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Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
John Scalzi
Tor, 368 pages

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
John Scalzi
John Scalzi was born in 1969. His first job out of college was as a film critic at the Fresno Bee newspaper in California. Since 1998, he has been a full-time freelance writer. As well, he is the Chief Entertainment Media Critic for Official US Playstation Magazine. He lives in the small rural town of Bradford, Ohio with his wife and daughter.

John Scalzi Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The God Engines
SF Site Review: Metatropolis
SF Site Review: Agent to the Stars
SF Site Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
SF Site Review: The Android's Dream
SF Site Review: Old Man's War

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Okay, I admit that before writing this review I had to go into my house's smallest room to retrieve the book. But not because I was using the pages for toilet paper! Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is perfect bathroom reading: it's composed of short, sharp, essays on a vast variety of subjects, readable in any order, and enjoyable in brief snippets. Come to think of it, that's sort of how you read the source of these pieces: John Scalzi's blog Whatever. (Except that I don't bring a laptop into the bathroom with me.)

There's not much I think I need to say to introduce or recommend this book. Many SF readers are also readers of Whatever. Many more noticed that the book won the 2009 Hugo for Best Related Book. And of course a lot of folks have learned from Scalzi's novels (such as Old Man's War) that about anything he writes is probably worth reading. So, yes, I enjoyed Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, and I daresay you will too.

As I said, the essays are on a wide variety of subjects. Some are just, well, sensible, as in his various pieces of advice for writers, much of which is stuff we've heard before ("don't quit your day job," "accept that you will be rejected," etc.) but told livelily and intelligently. Some are amusing -- in different ways -- including a rather bemused piece about the Creation Museum, or several "Best ___ of the Millennium" ones (Best Cheese: American, Best Hell: Bosch's, Best Gay Man: Richard I, etc.) -- these don't always seem entirely serious, but in fact they include actual interesting information besides the occasional joke. Some are passionate, such as his post-9/11 post. Some are perhaps a bit dated, such as some of the political commentary on such things as Clinton's then-impending impeachment or on the incredible fact that a month or so before the 2004 election John Kerry was managing to only run in a tie -- could he possibly manage to lose it? Dated or no, the essays still bite, and still hold the interest. A whole lot are best described as interesting commentary on "whatever" just struck Scalzi's attention... and as he's interested in some interesting stuff, and has the writing skill to make stuff that might not be interesting interesting anyway -- that makes it a fine book throughout. Voice is everything, I sometimes think (even though it's not always true), and Scalzi's voice is immensely readable -- and so is Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded.

Copyright © 2010 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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