Today we will be meta-reviewing Cindy Koepp’s review of Edward Brody’s Eden Gate. There was some kerfuffle over her review, and I haven’t reviewed anything in forever, so this is a good time.
In review news, I’m going through the new Awaken Online: Precipice book by Travis Bagwell. It’s amazing thus far, I have only heard about half of it and it’s fantastic. It has improved on all the areas I thought it would have problems in if Travis didn’t address them, and he did. I have heard that it has Dat Ending syndrome, so like Aristotle’s admonishment that we should call no man good until they are dead, call no book good until it is finished. But this is a contender against Delver’s LLC for best book, which is also due for its sequel sometime soon.
First, congratulations on the interest in LitRPG! Welcome aboard. Hope you enjoy your time here, please read Awaken Online and Delvers LLC if you haven’t done so. Also read my blog. Because clicks yo.
Now, let’s talk about the review.
Header for talking about the review
I think the review is fair, she outlines what she likes and doesn’t like about the book. But some of her dislikes are controversial.
This is something you will see in my reviews, I rarely, if ever, talk about wordsmithing as a subject. So long as the author doesn’t bore me with repetitive phrasing, or cause me to physically groan, (see “Aleronisms“), the exact word choice doesn’t bother me. Yes, a book that understands the difference between “fewer bullets and less ammo” is great, but I’m not going to scream at the sky over this.
My biggest qualm is the lack of specifics in her review.
For example, here’s my definition of a story:
A story is how an event or series of events affects someone or some people who are in pursuit of a difficult goal, the obstacles that prevent them from achieving that goal, and how that person and the people around him or her change as a result of those events.
Based upon that definition, you can guess how I’ll rate a book.
- What is the event or series of events? How natural is the causal progression between events? See Plot Coupons and Tokens .
- Who is the protagonist and why should I care about them? See Man of Steel, Batman V Superman, and The Grading System.
- What are the obstacles to that goal and how difficult are they to overcome? See the same as above.
- How do these people change as a result of these events? I haven’t talked about this yet, except for mentioning the movie American Beauty. I should probably do this in the future.
Just a point of comparison. Let’s take a book that I think really nails character development, Blaise Corvin’s Delver’s LLC. What specifically did I think was great about the character development?
In numerous scenes, the interior monologue of characters reveals how they see themselves vs. how others see them, and this conflict creates tension that the book resolves. You can read the full review for the examples, but this is a specific point showcased with specific examples, particularly the scene where they are captured.
Thus, if anyone were to ask me how to do character development in a LitRPG book, I would say, “Go read Delver’s LLC and pay attention to the scene where they are captured in the city.”
What about the bad? For bad dialogue, there’s three books I’ve reviewed that stand out.
Soulstone‘s problem is that the characters have no connection to each other and no reason to really work together. Thus Cipriano fills most of the dialogue with meaningless banter that doesn’t advance the plot to get around this problem.
Nagrant Wars shows a complete lack of craft since Jayden Hunter doesn’t know how to write dialogue. The characters sound the same and come across as either creepers or idiots because they have no emotional connection to each other and little investment in their own story. His characters don’t align in their motivation, so they often comment on this and come across as confused or lacking motivation most of the time.
The Trapped Mind Project is written by a hack who puts out a book a month, buys fake reviews, and has a story that features a billionaire in his forties who talks like a high school dropout. He wrote tripe in Space Opera series that didn’t sell, but then realized he could make a killing by writing pandering, idiotic crap for LitRPG fan boys.
(Update: Chatfield addresses my questions about whether or not he cares about writing a good book or just hopes to cash in. Here’s his responses to my criticisms.)
The fact that this book exists and that people will defend this scam artist makes me want to learn how to suck bleach up through my urethra. Of course, even Martin Shkreli has his defenders.
Which reminds me that I need to say: Fuck them and fuck you if you defend them or their behavior. And by “Fuck”, I mean a good and proper dicking with a sandpaper pinecone on high speed. (*)
Is that offensive? I’ll get back to that in a minute.
The point here is that my feedback and critiques about all of those books are blistering, but they also point out specific problems, give advice on how to fix them, (except for Chatfield’s book, which can’t be helped because the author doesn’t care and will have written at least six more novels in the time it takes you to read this review), and at least in Cipriano’s case, he wrote a stronger second book following his first. Still, the problems that were in the first book haunted the second one.
