17May

Harriet Klausnered

For those of you who read this SF Signal post, there’s nothing new here. But one of the joys of expanding my literary horizons to the US market, is that I’ve finally been reviewed by Harriet Klausner, who was formerly Amazon’s Number 1 reviewer (until they changed the system), with over 21,000 reviews. First, here’s her review of Nights of Villjamur:

As the ice continues to spread as forecasted decades ago across the Jamur Empire archipelago and when it became obvious the sun was dying, increasingly humans and others coming from all the islands take refuge in the ancient city of Villjamur. Some of the horde of thousands comes for more insidious reasons. Thus stability of leadership even if the top person is insane is critical at this time although some in power like Chancellor Urtica choose personal ambition over what is good for the island empire. When the mad emperor Jamur Johynn dies suddenly, placing his untested heir, his elder daughter Rika as the queen, Urtica plans to act to replace her with himself immediately. His strategy is to foster hatred of the desperate immigrants flocking the city before he leads a coup d’etat and an ethic cleansing of all outsiders.

As Rika sits on the throne precariously though sympathetic towards the plight of her people, her mentor Randur Esteyu advises and encourages her while her sister Eir supports her, but her council wants to use her for personal power. Meanwhile someone murders Councilor Ghuda leading to Inspector Rumex Jeryd a nonhuman rumel to investigate at a time the city and kingdom needs unity, not divisions and conspiracies plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

Although the plot starts just a bit faster than the encroaching ice age, Mark Charan Newton creates his world of human and nonhuman; once set (just under a third of the way), the fantasy thriller turns into a police procedural that grips the audience. The cast is solid whether they are human, banshee, rumel or other; but the key player, the dying sun fed ice never feels as if it threatens to destroy all life. Still this is an entertaining tale as death squads initially sent by Johynn and now employed by Urtica use eradication to solve problems though sometimes the dead come back.

Ignore the poor sentence construction, grammar, detours from the actual plot and so on – I’ve left it as I found it. What I’ve found particularly interesting, via the medium of Google Ego Alerts, is how the post has made it onto several blogs: notably, Genre Go Round Reviews, Worlds of Wonders, The Merry Genre Go Round Reviews, and Alternate Words. It’s cut and paste stuff, basically, on simple template blog sites for the most part, and will certainly appear on commercial sites like Amazon soon.

Okay, I think it’s pretty important it goes the other way, and that blog reviewers copy their reviews to commercial sites. Why? (1) Collectively, it forces internet standards to be raised (never a bad thing). (2) It weakens the effect when people hide behind avatars. (3) Bloggers mostly focus on new releases anyway, which serves customers who don’t have the time (or who have poor Google-fu) to trawl for reviews online. Though (4) perhaps the most deep analytical reviews are not likely to be appreciated on Amazon. But (5) ultimately, bloggers might get some new readers, which is all good.

That out of the way, I just can’t see the point in these kind of multiple blog fronts. There’s no personality, and ultimately, what can be gained? To boost search engine rankings, perhaps, but why? I like to think I’m pretty clued up about online activities, but where does the benefit come from this?

Still, as David Louis Edelman says, a review’s a review, right? But I’d like to know how bloggers feel about this industrial, scatter-shot approach to reviewing.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

12 comments

  1. Amazon allows syndication of its reviews to partner sites, for the purpose of helping them sell books through partner programs. HK very likely has nothing at all to do with it. It’s interesting to me that her review hasn’t appeared on Amazon itself yet. This makes me wonder if she’s got some kind of separate syndication deal on the strength of her name. She might make a little extra money from it via some service like associatedcontent– I know a couple of people who earn a little cash via restaurant reviews and the like from that site.

  2. I assume the point is for Klausner to preserve her bragging rights as the Internet’s most-prolific/most-syndicated/most-whatever book reviewer. And it works: we all know who she is and what she does, even if we don’t exactly hold that in high esteem. I imagine she gets at least a token payment from all those echo-chamber sites, too, which adds up when you (fake-)review as many books as HK does.

    There’s not much benefit to readers or writers in any of that, of course, but I do have to admire how energetically she games the system.

  3. I must confess a certain degree of confusion as to how someone with little apparent grasp of the English language seems to be so popular? Had you been here when I read the above review you’d have been sure to hear my teeth grinding at the sheer awfulness of the language.

    That she’s prolific is hardly the point. Most people don’t celebrate diarrhea despite the prolific nature of that condition.

  4. Cheryl – I’m not quite sure I see the point of repeat blogger blogs, for example. It doesn’t seem to have any possible use, or maybe I’m missing something.

    L. Merciel – indeed, there is something to be admired. It’s certainly a LOT of effort for someone.

    Phillip – ha! It’s remarkable isn’t it?

  5. Haven’t they shown that “Harriet Klausner” is actually a collective of several, “professional” reviewers?

    I’m a big fan of “her” reviews, especially how they never express an opinion that couldn’t be safely generated by merely reading the inside dust jacket.

  6. Bizarre!

    @Jared: ‘she’ reads more like a wonky A.I. (see those email spambots that generate nonsense poetry to get through your filters) that somehow cobbles together a review together through fragments of blurbage, other people’s reviews, and stock bookspeak.

    Given me an image reminiscent of the Hybrid from G’lactaca – somebody lying in a pool of goo with wires in their head feeding them, in a white-hot blaze of ones and zeroes, the text of a thousand book jackets every second so that they can spew out a constant torrent of stream-of-consciousness ‘reviews’.

    HARRIET KLAUSNER DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE. SHE IS REVIEW NOW. ALL IS REVIEW. END SENTENCE FULL STOP NEW PARAGRAPH.

  7. Why should I copy reviews from other reviewer when I write my own review? Anyway in case I like a review I add a link and recommend to read it. I don’t like to add my review to Amazon because there are restrictions and limitations. But of course I know that there are millions of people who will never read a review outside from Amazon.
    Harriet Klausner reviews are neither fish nor fowl. To be Klausnered in the world of Amazon means you are gentled for the masses 🙂

  8. Well, as I’ve said many times in many places (several around here), Amazon has really terrible terms and conditions that basically take away the reviewers rights to the content of the review and allow Amazon to do whatever they wish. While it may be simply to cover their ass, I still don’t like the broad nature of them and won’t participate.

    Plus, I didn’t start my blog to generate traffic or notariaty through Amazon. I simply don’t have the time or desire.

  9. oh and congrats on getting Klausnered, though it’s really disturbing that it’s a cut & paste, plagarized job of it.

  10. The most reprehensible thing is that Harriet Klausner is an official reviewer for SFRevu. As if I needed another reason to hate their ‘review’ philosophy (of regurgitating the back cover, adding spoilers, and providing less actual content than a Kirkus review).

  11. You say: “I think it’s pretty important it goes the other way, and that blog reviewers copy their reviews to commercial sites.” And the reasons you give are fair, but let me tell you the one reason I do not repost my reviews at Amazon.

    If I do so, they own them. Flat out, no recourse, no ability to take it back. Sorry, but no, I like my content to remain mine, even if it is only transient reviews.

    Additionally, I simply don’t have time to mess with it. As a schoolteacher by day, I barely have time to read and review as it is.

  12. John – how does this differ from the terms and conditions of most blogs, incidentally? They reserve the right to terminate anything at any point.