Book Reviews: Main List and Stats Comparisons

Alphabetically by Title:
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Carrie, Stephen King
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Hyperion, Dan Simmons
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
The Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
The Once and Future King, T. H. White
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind


Alphabetically by Author:

Brooks, Terry: The Sword of Shannara
Card, Orson Scott: Ender's Game
Cherryh: C. J. : Heavy TimeHellburner
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Collins, Suzanne: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay
Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book
Goodkind, Terry: Wizard's First Rule
Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go
Jordan, Robert: The Eye of the World
King, Stephen: Carrie
Martin, George R. R. : A Game of Thrones
McCarthy, Cormac: The Road
Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
Mieville, China: Perdido Street Station
Meyer, Stephenie: Twilight
Niven, Larry: The Mote in God's Eye
Pournelle, Jerry: The Mote in God's Eye
Paolini, Christopher: Eragon
Pratchett, Terry: Night Watch
Robinson, Kim Stanley: Red Mars2312
Rowling, J. K. : Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Simmons, Dan: Hyperion
Tolkien, J. R. R. : The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit
White, T. H. : The Once and Future King

THE STATS COMPARISONS (preceded by a long caveat):
As I matched up the books side by side like this, I really started second-guessing some of my scores. For instance, is the depth of concept for Harry Potter really lower than that in The Graveyard Book? Or is Moby-Dick really so much more of a page-turner than Eragon or Wizard's First Rule (it was for me, but would that bear out for a wider group of readers? Maybe not.)? And while I feel justified in comparing YA books with "adult" books in the context of "books that adults may choose to read," it still doesn't make those comparisons easy. In a recent post about my Amazon review stats, Andrew Leon emphasized the dangers of comparing books, and those dangers are demonstrated here. I'll state up-front that if I was to review all of these books again, some of the stats would change. Still, I wouldn't make many changes that move a book more than a point from where it is. So the way I see it is that the score for any given book has a certain margin of error (maybe 1 point or so) that I'm fairly comfortable with.

I also have to emphasize that scores like these necessarily bear the marks of my personal preference and experience. I do my best to give even-handed reviews, but I am not a neutral computing machine, and I fully expect that other intelligent reviewers will disagree with some of these, and that's okay. I hope that this at least provides a starting point for conversation, and that some readers find the comparisons useful as a way of understanding the differences between books, however imprecise or idiosyncratic my efforts at scoring may be. Really, if all this does is get people thinking critically (even if it takes the form of being critical of the comparisons), it's worth the exercise because articulating any kind of argument or qualification helps to refine our thoughts about the books that we love and hate.

You can read about my scoring methodology here.

In order of Overall Recommendation:

10:
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

9:
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

8:
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

7:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Carrie, Stephen King
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

6:
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin

5:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

4:
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

3:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

2:

1:
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

In order of Writing Quality:

10:

9:
The Road, Cormac McCarthy

8:
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke

7:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The Once and Future King, T. H. White
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

6:
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
Carrie, Stephen King

5:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith

4:
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins 
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

3:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

2:
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

1:

In order of Depth of Concept:

10:
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

9:
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

8:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

7:
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Once and Future King, T. H. White
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

6:
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Carrie, Stephen King
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

5:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

4:
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

3:
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

2:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

1:

In order of having Rounded Characters:

10:
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

9:

8:
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Road, Cormac McCarthy

7:

Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

6:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Carrie, Stephen King
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

5:
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

4:
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins 

3:
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

2:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini

1:

In order of having a Well-Developed World:

10:
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien

9:
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

8:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

7:
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin

6:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Carrie, Stephen King

5:
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

4:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

3:

2:

1:

In order of being a Page-Turner:

10:

9:
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

8:
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
Carrie, Stephen King
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

7:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The Once and Future King, T. H. White
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

6:
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke

5:

4:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

3:

2:

1:

In order of Keeping Me Thinking:

10:
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

9:
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Hyperion, Dan Simmons

8:
2312Kim Stanley Robinson
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

7:
The Mote In God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien
The Once and Future King, T. H. White
Carrie, Stephen King

6:

Heavy Time, C. J. Cherryh
Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke

5:
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

4:
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins 
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

3:
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

2:
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Wizard's First Rule, Terry Goodkind

1:

18 comments:

  1. Given how hard you rated Harry Potter, I'm more than concerned in asking you, but would you read my book Thieves and Outcast and give me your opinion of it? I just self-published on kindle.

    diannahopemoore@aol.com

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    Replies
    1. Dianna, thanks for visiting. I should probably put a page up regarding soliciting reviews. For the time being, at least, I don't think I'm reviewing self-published works.

