No bookworm makes it through the gestational period without the help of a librarian. They help us spin our cocoon, watch over us while we pupate, and shepherd us out as a newly formed nerd butterfly.
I overdid the metaphor, huh?
Anyway. The point is this: Librarians rock, and it should come as no surprise that writers love them. So I was particularly jazzed when a fan who is currently pursuing her Masters in Library Science chose CONTROL POINT as the topic for her “Review the Reviews” assignment. It’s a neat window into what librarians look for when they make buying decisions for their libraries.
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a lot of fantastic fan creations since I began writing, but this is the first time my fiction has influenced someone’s academic course. It’s incredibly gratifying, and I’m psyched to share it with you. Read on:
Review the Reviews: Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
Identify an Item
The item identified for this assignment is the urban fantasy novel Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. The novel was released by Ace on January 31, 2012, as a mass market paperback and may be found on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Ops-Control-Myke-Cole/dp/1937007243/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349286456&sr=8–1&keywords=control+point+by+myke+cole. The novel is also available as an ebook for the Kindle device. During the research for this assignment, several reviews of the novel were discovered, three of which shall be analyzed in the sections below.
Describe Review Access
Reviews for Shadow Ops: Control Point were discovered first through Amazon.com and subsequently through the novel’s author’s website. Initially, Amazon.com provided quotes from reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly (“Shadow Ops: Control Point : Myke Cole,” 2012). Further, the Amazon.com webpage for the novel included a link to Myke Cole’s personal website (“Shadow Ops: Control Point : Myke Cole,” 2012). Cole’s website provided an extensive list of links to fifty reviews for Shadow Ops: Control Point (Cole, 2012). These links led directly to the reviews, most of which seemed to be from science-fiction and fantasy blogs and websites, but also included the links to reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly (Cole, 2012). The direct links to the reviews proved convenient for the assignment.
Analyze the Reviews
The three reviews of Shadow Ops: Control Point chosen for the assignment are from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and SFSignal.com. Through consultation of Gregory’s Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections: An Introduction, six selection criteria were identified as required for an ideal review:
- Content – In the case of a novel, a brief synopsis of the plot, main character, and the reviewer’s overall impression of the work.
- Currency – Inclusion of information pertaining to the item being, as Gregory states “Published recently,” or having “Availability for purchase” (Gregory, 2011, p. 62), to ensure selection of the item.
- Author reputation – Reference to the author’s authoritative treatment of the subjects in the novel or reputation within the genre.
- Cost and physical attributes – Information about the cost of the item and a physical description, i.e. hardcover or paperback book.
- Language and reading level – The language or languages in which the item is published and the reading level of the text.
- Publicity – Whether the review is a part of “Public attention, including critical reviews, web hits, movies, and other positive publicity for the title,” (Gregory, 2011, p. 61). Allusion to the publicity received by the item provides insight as to how a library’s customers may receive the item.
The two most important criteria for a review, and should comprise the majority of the review’s text, are the content and publicity of the item being reviewed. The other criteria may be discovered through other sources such as Amazon.com, but inclusion of currency, author reputation, cost and physical attributes, and language and reading level provides a convenience that may sway a selector to use the review source in the future. In the subsections below, the three reviews will be analyzed according to each criterion.
The three reviews analyzed all contain a brief synopsis of the plot and a description of the main character of Shadow Ops: Control Point, but they differ in the amount of examination and overall impressions of the novel. The reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly are short, totaling only 137 and 168 words respectively, but a majority of their texts are devoted to a synopsis of the plot and introduction to the novel’s main character (Cassada, 2012) (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). The Publishers Weekly review gives this statement to provide some insight into the content of Cole’s novel: “Cole’s apparent disapproval of state-sanctioned brutality, slavery, and torture even in the face of possible existential threats is a welcome novelty in the era of 24,” (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). The review from Library Journal fails to comment on the merit of the novel at all. In contrast, the review from SFSignal.com begins with a synopsis of the novel’s plot and main character, but then follows with a sizable commentary on the treatment of the themes in the novel, drawing a connection between the military actions within the novel and the current War on Terror (Andrew, 2012). The review further touches upon the issue of civilian contractors working for the Department of Defense in war zones (Andrew, 2012). The overall impression of the novel is presented that while the novel is a strong debut for the author, “the book does have its rough patches,” mainly in the beginning and “stiff dialogue” at times (Andrew, 2012). The SFSignal.com review provides much more insight into the content than the Library Journal review or the Publishers Weekly review.
Currency is addressed in two of the reviews. First, the Publishers Weekly review appeared within a month of the official release date of Shadow Ops: Control Point, (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). Similarly, the Library Journal review lists the release date of the novel as February 2012 (Cassada, 2012). No mention is given in the review from SFSignal.com of a publication date.
