By Adam Roberts | July 5, 2008
Categories: Lit Crit
Well, this is very interesting indeed. Niall Harrison, that tall man, has hosted a detailed, in-depth, intelligent and (I think) very penetrating four-way discussion of Swiftly over at Torque Control: Niall H, Dan Hartland, Victoria Hoyle and Paul Kincaid take part. The first I knew of it was when Niall dropped me a line to say it was live; and I've been stewing over what it says, and the larger issues it raises, ever since. In a nutshell: Niall H liked the book with only a few reservations; Dan H also liked the book, with some more serious reservations (his contributions are particularly articulate and well-written, I must say); Victoria H liked the first bit of the book, and disliked the second bit, leaving her overall with a stronger proportion of dislike than like; and Paul
H K, though courteous, loathed the whole novel.
I'm pondering the propriety, or wisdom, of responding to the points made at greater length, but find myself on balance disinclined, partly because as dead-author I have to concede that I am not so well positioned to judge as these four are, and partly from the natural reticence of an Englishman. But that shouldn't hold you back; go there, and comment. [Update: 7 July ... in the end I overcame my disinclination sufficiently to post some responsive words on characterisation at The Valve; but not, I hope, by way of naked self-justification in the teeth of readerly dislike. I continually bear in mind that there's a good okham's-razorish possibility that the reason Paul Kincaid thinks the novel is shit ... is because it is shit. I'm happy to concede, actually, that the novel is shit. The question is whether it is good shit, or bad.]