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"Best and Worst Book Blurbs - your nominations, please." Topic


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mweaver10 Mar 2008 10:26 a.m. PST

Book blurbs, whether on the back of a paperback or the inside flap of a hardback, are intended to hook you and convince you to buy the book. In theory, they should have something to do with the book. So my question is, what are some of the best and worst blurbs you’ve come across? I am myself thinking fiction here, but if you have good (or bad) non-fiction examples, feel free to add them.

My contribution to the WORST:

In the early 70s when I was a lad I remember one school day, when Mom took me to the doctor because I had some illness or another, on the way home we stopped at a drugstore so she could fill a prescription for me and I examined the small selection of paperbacks on a rack looking for something to read. I spotted one science fiction novel, Eric North’s “The Ant Men”. The blurb on the back sounded pretty good, and I don’t recall that there were a lot of choices, so Mom bought it for me.

Here is a link to the front cover, by the way (my copy is long lost):

link

I found a copy on eBay with a picture of the back cover, so here is the blurb (there’s one bit I couldn’t make out for sure).

“THE LAST FIVE MEN ON EARTH…that’s how the small expedition team felt – lost in unexplored desert and facing a dangerous enemy. On the second day giant insects [abducted?] the team’s leader – AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR. The next night the youngest member of the groups was killed – AND THEN THERE WERE THREE. Then the other men raced for safety, but the weakest couldn’t make it – AND THEN THERE WERE TWO.

“Just two men against an army of super-intelligent, extraordinarily strong creatures. But when the older of the two me surrendered to the enemy there was just one – but only for a short, terrible time.”

OK, so here’s the real story in a nutshell. Five guys in Australia come across a colony of sentient ant men (so far so good). Although the humans become pawns in a power struggle within the ant man colony, the ant men aren’t hostile. None of the humans are killed. Or hurt. They all become friends with the ant men.

This blurb has stuck with me so long because, I think, it was the first time I read a book where the blurb had been so blatantly written by someone who had never read the book.


My contribution to THE BEST: When in grad school in Chapel Hill in the 80s I picked up a copy of Walter Jon Williams’s “Voice of the Whirlwind” during one of my regular stops by the Foundation book store. I had never read any Williams before, but the blurb hooked me:

“Steward is a beta. A clone. His memories are fifteen years old, because his alpha never did have a brain-scan up-date. And in those fifteen years, the entire world has changed: The Orbital Policorp which held his allegiance has collapsed; dozens of his friends have died in an off-planer war; an alien race has established relations with humanity; his wife has borne a child, and divorced him; his second wife has also divorced him; and someone has murdered him.”

I bought the novel, and wasn’t disappointed. I’ve read a lot of WJW novels since then.

Anyone else have any contenders for the all-time Best and Worst Blurbs award?

Lord Billington Wadsworth Fezian10 Mar 2008 10:45 a.m. PST

I am super fond of

"It was a pleasure to burn"

and
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."


There is an award for the worst sentence as well that always makes me giggle. You guys might dig this:

bulwer-lytton.com

mweaver10 Mar 2008 10:58 a.m. PST

What books are those suggestions from, m'Lord?

A friend who teaches composition has, as one of his writing exercises for his students, a Bulwer-Lytton exercise – they compete to see who can come up with the most over-blown prose. It's pretty fun… and it does get the students thinking about how more is not always good…

aecurtis Fezian10 Mar 2008 11:04 a.m. PST

The original blurb; really!

link

Allen

Stronty Girl Fezian10 Mar 2008 11:56 a.m. PST

My worst is from 'Day of the Dogs' by Andrew Cartmel:

"Asdoel Zo hires Johnny Alpha and his Strontium Dogs to collect the bounty on Preacher Tarkettle, the man who killed his family. However, after landing on the desert world of Santo Segrelle, Johnny's team is attacked and their weapons destroyed. Now armed with ancient six-shooter and rifles, Johnny and his fellow mutants soon realised they have been tricked: Zo is a twisted big game hunter and he has his sights set on hunting the deadliest prey in the galaxy – the Strontium Dogs."

What's wrong with that? Well the book is 250 pages long. The above reveals every plot twist in the first 170 pages or so.

On the other hand, the book is bloody awful, so maybe the blurb writer was just trying to save you the effort of reading it…

CeruLucifus10 Mar 2008 4:33 p.m. PST

"The most merciful thing in the world …" quote is H.P. Lovecraft, from The Call of Cthulhu.

It sounded familiar but I couldn't place it so I googled it. :)

Lord Billington Wadsworth Fezian10 Mar 2008 5:53 p.m. PST

Gosh, I thought I responded to this.

Yes, Donrice is correct, that quote is from the Short Story "The Call of Cthulhu"

The first one is the first line from Fahrenheit 451

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2008 6:16 p.m. PST

As I understand it, what you're grading is "jacket copy."

I believe a "blurb" is a short quote from a review which (ostensibly) praises the book.

In which case, anytime my reviews are "blurbed," why, I think those are the best blurbs!grin

Stronty Girl Fezian11 Mar 2008 5:28 a.m. PST

I've always heard "Blurb" used in the context of the plot summary on the back/inside flap of the book.

mweaver11 Mar 2008 7:51 a.m. PST

A quick check of on-line dictionaries indicates the term can mean both brief reviews and brief summaries.

JackWhite14 Mar 2008 11:22 a.m. PST

Before reading a book, I'll check out the description written on the inside cover of the dust jacket.

The worst I ever saw was for Everything Is (or will be?) Illuminated.

It wasn't the content of what was written, rather that the words were written in a wave pattern and simply impossible to read.

I guess the human eye just doesn't see that way.

I passed the book by for a long time after that, but finally checked it out of the library and was glad I did.

Very well written and, well, Everything Was Illuminated.

JW

JW

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