The Value of Book Reviews

Woman writing inside an old book
This could be you – one of our reviewers deep in appreciation of a review copy (image for illustrative purposes only – review books may be smaller than this.)

The Value of Book Reviews

Iain Maloney.

Reviews are a vital part of the book world. The majority of people find new authors based on reviews and other recommendations. For readers, reviews connect you with your next favourite writer, with new worlds to explore, with voices you didn’t know you needed to hear. For a writer, reviews not only validate the endless hours in the spare bedroom or at the kitchen table writing and rewriting and editing and banging your head again and again on the table, they also drive sales. Reviews are an integral part of literature.

Stories are a conversation, writers and readers part of the same community, and reviews, everything from a two thousand word critical study in the Scottish Review of Books to a one word, starred post on Goodreads, are valid and important. No man is an island and we the readers, we the writers, we the reviewers, we the publishers, are all engaged in the same conversation.

As Iain M Banks said in an interview with The Atlantic:

“SF writers are always standing on the shoulders of giants. There’s a development and a dialogue within the form that is unique, so you find yourself using a lot of standard SF furniture—hyperspace, wormholes, big dumb objects, etc.—that you can only fiddle with and tweak while adding a few extra ideas of your own (though even those often tend to be variations on pre-existing themes).”

Book X is a reaction to Y, Z is inspired by A and in turn inspires C. Literature is a dialogue over time – surely one of science fiction’s chief concerns – a true time machine that enables us to interact with authors long dead and stories long told. Shoreline of Infinity is engaged in bringing some of these stories back into the discussion by publishing works by authors like John Buchan and Lewis Grassic Gibbon that have languished in eddies in the space-time continuum (is he?).

Reviews are the highways that link these worlds. That’s why at Shoreline of Infinity we put so much importance on having a critical side to what we do, both in the magazine and online. For the first four issues we’ve focussed on the classic ‘Is this worth reading?’ type of review but we are beginning to branch out into more detailed, reflective critical studies. We think that it’s important to consider not just how good a book is but where it fits in the unfolding dialectic of science fiction. We began in issue four when Duncan Lunan viewed Ken MacLeod’s The Corporation Wars: Dissidence through a wide-angle lens. We’re planning much more of these but for that we need engaged, well-read and talented reviewers to join our team.

If you fit that bill, have a look through the reviews collected here to see that standard and style we aspire to, then contact us through the form on the website and be part of the conversation that is science fiction.

Your genre needs you.