Monday, March 4

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

What would I do without The Passive Voice Blog? I shudder to think! Passive Guy (aka David P. Vandagriff) tweets the best, most interesting stories.

Stories such as ...

Did you know Moby Dick--a treasure of world literature--has garnered many one star reviews on Amazon?

The following is from bibliokept: Selections From One-Star Amazon Reviews of Melville's Moby-Dick, thanks to Passive Guy for the link. (By the way, I found the original reviews on and expanded the quotations used for the article.)

One Star Reviews Of Herman Melville's Moby Dick

Title: Incredible story. What a lousy writer. Name: A Customer
4 of 22 people found the following review helpful
When I think of anyone being FORCED to read this novel (poor students, whereever you are) I want to fall on a harpoon. Ray Bradbury, who wrote the screenplay for this novel, (a la Gregory Peck) couldn't even finish the damn thing! He too just read bits of it ...  He recognized it's inner greatness, its actual grandeur absolutely mired in prose that makes you want to gnaw your foot off...
Title: Moby Dick: a tiresome book, Name: A Customer
1 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Moby Dick, was a horrible waiste of time. Along with its wordy paragraphs, it also talked about uninteresting issues. It is also to long, and you don't hear of them encountering the whale until the end of the book. Heres a good idea, after you read this book, go buy a vile of arsenic, drink it and you will be much happier. The only monster was the book itself. It leaves you with that, "I hate myself" feeling you get after accidentally destroying a major city with a hydrogen bomb or something, anyways, do not read it!
Title: Have trouble getting to sleep at night? Get this! 
Name: A Customer
9 of 38 people found the following review helpful  
[I]f your looking for a good book, dont read this, you will only become agitated. Such was the case with me. I am quite the fan of stories which involve man eating sea creatures, such as Jaws. Moby Dick is nothing compared to such classics, I fear.

In fact, it is boring with a capital B. What is the whales motivation? You dont know. There is no suspense, and I find the idea of people hunting whales offensive. 
Title:A tired old tale - Save the damn whales already!!!,
Name: Gracie Lou Freebush
2 of 21 people found the following review helpful  
This book is HORRIBLE! Classic, my eye! I would love to know what's so great about this book. I have seen better writing in a Hallmark card! Boring! Give me a good ole copy of Elvis and Me! A true story that really tugs at your heart strings! I sleep with that one under my pillow!

Ray Bradbury's Comments On Moby Dick

Since Moby Dick is undeniably a classic of world literature, these are deeply satisfying reviews for any author who has gotten a one star review on Amazon! Though, I should note, what the anonymous commenter says about Ray Bradbury seems to be true, though Mr. Bradbury's remark may have been due more to pique than honesty. The following is from the Wikipedia on the 1956 film Ray Bradbury collaborated on.
During a meeting to discuss the screenplay, Ray Bradbury informed John Huston that regarding Melville's novel, he had "never been able to read the damned thing". According to the biography The Bradbury Chronicles, there was much tension and anger between the two men during the making of the film, allegedly due to Huston's bullying attitude and attempts to tell Bradbury how to do his job, despite Bradbury being an accomplished writer. (Moby Dick (1956 film))

What Critics Initially Thought Of Moby Dick: Not Much

Initially Moby Dick had a rocky reception in America. It was not love at first sight. Although Melville considered Moby Dick his magnum opus the work received scathing reviews when it was first published.
He [Melville] considered Moby-Dick to be his magnum opus, but he was shocked and bewildered at the scathing reviews it received. Instead of bringing him the literary acclaim which he sought, this masterwork started a slide toward literary obscurity in his lifetime. This was partially because the book was first published in England, and the American literary establishment took note of what the English critics said, especially when these critics were attached to the more prestigious journals. Many critics praised it for its unique style, interesting characters, and poetic language, but others agreed with a critic with the highly regarded London Athenaeum, who described it as:
"[A]n ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact. The idea of a connected and collected story has obviously visited and abandoned its writer again and again in the course of composition. The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed."
One problem was that publisher Peter Bentley botched the English edition, most significantly in omitting the epilogue. For this reason, many of the critics faulted the book, what little they could grasp of it, on purely formal grounds, e.g., how the tale could have been told if no one survived to tell it. The generally bad reviews from across the ocean made American readers skittish about picking up the tome. (Moby-Dick)
I wanted, for the sake of balance, to include 5 Star reviews of a horrible book but it seems easier to agree on what constitutes great literature than what constitutes drivel.

