There are two components to this post.
First, I'd like to briefly review a book I first read in 1962. I was a sophomore in college and the professor of my Sociology 202 class assigned this reading as a hypothetical example of what happens when a society and all its institutions, laws, norms and mores completely break down. I recently discovered this apocalyptic novel has been reprinted in 1995 and again in 2005. It remains as compelling now as it was those 56 years ago. Maybe even more so, given the proliferation of nuclear tipped weapons in possession of madmen in this new century.
Alas Babylon, by Pat Frank: A nuclear holocaust has devastated the United States and much of the rest of the world. The patina of civilization has been swept away. Miraculously, a small town in central Florida is spared the ravages of the blasts and radiation. But the isolated community regresses to the dark ages when there is no electrical power, telecommunications, or television. Within weeks, there is no gasoline, no provisions left on retail shelves, no functioning police or protective services, no means of charging batteries and eventually no means of producing flame. But the small community of survivors learns to pull together and face what will undoubtedly be the longest night in history.
Although it depicts a terrifying eventuality, Mr. Frank has somehow created a story that captures the indomitability of the human spirit. It's populated with lovable (and some not so lovable) characters who for the most part have been well developed and to whom the reader can relate as everyday folks. The story line follows a good narrative arc with a hook, action rising to a crescendo, a logical climax and a cliff-hanging conclusion. If one could find fault in the author's style it might be that this tale contains some stereotypes that reek of racism and sexism. But, hey, that's probably a reasonable depiction of the tenor of the times in Florida sixty years ago.
Component Two: Reviewing Books on amazon
Have you ever tried to post a review on amazon.com only to get an error message that says you are not a qualifed reviewer? Several people who've tried to review my first novel, Finding Lien, have been told that in order for their review to be accepted, they must have an amazon account and have purchased $50.00 worth of product within the preceding 12 months.
I invited the policy to the attention of my publisher and pointed out that this seems like a case of a corporate giant holding authors and publishers hostage. After all, the more reviews a book receives, the more marketing visibility it has, and sales go up. We know that amazon's magical algorithms will uptick the market exposure of any book with 50 or more reviews. So everybody wins - the author, the publisher and the retailer (amazon). Right? .
Black Rose Writing, the publisher of my two novels advised me that they were following the policy closely and hoped that some middle ground could be found. The reason for the policy is that there are some deviant companies out there who will open myriad false accounts, leave multiple reviews, then charge the authors for 50 or more reviews.
So, now you know the rest of the story.