      Delete
  2. You know, I think the main drawback to your way of doing this is just too many categories. It's difficult to distinguish, for many people, the difference between, say, the quality of the writing and whether it's a page turner, because they're going to think that it's a page turner -because- of the quality of the writing, and, in many ways, they'd be correct. For myself, there's also the contrast between what is recommended and what is quality. Not that I don't make that distinction myself (sometimes), but in a lot of ways it seems disingenuous to say "this book isn't very good, but I recommend it" or "this book is great, but you shouldn't read it."

    Also, just to clarify my earlier statement about comparing books, because I don't remember saying this at the time, I only meant that in the way that you shouldn't decide on the merits of a book by weighing it against another book. Once each book has been weighed, so to speak, it's okay to say "I liked this one more than that one." If that makes sense.

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    Replies
    1. I think you're right that there can be some overlap in the categories...it's not like authors have this exact list of things that they're trying to check off when they write a novel or anything.

      But SOMETIMES, I think, there IS a difference between the categories, and then it's useful to have them. At least in my opinion, for instance, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is written incredibly well - better than 90% of what I've reviewed on my blog. Clarke is a real prose artist. But it certainly did NOT mean that I was ripping through her book. It took me over a month to even get halfway, because while I enjoyed her ability to craft words, the story just wasn't much of a "page-turner." The characters were not particularly dynamic. I never really worried for anyone. But damn, she could craft a phrase, and describe a setting.

      As to the difference between a "recommendation" and "a quality good book," I don't think I see as much of a difference. Anything I recommend above, say, a "7" is going to be a really quality book, a meaningful one, one that should make humanity better.

      To your last point, is what you are saying that you need to read a book before it's fair to compare it to anything? So for people that haven't read a book yet, they shouldn't rely on comparisons?

      Thanks for the comments, by the way

      Delete
    2. Oh, I understand the difference in the categories (as I said, I make those distinctions myself (but, mostly, just to myself)), but I think to a lot of people you're making a distinction where they can't see a difference. Especially with the "quality" vs "recommended" one. Most readers can't distinguish quality above, say, a 5 (that's totally arbitrary, and, yes, I'm being a reading snob, too), so you when you start trying to say that one is a 6 and one is a 9, they can't tell those two things apart. Does that make any sense?

      My last point:
      What I'm saying is this:
      When you review a book, you shouldn't go about reviewing it as it compares to some other book (as I said in that earlier comment). In a review, you should weigh the book just as a book. How good is that particular book at being a book and at accomplishing what the author set out to do. For instance, if it's full of grammatical errors or structure issues, the author did NOT accomplish what s/he set out to do. It's not fair for me, in a review, to start comparing the characters of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, because those are two different things. Those two characters have to be weighed as themselves while reviewing the respective books.
      That's the only way to approach a review objectively. If you're comparing against other stories in a review, you are, by definition, being subjective, and that's not a review; that's just telling someone how much you like the book.

      Apart from a review, though, it's totally normal and fine to compare books. To give your subjective on what you like better. So Percy Jackson sucks and is a whiny brat; I hate him and his story. Harry Potter is a fairly well rounded (over the course of the series) kid that starts out in a place where he feels out of his depth and is portrayed realistically growing into this new place of being. As opposed to Jackson who just masters his new powers all at once, which is dumb.

      I think, maybe, I'm doing one of your category things here, but this difference in approach is important to me. A review is more than just "did I like this book?" It should be an objective approach to the subject and how good a job the author has done.

      Am I getting any more clear in all of this or is it just getting more confusing?

      And I still can't subscribe... just so you know. I only remembered to come back and check because of your comment on my blog.

      Delete
    3. Andrew,
      I think you're right about a lot of people being uncertain about the difference between different categories here...except for maybe the book snobs. And that gets at who my audience is likely to be. I think I'd be okay if it's book snobs, an irritatingly nose-in-the air group which might be wondering if a certain genre offering is worth the time and effort. I've got some snobby blood running in my veins, having been an English Major, but I love the genre stuff. In my classes I came across all sorts of people who looked down on sci-fi and fantasy, and I'd love it if those hoity-toity types would realize that sci-fi and fantasy actually have a lot that's substantial to offer, even to the kinds of people who love Shakespeare, Dickens, and Melville. My wife is one of these people. I once made a book trade with her where she agreed to read Maniac Magee, Dune, and Watership Down in exchange for me reading Crime and Punishment.

