Thoughtful Thursday: Diamonds in the Rough

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsAs a reviewer I get a chance to read books I wouldn’t normally read — it’s part of the job. However I have also been known to purposely read something that looks quite terrible on the off-chance that I discover a real “diamond in the rough.” These “diamonds” not only have terrible covers, but have cheesy back cover descriptions and blurbs from authors you’ve never heard of.

“Jack John Johnson’s latest book was great.” — Patrick Warbermanjensen Author of Night Fillies

I admit that I have not been very successful at finding diamonds. I tend to not finish them and then I usually have to cleanse them from my brain with a stiff drink. One diamond I actually did find, back when I was 13 years old, was L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. It’s a very polarizing novel in the Science Fiction community. People seem to either love it or hate it. When I bought it, I had no clue who Hubbard was and, at a quick glance, the book seemed to be quite awful. My grandfather had actually purchased it after we spotted it at the grocery store. We chuckled about the ridiculous cover and the book’s overwhelming length, and decided we should read it just for the fun of it.

We both read it and liked it a great deal. I had read it with no prior knowledge of Hubbard’s shenanigans. I liked Hubbard’s over-the-top style and simple prose. It was the very essence of a SciFi adventure story, and for a 13 year old it was like nothing I’d ever read before. (Keep in mind, this was well before the abysmal movie adaption.)

Have you ever bought a book on a whim and expected the worst, but got the opposite? How about a favorite of yours that seems to get a bad rap? Tell us about it in the comments below and we’ll pick one of you to choose a book from our Stacks.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. Sorry- Nothing comes to mind that I can add. But I just had to make the comment that it is so cool that you and your grandfather shared that book.

  2. If I’m a book nerd, then my grandfather was book savant. The man literally read the entire fiction section in his local libray. If it had words on it, he read it…and generally liked it. I never heard him say anything bad about a book. In his later years he would read those stupid romance books. If we really wanted to make his day, we’d buy him a stack of romance westerns….yuck.

  3. I bought Loose Ends by Terri Reid. It’s a paranormal mystery by an Indie author who I’d never heard of and has a dark gray cover but it was only a couple of dollars so I took a chance on it. I really liked it and have read all of the other books in the series as they came out.

  4. The one that pops into my head is the original “Shannara” books by Terry Brooks. I read them many years ago (ugh, too long to admit) and really enjoyed them at the time. I was probably a few years older than you Justin, when you read “Battlefield Earth”. I know many people consider them a clone of Tolkien’s Fellowship, and they are probably right. All I know is that I enjoyed reading them at the time, and as far as I am concerned, that’s all that matters.

  5. Hello! I always made a point to avoid books that are in those massive series, like “Forgotten Realms” or DragonLance.” However, a while ago, my friend convinced me to read “Dragons of Autumn Twilight.” It was the literary equivalent of a Steven Seagal movie — so cheesy, so cliched, and so ridiculously awesome. I didn’t like the rest of the books in the series, but that first one was fantastic.

  6. Sam- That trilogy is the only Dragonlance books I’ve read but I thought the same thing. I’d have loved them even more if I’d read them when I was a kid. And I bought the 3 book box-set which has awesomely cheesy cover illustrations. I keep that box set on my book shelf because I want to live in that tree-top village.

  7. Sam, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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