Even in some really awesome books like The Land, Delver’s LLC, and Awaken Online, I criticize the portions of the book that don’t work and compliment the sections that do.
The problem with Cindy’s review is she doesn’t give any particular examples of what she likes or dislikes. It’s all… generic. It’s better than most reviews, but I don’t think Edward Brody could read the review and really gain anything about what he should fix.
The bummer here is that Cindy is a writer. My reviews tend to feature video game commentary, anime commentary, and economics. That’s because those are my jams. Cindy is an author and I’d assume well-read. It would be helpful to have a comparison between other literature she likes and where she thought Edward didn’t do as good a job as another author writing for a similar audience.
The end result is that Cindy’s review is basically a collection of her preferences. Nothing wrong with that, but I also can’t understand the people who are butthurt over it.
Let’s just start off with how little specifics are given here.
I listened to a podcast about a relatively new genre: LitRPG
Which podcast? What did they say? This is the vaguery I’m alluding to here, someone who wants to learn more about their favorite genre is not going to know anything about what this podcast is saying or who is saying it.
Yes, the characters get in over their heads sometimes, but wit, wisdom, equipment, and guts get the job done.
Yes, but a particular example would help. How does he avoid the OP (OverPowered) problem? How does he keep the tension going? These things would be great to know and compare against other novels in the genre.
She then goes into her negative critiques. She thinks that he’s overly foul.
Is he? I don’t know. She didn’t give an example of any writing that would be enhanced by removing profanity. And yes, profanity is made up of adjectives and adverbs. Those are the basis of weak sentences. But without an example, this is impossible to determine.
Let’s go back to my previous paragraphs. I said that Michael Chatfield should be fisted with a sandpaper pinecone. I don’t mean this literally.
This is a way of marking a special hatred I reserve for him alone, and have never bequeathed to any other author. That is because I think most authors who write a bad book are not bad people. I think he’s a horrible person. I use profanity and imagery to make sure that my readers are aware of that critical distinction between a person who does a bad thing and a bad person.
Even if he did miraculously write something that wasn’t complete shit through the fact that an infinite number of monkeys banging on an infinite number of keyboards will reproduce Shakespeare, this wouldn’t change my opinion of him as a person. Thus profanity and imagery are used to demarcate him as a special snowflake in my eyes, and I mean a yellow snowflake.
Without examples, I can’t tell if the cursing that Edward uses is extraordinary or ordinary. I can’t tell if it’s relevant to his story or useless filler. The only thing I have to go on is that Cindy doesn’t like profanity.
Same with descriptions of females. I don’t know the age of the characters and I can’t figure out if this is appropriate or not. A male character in his twenties will probably oogle women more. A child character pre-puberty will not. See my critique of Dakota Krout’s Dungeon Born, where he has a will-o-wisp that makes ‘sexual jokes’, except they’re not jokes and will-o-wisps don’t have genitals. It makes no sense, so that gets docked.
I need to know the context and none is given. For example, as a joke, I made my friend Jeff Hays, an amazing audio narrator, and his friend Andrea Parsneau, read Sandra Hill’s Rough and Ready.
Does this make me a bad person? Probably. Was it lol-tastic? Oh yes. Many lol-cows were had upon that day. It’s your top-viewed video too, so you’re welcome. #HereToHelp
This is the sort of humor that most LitRPG fans will appreciate. Side note: Jeff, next reading is Wesley Crusher: Teenage Fuck Machine. This is a real book. There’s also Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Dicklessness waiting. Soon, you will yearn for the days of finding your “clete” in a bathroom.
So that’s the question, is this male-oriented humor or is this just drivel? Is this f-bombing being used to hide a lack of plot progression or other important information?
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I would like to see Cindy give more examples of both the good and the bad. I’m finishing up Travis Bagwell’s book, and then I’m reading Michael Scott Earle’s book. And then I have to find other books like Wesley Crusher: Teenage Fuck Machine.
