I have been having a discussion with a friend of mine. He disputes the review of Altered Carbon that I did which can be read here. His points are as follows:
The following is a rant. Well, two sub-rants. Feel free to delete without reading :)
The issue I have with blogs is as follows:
Squeeky wheel gets the kick. When commenting on people's blogs - sometimes in disagreement, sometimes not - hackles tend to be raised all too easily. The same is true of web fora.
Merely because someone has opinions doesn't mean that those opinions are of any special value. Merely because someone is capable of putting those opinions online does not in any way add value to them.
Given that you're an uneducated heathen who's never listened to Radio 4, you'll not have heard "From Our Own Correspondent". This is, for me at least, a good example of what a blog should be. An expert talking about their own feelings and impressions of a newsworthy event.
To me, opinions have value when they are backed with expertise and knowledge. Then I take them seriously.
This is rather like my view of film / book recomendations from friends. If I like someone, it's usually because I have similar tastes / views / outlook to them. I am therefore inclined to believe them more than I am some random person. I do not think that one can be an expert in films or literature in the same way that one can be in terms of news or technology. Further, I think that you in particular cannot be, given your perference for fantasy over scifi.
Still, your opinions carry weight because of the friend-thing rather than because of the expertise-knowledge thing.
As you have put your head up above the parapet to express an opinion in a public medium, I will take the opportunity to respond to it.
In the specific case of Altered Carbon, I maintain that you missed the point of the book, and of the Envoy Corps. At its heart, though, are questions of what is the nature of a human. You touch on this when you describe Morgan's ability to characterise his characters through reference to their mannerism and attitude rather than appearance (To say that you think authors are lazy because they chose to describe someone's appearance is ... horrible grandiose - it is neuropsychological fact that humans make their first impressions built on appearance. You are therefore asking an author not to think like a human).
To read this book and to describe it as a linear actioner would be like reading Dickens and think that they were charming scenes of Victorian life - to ignore the biting social commentary, or to read Starship Troopers by Heinlein and think that it was simply a book about power armour. In short, I think that you didn't lift the veil on the author's intention. I suspect that I simply engaged with the novel more deeply than you because I have read it so many times. Or maybe it's because I'm a lawyer and therefore prone to always asking why something is written, rather than merely what has been written.
Turning to the relatively trivial matter of the Envoys, in describing them as SAS troopers, you miss the key fact about how resleeving works. Modern solidery is concerned with extreme physical conditioning. When an Envoy can arrive in literally any body, they cannot rely on the physical. Instead, and this is what made the Envoys so terrifying in my view, they are all about mental conditioning. Part psychoanalyst, part demagogue, part ace-private investigator, and yes, part spy.
I suspect the conclusion I'm reaching here is that I found your review of it to be superficial. Having talked to you a number of times, and read your emails, I think I expected more... engagement. Or maybe I just hoped that we had the same taste. In any case, here endeth the rant.
You say that a book can have different levels to it.
You say that, Lord of the Rings, for instance, can be seen as 4-5 different levels. I'd say more, but that's not the point.
You see in AC one theme / level. I saw at least three. It is therefore the case that I saw more in the book than you did.
In terms of what right I have to say that you didn't get the book? I have read more sci-fi than you, I am more familiar with the work of the author. I can therefore comment on themes apparent in other books in the series that you weren't aware of. Further, I think the half degree I have in Engish literature makes me more keenly aware of certain tropes, styles and devices found through English and French literature that you perhaps might not have been aware of.
As to what right I have to say that you didn't get thebook, you are saying that I don't have a right to an opinion if it disagrees with yours. You have every right to have an opinion. If it is one I disagree with I'll argue with it.
I'm not going to apologise on this one because you're being petty and your argumentation is week.
So... my gentle wondering for today (and it has to be gentle, thanks to the hangover I am *still* suffering) is: what qualifies us as book bloggers to give our opinions? What about us lends weight to our words?
Take me, for example. I have not had any formal training in book critiquing or reviewing. I have not done an English degree. My day job does not involve using English to any great degree.
My only qualification for posting my reviews for the whole world to see is an enormous number of books read and a great enthusiasm for sharing my likes and dislikes with those who care. That is all.
Is that all I need? Or would people consider my reviews at a higher level if I did have said English qualifications? Are my reviews of science fiction and horror automatically to be dismissed because I don't read a great deal in these genres, or am I bringing fresh eyes to a genre that those who read in it might be more jaded and cynical about?
I would be curious to hear other opinions. I would also be interested to hear other bloggers state why they think they are qualified to speak of books!
The floor is yours!