The Alexandrian

The reaction to the Lensmen novels of E.E. “Doc” Smith I mentioned yesterday is taking longer to finish than I’d hoped. Instead, let me share some thoughts on the grading scale I use for the What I’m Reading reviews:

A – Excellent

B – Good

C – Average/Mediocre

D – Poor

F – Worthless

Or, to be a little more descriptive:

A – This book is a classic. You should definitely give it a try ASAP, and it’s probably worth reading multiple times.

B – This book is very enjoyable. I recommend it, and it might be worth a reread.

C – This book was okay. If it’s in a genre you particularly like, you’ll probably find something to enjoy here — but there are a lot of things that will distract and detract from your reading experience. Definitely not worth a reread.

D – This book was seriously flawed. It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but there’s not enough here for me to recommend it on any level. Approach with extreme caution.

F – Complete and utter waste of time. Unless someone is paying you to read this book, don’t bother.

Pluses and minuses generally modify or color these grades. An A- is an excellent book with a few flaws. A B+ is a good book with some memorable moments of genius peeking through.

Most of the grades you’ll see from me will probably be in the A or B range. The reason for this is simple: I’m generally pretty good at picking what books I want to read. Since I’m not reading a lot of crap, I’m not in a position to review it.

An A+, it should be noted, is reserved for a book which immediately finds its way onto my personal Top 50. That isn’t an exact science, since I don’t actually keep a precise Top 50 list, but if I’m giving a book an A+ its because I think it compares favorably with Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, Kuttner’s Fury, Cherryh’s Cyteen, Howard’s Hour of the Dragon, Banks’ Use of Weapons, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Bujold’s Memory, or Bester’s The Stars My Destination. Take that as you will.

The basic theory of this grading system is Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. I figure that if something falls into that 90% range, then it’s not worth wasting the time to determine exactly how crappy it is — so all of that material is simply graded F. The other grades deal entirely with that 10% of the pile which is worth our time to consider.

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2 Responses to “What I’m Reading – Grades”

  1. robbbbbb says:

    I love Bujold. I’ve read her stuff for over twenty years, and I eagerly anticipate the release of every one of her new books. (Even if Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen disappointed.)

    I am surprised to see anyone put any of her works on a level with The Lord of the Rings. I think Memory is a terrific book that welds together theme and action into a seamless whole. Miles deals with consequences of previous actions. It’s a great book, and I’ve re-read it several times. I don’t think it’s Bujold’s best work; I think the Vorkosigan series peaks at the dinner party in A Civil Campaign.

    You think it’s that good, that it can stand alongside one of the titans of 20th century English literature? Why?

  2. Justin Alexander says:

    Review of Memory.

    Do I think Memory is as good as The Lord of the Rings? No. I actually consider LOTR to be the most important novel of the 20th century. But, as I said, I think it compares favorably and I would rank it as one of the Top 50 SF books of all time.

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