You open your email in anticipation. Of the seventy plus book review places to whom you sent your book--none has written a review. Two months have passed, and there is nothing—nothing but silence. You know your book is great. Your friends, your editor, some others who read the early version came back with glowing praise, but they don’t count. The rest of the world does not take them seriously. The book review section in the newspaper, the book review magazines, the online review sites—these are the ones you are still waiting for—but the only thing you hear is the sound of silence.
Then one day, a month later, you sit next to your PC, you don’t think about it, and all of a sudden, you notice—two of them have just landed in your mailbox. Your blood pressure rises as you open the first one. You start reading. The reviewer has done a reasonable job summarizing the plot… OK but what’s the bottom line? You skip some lines; you want to get to the bottom a little faster. Here it is, in black and white. She liked it. She liked it. She graded it—Five hearts. She thought the pacing was perfect, the characters—deep and distinctive, the delivery—superb. The dialogs—enjoyable and revealing. She liked everything. You get up; look out the window—I am good, you say to yourself.
You sit back and open the next one. Again, a decent summary, but you want to get to the bottom, and fast. “What does that mean? You ask yourself after reading the closing line. You move one paragraph up, then two, then one more sentence. He didn’t like it. But why? What’s wrong? Your face turns red. You are upset. You read it again. It’s the exact opposite of the previous review. Whatever she liked and praised, he hates, he rejects, and he lets you know it.
Did the two reviewers read the same book? You ask yourself. And then it hits you. Your book addresses a controversial subject. By definition, people on your side of the issue are likely to identify with your story, but those on the other side would not be in favor. They would reject it. If your good guy is a Republican and your reviewer is a Democrat; if your bad guy is the President of Iran, and your reviewer is the Ayatollah, then they will put down your book and may even issue a fatwa (a death verdict).
Some good indicators of a politically motivated review are the way the reviewer delivers his or her verdict. If you detect hostility; if the reviewer dismisses your characters as stereotypes or caricatures, if he attacks elements that others have identified as solid and praise-worthy, then you might raise your eyebrow, try to unearth the motivation guiding the review.
Book reviews may have great value when they are positive. Anything less than 5 out of 5 stars (hearts) is not helpful. You ought to make use of the best ones, try to learn from the others, and try to forget the politically motivated ones.