people form of authors who have written masterpieces; it is as if the author can only write exceptionally good stories. Well, it should be true, if the author has one amazing story, then it is a sort of proof that the author is capable of writing brilliant stories. Yet, that does not mean that every story that author writes will be a masterpiece without faults.

In my opinion, good authors have variety in their writing; they are not afraid to try new things. They might stick to a genre but they mix things up and try to create something new every time. If an author always writes about the same things, set in very similar universes, with very similar characters, and very similar events, then, to me, that is bland. I have already read one story like that, I do not want to read another one with just different names. I would rather the author talks about something new in every story they write.

The main thing, however, that I want to discuss here is not the author but the audience. When an author writes a masterpiece, an exceptionally brilliant story, it becomes the baseline for comparison…and it should. People expect that the next story will be better than that baseline…and they are right in doing so. The problem lies in the way the audience expresses their disappointment when the author is unable to meet their expectations.

Before picking up a book, I sometimes read the reviews from people to get an idea if I would enjoy it. Sometimes, as I browse through the reviews, I find people making comparisons of a book, an entirely new and different story, to a previously released book from the same author. It is natural to make comparisons; I make comparisons. If I enjoy a book a lot, I am excited to read another book from the same author expecting it to be brilliant and there are times when I am disappointed. But then, I vent out frustrations and disappointments to my friends, not in reviews.

If one reads reviews and in every single one it is mentioned that this book is not as good as that one, it is very disheartening. It may be true; it might not meet the expectations formed from another story, but that is not something that should be mentioned in a review or should be presented as a deciding factor. For me, if I read a lot of reviews like that, it is off-putting. I expect that the story is very disappointing and I tend to push it back on my reading list.

I think it is important that reviews should be kept objective and should only be limited to that one particular book. It should mention the book’s merits and demerits only. Reviews are not the proper place to make comparisons; book clubs, discussions, sure, but not reviews. Reviews are very important at times when a person is indecisive about what to read next.

Every story deserves a reading. To say that a book is not as good as that one in a spot reserved just for its objective analysis is being unfair to it. Every new story is like an experiment and it is not necessary that every experiment will be successful. There will always be ups and downs. There will always be brilliant stories and not so brilliant ones. But as fans of the authors, we should appreciate the diversity an author provides and be objective when talking about their works, listing what was good and what was not so good instead of saying “it was not as good as that one”.

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