Cole’s reputation and authoritativeness are touched upon in all three of the reviews. The Library Journal review states that Shadow Ops: Control Point is “a debut by a former military officer,” (Cassada, 2012) showing that the novel is Cole’s first published, but lends credibility to his treatment of military life in the novel. Similarly, the review from SFSignal.com mentions that Cole draws upon his military experience to write an urban fantasy involving the U.S. military (Andrew, 2012). The review from Publishers Weekly does not allude to Cole’s military experience, but does give credit to Cole as a writer: “Though clearly a debut, the novel shows promise” (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). In all, the three reviews reflect positively on the author’s reputation.
Cost and Physical Attributes
The cost and physical attributes of Shadow Ops: Control Point are addressed in the reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, but are not mentioned in the review from SFSignal.com. Both reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly begin with a listing of the price and ISBN of the novel (Cassada, 2012) (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). The Publishers Weekly review also states that the novel is a “mass market paperback” (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). Although the Library Journal review does not explicitly state that the novel is a paperback, the review is found in the serial under the heading “Science Fiction/Fantasy Mass Market Paperbacks of Note,” clearly indicating the physical state of the novel (Cassada, 2012).
Language and Reading Level
Language and reading level of the novel proved to be the criterion in which all three reviews lacked. Again, the review from SFSignal.com failed to include any information pertaining to the language or reading level of Shadow Ops: Control Point. The review from Publishers Weekly also gives no mention of the language, although the review is found under the “Fiction” section of the serial, indicating that the novel is categorized as Adult Fiction (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). Similarly, the review from Library Journal does not give any information on the language, but the review is found under the “Genre Fiction” section of the serial, specifying that the novel would be Adult Fiction (Cassada, 2012).
Lastly, the three reviews are part of the positive publicity given to Shadow Ops: Control Point, and, the fact that this is a debut novel which has received attention from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as several fantasy and science fiction websites, is admirable. The review from Library Journal concludes that the novel “will attract readers who like their urban fantasies with more of a military edge” (Cassada, 2012), providing a specific readership for selectors to keep in mind. The review from Publishers Weekly is mostly concerned with summarizing the plot and a description of the main character, but does include the statement that “the novel shows promise” (“Shadow Ops: Control Point,” 2011). The review from SFSignal.com, being the most detailed of the three reviews, gives the highest praise for the novel and therefore furthers the positive publicity. Within the SFSignal.com review, the novel is given four out of five stars in the website’s rating system (Andrew, 2012).
Meeting the Selector’s Needs and the Best Review
The three reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and SFSignal.com each satisfy a specific need for a selector in a public library setting. The Publishers Weekly and Library Journal reviews are short, with little discussion of the literary merit of Shadow Ops: Control Point. However, these serials are widely read, and serve to make selectors aware of Cole’s debut novel. Once a selector is made aware of the novel, he or she may turn to the genre-specific websites and blogs to find more extensive reviews, such as the review from SFSignal.com. Two major drawbacks of the reviewed reviews are a lack of information about languages in which the novel is available and a lack of a statement as to whether the novel would be appropriate for the Young Adult audience. A selector for a public library may be interested in a Spanish or other language translation of the novel for the library’s customers. Also, the popularity of fantasy and science fiction with young adults would prompt a selector to determine if a copy of the novel would be appropriate in the Young Adult section as well as the Adult section of the collection. The review from SFSignal.com gave the greatest insight into the novel and its themes, and rated the novel. This review was by far the most satisfying of the three reviews, providing a selector with a glimpse into Shadow Ops: Control Point without the selector having to read the novel. Perhaps the most significant statement from the SFSignal.com review that would sway a selector to select the novel is the following: “Cole’s penned a book that essentially asks: what happens when you take the U.S. Army and drop them into a fantasy world where the rules are all different? Something that looks startlingly like the wars overseas in Afghanistan: protracted, confusing, and bloody” (Andrew, 2012). This statement distinguishes the novel above other possible selections, and indeed distinguishes the review as a thoughtful analysis of Cole’s work.
Andrew. (2012). Review: Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. SF Signal. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/01/review-shadow-ops-control-point-by-myke-cole/
Cassada, J. (2012). Shadow Ops: Control Point. [Book Review]. Library Journal, 137(1), 80–80. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2012/01/books/genre-fiction/sf-fantasy/science-fictionfantasy-mass-market-paperbacks-of-note-january-2012/#_
Cole, M. (2012). Public Affairs (Press Kit) | Myke Cole. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://mykecole.com/public-affairs-press-kit
Gregory, V. L. (2011). Collection Development and Management for 21st Century Library Collections: An Introduction. New York: Neal-Schuman.
Shadow Ops: Control Point. (2011). [Book Review]. Publishers Weekly, 258(49), 62–62. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978–1-937007–24-9
Shadow Ops: Control Point : Myke Cole. (2012). Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Ops-Control-Myke-Cole/dp/1937007243/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349286456&sr=8–1&keywords=control+point+by+myke+cole