      And the difference between a 6 and a 9? Probably doesn't matter to certain folks, but it's like when I look at Rotten Tomatoes, it DOES matter to me whether a movie scored 60% or 90%, even though the vast majority of the public probably doesn't care so much. I'm still pretty glad Rotten Tomatoes (or Metacritic, or similar sites) exists.

      And I think I'm slowly (probably my fault, not yours) coming to understand your point of view, and I think it may just be one that we'll argue about. we may just have different perspectives about it. But that's okay. I'll have to read some more of your reviews to see how you're doing it.

      For some reason, no subscribing to pages on my blogs...just on posts. I'll have to figure it out when I get a chance.

      Delete
    4. Well, I think the difference between a 6 and a 9 for movies is apparent to a lot more people, because people are much more conversant with movies than with books. In the end, though, I think all people really want to know (about books or movies) is "do you think I should I experience this?"

      Delete
    5. I think you've hit on something valid here...but I'd suggest that while a lot of people might think more along the binary of "yes or no?", "worth it or not?", the tipping point will vary with each person. For some, it might tip at the mediocre "6." And for others, it might tip at a "9." And the ones that tip at an "9" are gonna be pissed that someone told them that a "6" is totally worth it.

      Delete
  3. And it's not letting me subscribe to the comments, so I won't know if/when you respond to this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll try to figure this out, thanks for letting me know

      Delete
  4. I forgot I'd read the Dune series.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you are accepting recommendations, I'm interested in your opinion of Connie Willis' "Uncharted Territory". Also Lindsay's, if she'd read it. It's only 150 pages so won't take long.

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    Replies
    1. This is probably as good a place as any for recommendations. Maybe I should even solicit suggestions in the post. And any time someone makes a recommendation, they could try to place it somewhere on my stats list to give a quick and dirty sense of how they figure it might stack up (though since I'm a contrarian, it may not be the score that I choose).

      Thanks for the Connie Willis rec. I've heard enough about her that she's definitely on my list. Do you think "Uncharted Territory" is her best?

      Delete
    2. This may mark the first time anyone's asked for my opinion on a Sci-fi/fantasy work, since I'm generally considered a hater. But Neal's review convinced me to read "Never Let Me Go" (that, and the fact that I have appreciated other Ishiguro works) so maybe there's hope for me yet.

      Delete
  6. @neal
    One of her best, IMO. It was my gateway to her works.

    I enjoy her well-rounded characterisations; even without the names, I could visualise whose 'voice' the prose was.

    I studied biology, so her development of an alien world was interesting to me.

    I enjoy comedy most, so I think To Say Nothing Of The Dog is her best I've read. And re-read. And bought 2 copies.



    @llcall
    I'm curious, I suppose, about the sort of scifi you hate. My sister has an apathy.

    My mum thought she didn't like alcohol, until she acquired a taste of the lovely expensive champagne at my wedding.

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  7. I read your reviews, at least a few of them. I would suggest that you re-read David Eddings, whom you seem to admire to some extent. I think you'll find that with the passage of time (on your part, since you read his books a long time ago apparently), his writing will come across as being just as pedantic and trite as that of Terry Goodkind or other writers that you criticize. I'll look to see when the review come out.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anon. I do plan to review Eddings someday. I'd be surprised if when I do that I find his stuff to be as bad as Goodkind. My recollection of Eddings was that the more of his stuff I read, the more his characters often seemed to be cut from a mold that he used over, and over. A formula writer, he seemed to be. Still, I'd expect them to be paced well with at least mediocre humor and dialogue. Here's my expectation, as compared to movies:

      Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth stuff: Battlefield Earth. (Ugh)

      Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara: Clash of the Titans (Ugh. But not so ridiculous as Goodkind)

      David Eddings stuff: The Mummy. (Better-paced, more charismatic, some fun but cliche characters. Might not pay full price to see it in a theatre, though)

      But if what you're saying is that you want Jackson's LOTR, or Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, or Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, then I'd agree that Eddings just doesn't rise to the challenge.

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  8. I AGREE! but not with your rating of LOTR

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