Reviews matter for books and their authors.
Let’s unpack why, a little bit. Though some of this (maybe even all of this) will be blisteringly obvious, I feel it all needs restating because sometimes we just need to be reminded about things. I certainly do. The only reason I wear pants is my wife is always like, “hey, you, pants” before I leave the house in the morning. Admittedly the embarrassment I’d have suffered upon leaving said house would’ve been minor, since I work in a shed in the yard, so the most I’d have done would be to flash my underdrawers at various noisy robins and probably a squirrel or three. But still: it’s a helpful reminder.
And so I remind you:
Reviews matter for, say it with me, books and their authors.
Here, then, is why:
First, they’re a more generalized variant of “word-of-mouth.” It’s not you telling a single friend about a book (which is also very good and you should do that), but rather, telling the world about a book. Our online circle of trust is larger than our in-person one, these days — though fractured social media has crumbled that cookie, I fear, thus breaking the circle — and reviews can reach that circle of trust. Which allows the book to echo out like a song or a sound that others can hear. It’s nice. It helps.
Second, and please understand that this slicks my tongue with foulness just to say buuuut, THE ALMIGHTY ALGORITHM. Unfortunately, online visibility is subject to the whims of deranged digital robots, and one way to goose an algorithm is through leaving reviews for the books you love. That means leaving reviews on your choice of social media (though some are blessedly ungoverned by Algorithms), or even better, on sites like Goodreads or Amazon. (You can leave a review at Amazon even if you didn’t buy the book there!) Also true for B&N and Apple and Kobo and so forth.
Third, sometimes those reviews have other side benefits as well. Goodreads will do their Goodreads Choice Awards and also sometimes sum up some of the best reviewed books of XYZ genre — The Book of Accidents made a horror list of theirs (Readers’ Top 66 Horror Novels of the Past Three Years, which is admittedly sort of arbitrary but hey whatever) exactly because it has the aggregate review score and number to be included. Sometimes outlets will use the number of reviews to determine whether or not a book is going to get coverage or not. It’s not a great system and I don’t love it, to be clear, but it’s how shit works and we are sadly subject to its callous whims.
Third, and okay, this isn’t the most vital reason but — it’s nice! It’s nice to get positive reviews. I mean, it’s less nice to get bad reviews, and I don’t read those. (And please get shut of the notion that we should read them or that we should view them as instructive. I even hear some authors say this sometimes, “Well, I like to read my bad reviews in case they contain something useful.” They don’t. I don’t mean they’re a bad phenomenon or that people shouldn’t write negative reviews! I only mean, they’re not for us. They’re for other readers. Reviews are readers talking to readers.)
Again, I don’t believe readers owe us authors anything at all. You are not obligated morally or spiritually to leave a review if you read a book of ours, though not leaving a review does damn you to a purgatory where you never get to read a book again and instead have to watch endless Life Hack TikToks except they’re the kind of life hacks where they’re not life hacks at all but just people discovering how a product is actually already supposed to be used? Or like, basic-ass life hacks like the kind your mother would’ve told you had you listened to her years ago about how to open a pickle jar or stop pasta water from fizzing over? Beyond that, you’re not obligated at all. BUT it is nice and we appreciate it and you get a gold star in our hearts if you do.
So, if you’ve read Black River Orchard — or really any book by any author — and loved it, it’s great to talk about it, and also amazing if “talking about it” includes leaving a review somewhere out in the world.
We love you. If you love us. OUR LOVE IS CONDITIONAL I AM SORRY okay not really we love you anyway. Even if you don’t leave a review.
LET’S SEE WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
Well! I am back from my second leg of the Black River Orchard tour — this one, out west! — and it was pretty gosh dang spectacular. The events were all stellar and so many great readers came out to these wonderful bookstores and I felt bathed in booklove and and probably also apple sweat. I do think a special shout-out must go to Montana Book Company, in Helena, MT, not just because Charlie and Chelsia are an absolute delight, and not just because they’re a great bookstore fighting the good fight in honestly a pretty red-red-red state, but, selfishly, because they fucking brought it. Like, real-talk, I went there expecting a good event but maybe not a huge one? Something fun, intimate, easy, chill. Well, I was wrong — er, not about the fun or chill part, but about the size of the event. It was huge. They put out all these empty chairs and in my heart I was like, yeah no they’re not filling these seats, and then they pretty much filled those seats? It was wild. Such a cool crowd and the two of them also showed me around their town and — it was the best.
Also shout-out to Sadie Hartmann, YE MONSTROUS MOTHER HORROR, who has been a pal for a long time (and who long time readers of this site should know) — Sadie was my conversation partner in Seattle and is unsurprisingly so thoughtful with her questions and I hope to have more events with her in the future. (And please, if you’ve not checked out 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered, uhh, hello, do so immediately? Do not wait! Horror doesn’t stay trapped by Halloween, you’re gonna need this book every day of the year, it’s that good. The coolest thing is that the authors recommended in that book will then sign the book, and I tend to sign it like it’s a yearbook. It’s slick and cool and go get it.)
