So what do the stars in the rating system mean? I will get into that below, but before I do that please indulge me a bit. I set up this site to review SF stories because I really truly love SF. Since I started thinking about these books in the ways that reviewers do I think I have really expanded my own personal definition of “acceptable” SF. Three years ago I would never have bothered with books written before the fifties. Now I can name ten that I consider essential masterpieces of the genre. As my own tastes have expanded I’ve worried occasionally that my tastes may polarize: That I may become either a sycophantic moron who loves SF for the mere fact that its SF. Or I could go the other way and grow jaded after seeing the same story told time and time again. Maybe because I think about it a lot, I feel I have avoided either of those extremes, and still have a good middle-of-the-road attitude about SF. Long before I started doing these reviews I was turned off by vocal critics, like Lucius Shepherd. I thought he was too rough on other authors. But now that I have been doing my own reviews for going on three years, I think differently about some of the things that he said that offended me before. Now I think that even if he offends (which by the way I no longer do), by having high critical standards about SF he does genre on the whole a good thing by applying them to various artifacts. I try not to be too rough here, but I also like to think that when something sucks, I will hold no punches.
Here is what I am trying to generally say with the stars:
- 0 Stars: Piece of crap. Don’t bother reading the book.
- 1 Star: Below average, trite, or relies on stereotypical views of the genre. Hackwork.
- 2 Stars: There is at least one interesting aspect to the book, but overall, it is not a quality piece.
- 3 Stars: Average quality book. Internally cohesive, and at the very least tries to say something important, even if some elements are lacking.
- 4 Stars: Above average quality book. Worth keeping. All literary elements work well together, but taken as a whole is not a masterpiece of the genre.
- 5 Stars: Singular quality. A masterpiece.
- 5+ Stars: Reserved for very few works. A book with this rating is very rare, in that it surpasses all expectations and lacks in no elements at all. In my opinion books with this rating are worth hunting down immediately.
So, here is what all of this means: Stars 1 – 4 are for the technical aspects of the book, usually and most frequently the way that the author uses the themes he or she has chosen to work with, and also how well that author fits into a literary movement, if applicable. Star 5 is reserved for the books I personally love. I occasionally will give a “+”, or even a sixth star, but that is just me gushing about a five-star book. So…we have an objective scale combined with a subjective one. Or rather, as objective as one man who admits that he loves the genre can possibly be. You should also know that generally the only books I review are those that I personally consider worth keeping and reading again. I am currently going through my book cases and reviewing the books that I love. For that reason you will not usually see any book with less than a three star review, though that won’t last forever.