This is something of a sidebar from the ongoing discussion about The Thirteenth Child (and, at this point, the discussion about the discussion about The Thirteenth Child), but it’s one that I am bothered by, for what I am sure will be obvious reasons:
I read this book awhile back, because I was given an ARC of it by someone I’ll simply refer to as Prominent SF Magazine Editor; I was considering a gig as a reviewer for him. (I ended up deciding against this for brand management reasons — hard to honestly critique the novels of established authors when you’ve got a book coming out in the same genre yourself; there’s a conflict of interest/competition issue there, I think. Maybe when I’m established myself, I can do it? I don’t know.) But I had to call him and warn him: the review would not be positive. I read the novel with interest, but increasing frustration as the book’s problems became clear (I had no warning that this was an AU that erased Native Americans [and Latinos, though that’s fallout of the NA erasure]). The book has other problems besides this. By the end of the book I was angry, and since the Prominent SF Magazine had a policy of “mostly positive reviews”, that wasn’t going to happen.
We’ve been here before with regard to the insidiousness of “mostly positive” reviews, but this seemed worth pulling out as an example where the harm caused by the policy is more obvious than usual. It does a disservice both to readers who might have seen the review and now will not, and to the field of sf reviewing and criticism as a whole, for which full and honest discussion must be a priority; I hope, though I accept it is likely in vain, that Prominent SF Magazine Editor feels a mite embarrassed by their reviews policy today. That the writer in question has subsequently decided not to review at all, at this stage in their career, also makes me sad — it impoverishes the dialogue, in more ways than one — but it is understandable.