And a final shout-out goes to Natalie Metzger, who came to the Portland event at Powell’s and handed me a whole container (which I erm stole) of amazingly creepily delightful EVIL APPLE stickers, which some of you will receive in your prize packs from the pre-order contest. Natalie also did the wallpaper at the fore of this post. Natalie’s art is ever-delightful and I remind you that she was the artist on our book, You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton, which ahem ahem ahem is a good gift for people who need a weird pick-me-up in their lives. Ahem ahem ahem, holidays, ahem.
(Thanks also to all who brought me apples and books and other treats along the way, including those intrepid readers who realized I was travel-weary from traveling all day into Denver and they procured for me a LIFE-GIVING container of Panera’s mac and cheese which honestly is RILL GOOD?)
Also I’m literally just noticing right now, while Googling the book for some reviews, that, uhh, Black River Orchard was a USA Today bestseller last week?? It came in at #59??? I had no idea. I am not lying to you when I am saying I am truly just seeing this now as I type this paragraph. You can check the list yourself — I am stunned. Am I hallucinating? Huh. Wow. Whoa.
*stares at the wall for a bit*
*shakes it off*
Anyway here are more nice things people said about the book!
Also at USA Today, Brian Truitt included the book in a horror Halloween roundup, saying:
“Pour yourself some cider when sitting down with this huge (609 pp.) tome, set in small-town Pennsylvania. After several painstaking years, Dan Paxson’s apple trees have finally fostered a fruit his teen daughter has named the Ruby Slipper. Local residents become ravenous for its delicious taste – and the apple’s powerful aftereffects – but there’s something much more evil at root in this story of social status and rural terror.”
Den of Geek included it in their best horror of the year so far, saying:
“Chuck Wendig will make you think twice about autumnal apple picking in this contemporary fairy tale with a spooky bite. When Calla’s dad Dan plants an unusual orchard in their town of Harrow, it initially bears uniquely delicious fruit that makes everyone’s lives better, brighter, stronger. But the townspeople aren’t just consuming apples; they’re inviting madness into their hearts, turning more violent and inhuman, as a dark force waits over a century to reap its own harvest.”
Janelle Janson reviewed it for Cemetery Dance in a whoa-dang review, where she says some very nice things like:
“Chuck Wendig masterfully explores the irresistible allure of the Ruby Slipper apple, the darkness it awakens within the human psyche, and the powerful forces that seek to exploit its supernatural abilities. In the midst of this tantalizing mystery, the characters are forced to confront their deepest desires and confront the repercussions of their actions, in a thrilling narrative that leaves readers both enthralled and haunted until the very last page. One of the finest works from Mr. Wendig to date.”
The Los Angeled Review of Books took a deeeeeep crunchy bite of the book in a rigorous, thoughtful (and more academic) review, which I love, in a review called “Masculine Frailty and Ambition: On Chuck Wendig’s Black River Orchard.” Excerpt:
“Wendig’s skill in weaving together the small and large, local and universal, personal and political, so it’s clear that they are so enmeshed that the one is informed by and influenced by the other and cannot be extricated without great effort—in fact, cannot be extricated without delusion—renders this novel a cautionary tale well worth reading in our current sociopolitical climate. His ability to tell a compelling story with lush description, humor, and empathy amid the horror renders it just plain fun to read.”
Books Bones & Buffy included it in the best horror of the year thus far.
Culturefly included it on a list of horror novels to get you in the Halloweeny er okay that sounds weird HalloweenISH? mood:
“Black River Orchard is a big book, but boy does Wendig make the most of the daunting page count. With elements of folk horror and psychological suspense, this multi POV, character-driven novel is atmospheric, unique and downright weird in the best of ways. You’ll never look at an apple the same way again.“
A nice review from the Library Ladies, too — excerpt:
“So yes, this is a big book, like many of Wendig’s books are, but like his previous novels Black River Orchard is paced so well and is so addictive that it reads very, very fast. This nearly 700 page books took me maybe four days to finish because if I wasn’t dealing with the day to day responsibilities of my life, I was reading.”
Then, a coupla podcasts —
And I’m sure I already mentioned it but I got to do another round with Neil at Talking Scared, a true favorite.
If you still haven’t checked out the book and you want a signed, personalized copy, the very nice people at Doylestown Bookshop can furnish you with one.
And again, please leave a review somewhere if you’re able!
I LOVE YOU ALL
EXCEPT YOU OVER THERE
THE ONE WHO ATE ALL MY APPLES
YOU’RE ON MY LIST, YOU MONSTER
*vanishes in a splash of caustic apple juice*