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The Unvarnished Eye

7 August 2013

I’ve talked before on the blog about how I handle it when a friend sends me something of… let’s call it “substandard quality” to read. But what happens when a friend sends me something to look at that’s really good?

In some ways, reading something that’s quite good can be harder than reading something that’s got problems from start to finish. The editor in me wants to find something about which to give feedback. The editor in me wants to send the thing back bleeding, because that’s what editors do.


Pictured: The editor in me. He’s kind of a dork.

Such was the case when my pal Shirin Dubbin sent me the ARC of her newest release, To The Fifth Power. The first step in reading something a friend sends is to disassociate myself from the friendship for a couple of days — to try and forget that this is a person I like so I can read the material without prejudice, without unfairly weighting any opinions I have. I try to read things (from friends, especially) with an unvarnished eye. So for a few days, I kept out of contact with Shirin and let the book just sit there on my phone, untouched.

Here’s the problem: I’m not just pals with Shirin — I’m also a fan. She’s one of the few authors who can write something I normally don’t dig (example: romance), but I’ll end up quite liking her take on it. That’s definitely the case with To The Fifth Power, which I think can best be described as a dark romance where most parties involved in the narrative just happen to have superhuman powers. And fight crime. 

Right from the start of the book, I could see there was something special going on here. It wasn’t a “hey, let’s take the popular comic book tropes and blend them into the popular romance genre!” This was a work that presented a broken protagonist, suffering from PTSD and unable to sleep. These were human characters that also had superhuman abilities. 



The Editor in me never bothered to punch in as I read it. Instead, the Fanboy in me took his shift, and I read it without looking for problems. It’s a quick read, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. 

This is the kind of thing you hope for when someone you know sends you something to read. It’s not a chore; it’s not a favor. It’s just a well-written, entertaining story that makes you forget that your buddy probably sent it to you to get some constructive feedback. (For the record, I haven’t given Shirin any constructive feedback. The Editor in me goes MIA when the Fanboy finds something he wants to geek out over. The Editor was last seen banging his head against a wall while reading Facebook posts of varying degrees of illiteracy. If you see him, there’s a tag with my phone number on his collar.)

So it goes without saying I think you should check out To The Fifth Power, and I’d think that even if I wasn’t pals with the author.

However — and this is the main thrust of the blog post — how do you react when someone sends you something to read that’s actually quite good? Do you have a harder time providing feedback than when they send you something awful? Do you even bother, or do you just hand it back to them with a big thumbs-up?

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