Any author who has received a one star review on Amazon--and I would hazard to say that practically all published authors have--take heart! You're in excellent company.

Have you ever thrown a book across the room on frustration? What book was the worst book you've ever read? What was the thing you disliked most about it?

Other articles you might like:

- The Writer's Journey: Writer As Hero
- Hugo Gernsback And The Future That Might Have Been
- Writing And The Monomyth, Part Two

Photo credit: "A Storm of Swords" by flossyflotsam under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Before I began to write, I had this thing about finishing a book once I started it. Don't ask me why, but that's the way I am. Which is why Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake are not going to be read. Back in those days, I suffered through a Hemingway novel, and The Great Gatsby, and The Name of The Rose. Those three books were really, really hard for me to read. There was only ONE book that I put down, and that was Moby Dick.

    I've matured a bit as a writer, and as the recipient of some stinging reviews for my own stuff to realize that books that used to SUCK! actually are just not for me. And my list of Did Not Finish has grown- I can't waste the time on the wrong stuff.

    My tastes aren't universal, they're mine. Even so, I am flummoxed- flummoxed I say!- that Moby Dick has such a reputation.

    1. "And my list of Did Not Finish has grown- I can't waste the time on the wrong stuff."

      I hear that! I used to feel compelled to finish a book once I started it, but no longer. Life is too short.

      "My tastes aren't universal, they're mine. Even so, I am flummoxed- flummoxed I say!- that Moby Dick has such a reputation."

      Well, you're in good company! To me this helps demonstrate the truth that no book is good full-stop. Each book has its market, its devotees. It's just a matter of finding them.

  2. I found Moby Dick hard going at first. It's easy to question the relevance of some chapters. I think the one star reviews mainly came from people who never finished it though, because how could you not love that ending.

    I read it about a year ago and I've found that since then I've mulled over that novel a lot, possibly more than any other. I'd now go as far as saying it's one of the best novels I've ever read, even though that is certainly not how I felt when reading it. I might just pick it up again after reading your article though.

    1. "I read it about a year ago and I've found that since then I've mulled over that novel a lot, possibly more than any other."

      Now THAT's the sign of great literature! I'm thrilled my article made you want to read Moby Dick again. :-)

  3. I downloaded Moby Dick on my Kindle (for free) a few months ago, but I doubt I'll get around to reading it. There are so many other books out there that interest me more than Melville's classic.

    1. That's just it, isn't it? We each have a limited amount of time--I'm not able to read half of what I'd like--so we have to pick and choose. It's difficult.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Moby Dick is amazing! Certainly one of the best books I've read.

    This infinite interpretability, and symbolic richness often makes chapters seem to swoosh up to the heavens. It’s quite a mind-opening experience - one moment you are reading about the physical specifications of a whale skeleton and then suddenly your mind is tumbling and reeling as Melville has laid bare some essential moment of the human condition in language that is now, all at once, abstract, biblical, symbolic and emphatic.

    1. I think I need to read Moby Dick! Thanks for your comment Adam. :)

  5. Amazon reviews are becoming worse, I know the guestimate is that 60% of Amazon reviews are actually fake and the one star review seems to becoming as popular as the five star. In the case of eBooks, I download and read the sample first, then maybe go to the reviews if still unsure. You need a real thick skin these days to publish on Amazon though especially as an Indie.

    As for one star reviews that have made me smile here are a couple from different books...

    "This brings to mind other titles in the genre, such as, "I was a teenage SAS man." and "How I joined the SAS during my summer holidays." Both written by a chap called Walter Mitty. If you are older than twelve give this one a miss."

    "what a complete waste of space badly writen very poor grammer sheer complete utter rubbish i would note give 1 star for this"

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ack! My cat deleted my comment. :(

      Let me try that again.

      "In the case of eBooks, I download and read the sample first, then maybe go to the reviews if still unsure."

      Me too; I think that's a great way of finding what one likes.

      Sorry about the one star reviews; the important thing is it doesn't stop you writing and publishing.


Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.