Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sword Man on a one-star Goodreads rampage!

Returning to the blog for a minute – and no, my novel isn't going well at all, thanks for asking! – to note that Goodreads has got itself an amusing new anonymous member, going by the moniker of Sword Man, who has been handing out one star reviews like he or she bought a big box of them at a fire sale.

See if you can spot a connection between the people whose books are getting slammed:

  • The Taken, Sarah Pinborough
  • Torchwood: Into the Silence, Sarah Pinborough
  • A Matter of Blood, Sarah Pinborough ("Really badly written")
  • Zombie Apocalypse, Stephen Jones (ed.)
  • Mammoth Book of Zombies, Stephen Jones (ed.)
  • Mammoth Book of Vampires, Stephen Jones (ed.)
  • Shadows Over Innsmouth, Stephen Jones (ed.)
  • The Art of Coraline, Stephen Jones 
  • Department Nineteen, Will Hill
  • The Deluge, Mark Morris ("Weak")
  • The Silent Land, Graham Joyce ("Dull Characters and an unoriginal setting")
  • TQF36, Stephen Theaker [and John Greenwood] (eds.)
  • TQF Year OneStephen Theaker (ed.)
  • TQF Year TwoStephen Theaker [and John Greenwood] (eds.)
  • TQF Year ThreeStephen Theaker [and John Greenwood] (eds.)
  • TQF Year FourStephen Theaker [and John Greenwood] (eds.)

Most of the reviews were posted on October 16, with a few more added today after I started following his/her reviews. S/he has also voted two of Sarah Pinborough's books onto the Worst Books of All Time list.

But you'll be glad to hear Sword Man is not all negative!

Sword Man has, just in case you haven't made the connection to the BFS awards brouhaha yet, given five star reviews to Sam Stone ("She calls hersle the New Queen of Vampire Ficion on her website and I'm inclined to agree"), Raven Dane ("Well written and a golly good read") and Rules of Duel from Telos.

The highlight for me is the one-star review of Theaker's Quarterly Fiction: Year Two, which states:

"This man really has no clue at all when it comes to reviews and reviewing. It seems to me that Theaker enjoys writing self-indulgent twaddle - nasty gibes - and spends most of his time writing negative, not informative reviews. I haven't seen one he's written that I would say I agreed with."

The funny thing is that there are no reviews in that book. None whatsoever!

Sword Man strikes – and fails!

The irony is that this is exactly the kind of behaviour that seems to have got the BFS and its awards into hot water into the first place. So while Sword Man may feel like s/he is hitting back, s/he is really just confirming that people were right to suggest that there might be a bit of a problem.


  1. Perhaps it's a rival reviewer who perceives you as a threat and is trying to undermine your credibility...

  2. Given the kind of spelling mistakes they're making, I think I could probably take a pretty good guess at who it is. Proofreaders notice these clues!

    You, on the other hand, could be working deep undercover for the FBI, with a mob boss holding a gun to your head, and you *still* wouldn't be able to bring yourself to spell like that...

    The saddest thing is that if Sword Man had actually read all those issues of TQF, s/he would have read more of my novels than my own wife. :-(

  3. YOur wife has excellent taste...

    I was trying to insult you there, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have backfired :-(

    I don't work well under pressure. Forty years on I can still remember the history teacher asking 'Tennant, how do you spell Catherine?' and answering 'Correctly, sir', then proceeding to do exactly the opposite.

  4. Just noticed that within an hour or two of this blog post appearing yesterday, the one other person who had rated TQF Year One on Goodreads removed their one-star rating, and moved the book to their "to-read" shelf.

    Obviously I don't know why, but I'd guess it was to stop people assuming that they're the phantom star-flinger.

    Kind of a shame - was nice to think someone had actually read it..! But I guess not...

  5. I wonder, given the pattern of the ratings (one star for Jones and Pinborough, five stars for Dane and Stone), if this is the same person reviewing on Amazon under the name Serious?

    I noticed that "Serious" had one of their comments deleted by Amazon here, prompting the next commenter to say, "Are you his wife, or what?"

    The comment deleted was a response to a negative review of a Telos book that had got a lot of stick for reprinting people's Livejournal entries without permission.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I edited my comment when I realised that it was littered with typos!

    How sad. Unfortunately Amazon/Goodreads reviews do act as a superficial barometer of a title's quality on these sites and can influence sales. I'd ask Amazon/Goodreads to remove the reviews. You could cite the evidence above and show how this reviewer has been acting maliciously.

  8. I think Goodreads prefer to err on the side of letting things stand... I'm glad of that, in a way - I wouldn't want my ratings removed just because a put-out author reckoned they were malicious.

    You'd think that whoever it was would be feeling pretty embarrassed by now, but you can't shame the shameless...

  9. I tweeted about this article today, and all this time later things might not be so obvious, but all the people who received one star reviews had expressed concerns online about the unusual results of the British Fantasy Awards that year.

  10. I wonder how Guy Haley's position that he uses a pseudonym when reviewing if it's likely there might be a perceived conflict of interest shapes up in the age of the sock puppet.