(* Side note: I wrote my review of Chatfield’s crap months ago, and people keep sending me PMs on facebook about it and saying how much they agree. They then befriend the guy. Um… newsflash people, if you think a scam artist that steals money is a bad thing, then don’t befriend the guy. Call him out on it.)
7 thoughts on “Cindy Koepp reviews Edward Brody’s “Eden’s Gate” and cursing as an expletive and explanative power”
I did not think detailed examples would be appreciated in a review on a blog because that would make the article longish. I’ve been told by the marketing nerd at one small press that I needed to contain the length of my blog articles to 500 words or fewer.
I appreciate the feedback and I’ll keep it in mind for the future.
Honestly, after publishing this, I believe you should review Eden’s Gate. I’m also curious as to whether you have any proof of your allegations against Michael Chatfield. Not saying it isn’t more than possible, there’s a lot of books out there that I’m VERY surprised are rated as highly as they are. Simply unwilling to form an opinion without provided evidence or context. However, I quite simply don’t think his books are good. They are also offered through Kindle Unlimited. It’s unlikely many are buying his book as it is offered freely. If he was taking money from people, perhaps I could see the stronger views. To me… if you want to read it, you do. If you don’t, you simply ignore his books.
Read my review of chatfields book, I show the evidence there. And it’s not free, each page you read of amazon unlimited is removed from a global pool of money paid to all aku authors, reducing their income.
@Kyle, As one of the early Readers on RRL of the Emerilia (tragedy in writing?) I can attest that engaging with this Author on a constructive basic in the comments, as it is standard there, nets you condescending answers outright insinuating “You are too stupid to understand me, don`t bother me with your logic”.
So at first I was put off by your more scathing reviews because of their antagonistic nature. However, having read
the most recent release from Mr. Chatfield I feel like I owe you an apology or something lol. Many of your points were so spot on. I was cringing every other page because of the dialogue, repititous statements, or simply poorly worded sentences. I still don’t like the bombastic nature of some of your reviews, but that’s just me, I hate conflict. I understand why you would feel the way you do and as passionatelyas you do, seeing someone pull the wool over on a largely ignorant audience. When you speak out about it you look like an ass rather than them. You probably don’t care either way, but I just wanted to let you know that you woke me up a bit.
“I feel like I owe you an apology or something lol.”
No, you don’t. 😉 I did actually interview Chatfield and posted up his explanation for the book and his writing so people can get a feel for my points vs. his.
My overall impression is even if he is earnest in his writing, and he came across as earnest in my talk with him, he’s never going to be a good writer until he slows down, outlines his novels, gets a serious editor, and works on his craft.
Of course, why would he bother when people will give him five star reviews for books he writes in a month’s time? It’s a losing game for him to do that, so I don’t expect any of his books to get better. It makes no economic sense.
This blog is a counterpoint to most of the LitRPG world, which fawns over some books that are complete crap. Even when a review is negative, I scratch my head to find a discernible reason why the book was docked, see the review for “Awaken Online” where one person gave the book a two star review for not updating a character sheet. WTF?
For most LitRPG books, reading Amazon reviews is about as enlightening as shaking a magic eightball and seeing what pops up. There’s some very good books in the mix, but I’m repeatedly seeing 300 reviews, almost all five stars, on books that can barely be considered stories.
To be honest, I’m less mad at Chatfield or any author than I am at the reviewers.
If the reviewers were rating these books honestly, then I wouldn’t have much of a problem. If the reviews said, “This book has weak characters, random scenes, lots of repetition, and bad dialogue, but I really love it because (insert reason here)” then I wouldn’t get mad.
I’m not going to read a book like that, and if I did, I would go in forewarned with what I was about to get. I could only blame myself in that case. I’m not mad reading “Wesley Crusher: Teenage F*ck Machine” because I knew exactly what I was going to get.
But when lots of people say, “This is a five star, OMG book, best thing ever!” and I pick up the book, read it, and find out there’s no story, no characters, and barely a coherent sentence, then my blood boils and wrath descends.
Yes, I agree that the litrpg readership gives many authors a pass on bad writing because they are new authors, they like the genre, or the author introduces a new concept. You can have a cool idea and plot but still suck as writing. I’m glad you did the interview and I read your synopsis of it. I agree with you that as long as authors get a pass they will not improve, that generalizes to anything in life.