That was pretty much my first reaction when John Grant approached me with the idea of putting together a collection of his book reviews. Who on earth would buy such a thing?
But then I started to think a bit more. Back in the ten years I ran the infinity plus online genre showcase, John was one of my favourite reviewers. (I know that, as with our children, editors shouldn’t really have favourites, but you just know we all do.) He was productive and timely, for a start, which is always helpful. But far more than that, his reviews were eloquent, witty, opinionated and, above all, great reads. While most of our reviews were only a few hundred words long, John’s were often over a thousand words in length, articulate and entertaining essays that were filled with his genuine passion for good writing.
Another thing I liked about John’s contributions was the way he took books at face value. One week he might review Stephen King or Jeanette Winterson, and the next a book effectively self-published by iUniverse. He didn’t care about the names on the cover: it was all about the words. And he uncovered some real gems by taking such an egalitarian stance.
He did also stumble across some some turkeys, from large publishers and small, name writers and newcomers. And these turkeys were dissected, often with thoroughly scathing wit: never harsh or ridiculing, John analysed just what it was that made some books work and some choke, in an object lesson to any aspiring writer who wants to understand their craft, and their industry.
This is starting to sound like a sales pitch. And while I’d be the first to confess that I’m drawing your attention to the book in the hope that you will buy it (over 150,000 words, covering SF, fantasy, horror, crime and more, for a mere $1.99? how could you not?), my primary intention here is to set out my journey from “Really? You must be mad…” to “Aw, go on then,” to thinking that, actually, if enough of the right people read this book it would be a genuine contender for things like the British Science Fiction Award’s non-fiction category.
It’s funny. It’s breathtakingly intelligent and well-informed. It strikes that perfect balance between serious and a great read.
I made that journey from “Really?” to “what a great idea” quite quickly, and I’m sure a lot of other people will too.
John Grant’s Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews – infinity plus ebooks’ first venture into non-fiction is now available from the usual suspects:
A bumper collection – over 150,000 words! – of book reviews, many of full essay length, by the two-time Hugo winning and World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and author, among much fiction, of such recent nonfiction works as Corrupted Science and (forthcoming) Denying Science.
Scholarly, iconoclastic, witty, passionate, opinionated, hilarious, scathing and downright irritating by turn, these critical pieces are sure to appeal to anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mystery fiction, crime fiction and many points in between … and who also enjoys a rousing argument.