Jane Johnson, an editor from Voyager, responded to a review of Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns (Canada, USA, Europe) on tor.com.
Here's an extract from Liz Bourke's review:
In my experience, you have to be either especially clueless, or trying very hard, to achieve that level of misogynist creepy.
I’m not going to stand here and insist on high feminist standards in every work of fiction I read (much as I’d appreciate it if more books had them). I don’t have very high expectations to start with. But a certain indication that the author sees women as people, and doesn’t leave me trying hard not to throw up because I can’t see very much in his book that undermines his protagonist’s view of the world — from where I’m standing, that indication is a minimum requirement.
While I didn’t like Prince of Thorns very much at all, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad book. Problematic, but not necessarily bad. If you like bleak, bloody, and gruesome novels about cold-blooded unprincipled sociopaths who achieve their murderous dreams, then this book will be perfect for you. I wish you joy of it, because for all its flaws, Prince of Thorns has some damn good writing.
Me, I need to go scrub out my brain.
And here's the editor's response:
Liz is of course entitled to her own opinion, but I did find this rather a bizarrely skewed review, until I realized that it's appearing on the website of a rival publisher who failed to win the book at auction. Funnily enough, all of Mark Lawrence's editorial team in the UK and US are women, and none of us (hope you don't mind my speaking for you, Ginjer?) found the book misogynistic. Yes, it's grim and nihilistic in places, but also beautiful, uplifting and laugh-out-loud funny; and in the end Jorg emerges as - at the very least - an anti-hero (and develops further in the second novel, as the onion layers of his persona are peeled back one by one). He's a damaged boy, and for very good reason. This is dense, clever, beautifully written and highly rewarding fantasy for readers with a strong stomach, a love of language and the desire to read something a bit more challenging in the genre. But don't take my - or Liz's - word for it: read it for yourself and see what you think.
Although I don't necessarily agree with the tor.com review, I'm not sure Mrs. Johnson should have responded at all. For, no matter how valid the criticism of the review, I feel that editors usually look bad when they publicly make a stand like that.
This brings to mind the incredible amount of crap generated by what was a good-natured back-and-forth between Gollancz editor Simon Spanton and I following the posting of my review for Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains. After exchanging a few emails on the subject, Spanton suggested that I post our correspondence on the Hotlist on the eve of my departure for Poland. Needless to say, by the time I landed in Warsaw (comments were not moderated back then), things had taken a turn for the worse. . . And it was all over the SFF message boards to boot.
In case you missed it, we called our argument The Hype Files.
What do you guys think? Should authors and editors respond publicly to such reviews?