A DNF (Did Not Finish) Experience Does NOT Qualify for a “Review”


As a writer and as a reader, I am a genre outsider. I don’t write or read squarely within any genre except Speculative Fiction, but that is so large as to be considered a literary category and not one genre (see previous post, https://sallyember.com/2014/07/10/guest-post-the-politics-of-speculative-science-fiction/, for what belongs within Spec Fic).

Furthermore, I don’t usually like what is published in most of the #SpecFic subgenres. I don’t even like their plots or characters. Same goes for #Romance. I often have to label books Did Not Finish (DNF), although I reserve even that designation for books I read a great deal of before abandoning.

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image from http://www.prettyinfiction.com by Jesse Burgoyne

Here are the reasons that I often Did Not Finish (DNF) a book. Books on my DNF list feature:

  • zombies and other horror characters/plots, especially “damsel in distress”;
  • dystopian, apocalyptic downers;
  • space wars, medieval wars, any other wars;
  • combat/violence masquerading as plot points;
  • instant, superficial romance (humans with humans or humans with aliens, shapeshifters, vampires or whatever);
  • gratuitous sex or violence (meaning, does not advance the character development or plot, and appears every so many pages, anyway);
  • military characters, past/future or pretend;
  • “instant” solutions, usually involving a main character’s finding a lover, to serious grief or other problems;
  • sexist, racist, misogynistic, heterosexist/homophobic, classist, ageist and other oppressive depictions of characters, even if they’re “realistic” for the characters or eras
  • clichès, trite plot twists, 2-D characters, and /or other types of bad writing
  • too many typos, grammar or other mistakes that reveal the absence of or very poor editing
  • nothing interesting, so I’M BORED.

As you might imagine, this list includes most speculative fiction and romance books.

You now understand the main reason I almost never do “review swaps.” I so strongly dislike other people’s books/stories, even when they’re relatively well-written, that I can’t even read past the first few pages for most of them. I have tried to read and review them, especially when they are well-written or the author is someone I wish to support for other reasons, but I just can’t appreciate what I don’t like.

Unlike other reviewers who find themselves unable to finish a book because they don’t like it, I don’t post a “review” of an unfinished book unless it’s written by a well-established author whom many others are praising. In those cases, I post my dissenting viewpoint just to round out the PR for that book, knowing my minority, low opinion won’t crush or crash them.

Otherwise, I don’t post my many DNFs with ratings and I do not post “reviews.” I strongly wish other DNF readers would adopt my policy.

It is completely unfair for anyone to give a “professional” opinion (which is what a review purports to be) of a piece of literature the reviewer hasn’t completed. I’ve had some “reviewers” read a few dozen pages of my 300+-page books and then have the audacity to post a ZERO or one-star “review.” What is the justification for that? When they label a sarcastic or dissatisfied DNF response after having read only a few pages a “review,” that infuriates me.

I don’t mind that some readers DNF my books. I understand that some don’t like them. I also encourage readers to comment on any books they want, all they want. As a frequently dissatisfied reader, myself, I empathize with DNF experiences. Sometimes, I explain.

I object strenuously, however, when these DNF readers label their preliminary reactions and comments a “review.” Even more heinous is that some have the gall to rate their DNF books.

In what other profession or situation does a “professional” who has had only a brief experience with the piece become entitled to the right to judge it? Can an Olympic judge watch just a few seconds of the gymnast’s floor exercise routine, then rate it? Do we allow a jury to hear only one witness or just a few words of testimony and give a verdict? When do we ever allow a teacher to give a semester’s grade after briefly meeting the child or giving just one quiz?

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image from mackenzian.com

Yes: not all readers finish books or even read most of a book. I am a reader who has a list of titles pages long I have done that with because they did not hold my interest. However, for fairness and professionalism, I strongly request that readers and especially reviewers who DNF not to rate or review those books. Please.

It is fair and helpful, meanwhile, for professional reviewers and avid readers to maintain a DNF list and even to share it. Better would be that we explain a little about our DNF reasons, but that is not expected or required (we’re busy!).

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image from mylifeinbookss.wordpress.com

I hereby proclaim: these are fake reviews, due to the readers’ DNF status. DO NOT READ DNF “reviews.” DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT THEY WRITE. DO NOT SUPPORT “REVIEWERS” who postDNF “reviews.”

One bonus: Within a DNF‘s comments are sometimes witty lines. Those I am pleased to re-post, just for fun.

Meanwhile, back in authors’ support land: please don’t ask me to do a review swap. I mostly do not do reviews, anyway. I do not consider myself a “professional” reviewer. I am just an avid reader and an author.

When I do choose to read a book and finish it, I will post a review. I promise.

Mostly, these days, #Iamwriting my books and blog posts.

Best to you all.

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