I ended up exhanging words with Jonny Nexus about his book I reviewed a couple of days ago. Negative reviews are never nice, so I wouldn’t have faulted him if he’d written a savage reply – as it was, Jonny had some reasonable points that I should clarify for the interested folks, myself included.
I also invited Jonny to set us up with some links to alternative reviews of the book that provide different viewpoints. I understand that the book has garnered some rather positive reviews from different quarters, so I encourage anybody who finds the idea of a rpg parody novel attractive to look for those and not trust in just my viewpoint.
How Gamenight ended up in my hands
I just reread my description of how I ended up reading Gamenight – I’ve been told by both Jonny and others that the segue to the review proper might be interpreted in some weird way as hinting something uncomplimentary about the author’s motivations in giving us the book. Being that we compared our experienced with Jonny and now know the truth, there’s little reason to not clarify: apparently the reason for us getting a complementary copy of the book was that a mutual acquaintance had suggested to Jonny that we might be interested in retailing the book in Finland, which had inspired Jonny to ask for an introduction so he could give us a review copy. When we actually met, both parties quickly realized that there was little grounds for cooperation, but as Jonny didn’t know whether the word had already leaked that he intented to give us a review copy, he felt that it would be discourteous to back off at that point – meanwhile at least I didn’t know that our short meeting had been planned earlier, so I was left mystified at Jonny’s move in giving us the book without any notable provocation – Arkenstone is an insignificant player in the retail business, the only reason somebody would give us a complementary copy of a novel would be because they’ve grossly and embarrasingly misunderstood what we do.
Understandably I was a bit confused by the whole event, but I wanted to answer a good deed in kind, which led to the review I wrote earlier. Jonny wasn’t very happy with me representing the review as some sort of favour, which is fine – I decided to write the review before I read the book, and I’m just not the sort to censor my own output. In practice I certainly hope that my review, as all publicity, helps the book garner more attention in the marketplace as well as a clearer profile – people who’d otherwise have never heard of the book will get to know of it, and perhaps buy it. All publicity helps in a product finding its correct position in the market place, which is a benefit for everybody in the long run, the author included. That’s what I’ve been taught about culture industry in this information age, anyway.
Although I said earlier that Gamenight is self-published, Jonny tells me that his relationship with the publishing house is actually contractual. My mistake, I assumed too much based on the webpages of the publisher and the active hand Jonny takes in marketing the book.
Jonny has apparently made a name for himself in the gaming field by writing the sort of gaming humour Gamenight represents, so I hope nobody took my general speculation about this genre as implying anything about Jonny, specifically. I still think myself that we, as participants in the rpg culture, should take a long hard look at why rpg comedy always seems to consist of cruel parodies of old-school dungeoneering; however, if you like that sort of thing, that’s not only OK in my books, but I also hope that you’ll like Gamenight – its writing style is fluid, a bit like young Terry Pratchett, and I’m sure that if you don’t think that this sort of thing is old hat, you’ll enjoy the book quite well. My brother Markku did, I understand.
A bit of review philosophy
A little parting thought about reviews and stuff: Jonny was perplexed at why I revealed the ending to his book for no apparent reason at all. Reading over the text I think I know why it seems strange to him – I write, as a rule, from the perspective of criticism when reviewing, not marketing. The reason I work over the ending of the book in such detail is that I’m trying to understand what the theme of the book might be. Clearly there is something happening in Gamenight in those last few pages, but I can’t off-hand say what that something is. Either Jonny is giving us rpg advice (that’s what I’d expect, personally; why else depict his characters in such damning light, if not to provide catharsis and some sort of answer at the end?) or he’s resolving some character drama. Both are a bit puzzling as far as interpreting the book goes, for the reasons I explain in the review.