My debut novel, The Yoga Sutras, was published one year ago today. Publishing the book was a huge personal achievement for me, but it’s hardly been a bestseller. In order to punish myself for this failure and engage in some self-flagellation, I’ve decided to take a hard look at reviews of the book and see what I can learn.
The reviews seem to have divided opinion. There are a total of 25 ratings, with the overall average being 3.6, which isn’t too bad at all. 17 of the ratings are 4 or 5 star, and 7 of them are 1 or 2 star. That sounds like a win to me, although in the interests of full disclosure, two of the 5 star ratings are from my wife and my mother.
What did the haters hate most about the book?
This is the very first review the book received:
What a joke. I am so sorry that I purchased this book. I can’t imagine who would actually enjoy it.
I learned nothing from this review, except bitterness and self-loathing.
Here’s another in the same vein:
I bought it thinking it would be a light read, … what it was was a freaky science fiction like book … it only became more ridiculous. Do not waste your time.
Science fiction? Surely you have mixed up my book with another. Mine is a philosophical comedy, not sci-fi at all.
This is better:
Extra weird and sometimes hard to follow.
The book is intentionally weird, and yes, I was aiming to make the reader work a little.
This next one is also interesting:
It’s a good, but disturbing read. I gave it two stars because while it is a good read, it’s not anything I want to read about and because the ending is seriously ambiguous.
Ambiguous ending, yes, I worked hard on making it ambiguous. Sorry you didn’t enjoy that experience.
Here’s one that hurt:
Jackson has written a 300 page story that revolves around the life of a really dull man named Dave.
A dull man? My dangerously-on-the-edge anti-hero, Dave? I simply cannot understand this comment.
OK, that’s enough self-flagellation, let’s move on to …
Some of these are almost embarrassing in their praise.
Here’s a good one to start:
The pacing in “The Yoga Sutras” is great and the character interactions are top-notch and believable.
The Yoga Sutras is a polished intelligent book that could easily have come from one of the few big publishing houses.
And at last, someone who found it funny:
There were moments when I was reading the book where I laughed out loud.
And this one:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – cover to cover. At times, I laughed out loud.
I found myself laughing out loud a lot with this book.
This reviewer brought his own personal issues along for the ride:
This book was fucking hilarious. It actually had me laughing out loud. If I had any weed or LSD, I’d totally read this book while on that shit. It’d be a mad trip, for sure.
The book isn’t all laughs, of course:
The mental health decline of the central character is for me the strongest memory of the Yoga Sutras which is described with sympathy and power.
This reviewer found something profound in the book’s narrative:
This book is fascinating, in the weirdest ways. It’s like an atheist transgender priest is giving a sermon on the meaning of life, and how one can attain enlightenment. Or something. That’s how much sense this book doesn’t make. And at the same time, it makes perfect sense.
This pleased me greatly:
Once I picked up The Yoga Sutras, the clean, easy sentence structure and entertaining style hooked me and I just kept reading. Dave’s inner life, and eventually his outer life, spin out of control under the pressure of a female trinity: his yoga teacher, his wife, and his 6-year-old daughter.
And I’ll leave the final words to this reviewer:
The Yoga Sutras is anything but trite. The chapter headings follow a sequence of yogic positions and principles, starting with the Salute to the Sun posture and finishing with The Corpse, leading into Superconsciousness … There is a perfect synergy between plot and themes. Underpinning this is Dave’s (the protagonist) reading of the original Yoga Sutras as he struggles to make sense of life. It is a truly inspired way of mapping out a novel. It was so smoothly done, I was entranced. Dave has a vivid, lurid imagination and we find ourselves seamlessly entering his world populated by angels, goddesses, demons, witches and talking SAT NAVs. The exploration of gender was brilliant. Much has been written about gender politics and the search for truth, but if you want a truly original, funny and poignant treatment of these subjects, read “The Yoga Sutras”.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m currently working on my second novel, a dark psychological thriller, which isn’t too far from completion.