Spoliers in Reviews

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Spoliers in Reviews

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Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 4, 2012, 5:49am

I'm noticing lately a lot of reviews with major spoilers in them. Is this a flaggable offense? If not, why not? I hate reading a review only to find out "who done it" or how it ended.

Ugh...the title should say "spoilers" in reviews. I type faster than I think.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 8:37am

No, it's not flagable. It's not flagable because LT is in favor of free speech, even impolite speech. Some people use the review field as their memory aid about things they've read, which includes the end. I generally don't read reviews that have plot summaries and thus avoid most of the ones with spoilers.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 10:41am

as above, definately not flaggable. Partly because what constitutes a spoiler to you, is perfectly fine to others. There have been a few very long and acrimonious debates about this somewhere in the talk history.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 8:24pm

Yikes. Guess I can't read reviews anymore. What a nightmare.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 9:15pm

Whenever this topic comes up, it makes me so happy that I only read non-fiction ... don't have to be worried about stumbling over "spoilers"!

Frankly, HOW does one write a book review about a piece of fiction without talking about WHAT HAPPENS in the book? I'd think that those who are "spoilerphobic" would simply avoid reading any reviews at all.


maaliskuu 4, 2012, 9:42pm

I'm not talking about what "happens in the book." I'm talking about this:

"Spoiler is any element of any summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot element which will give away the outcome of a dramatic episode."

Not everything that happens in a piece of fiction is a "spoiler;" a spoiler is when someone gives away how something turns out: for instance who the murderer was in a murder-mystery or how two people resolve their issues in a "man vs. man" story.

When I read reviews (which I guess I'll avoid from now on), I'm looking for author's craft and whether or not people thought the story was believable/entertaining/interesting. You can say all of that without giving away how things turn out.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 9:49pm

Altho really, when is the last time you read a book and at the end said, "well I didn't see THAT coming!"

or maybe that's just not happening to me anymore cause I'm 63?

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 10:01pm

Sounds like you just haven't found any decent authors. I'm a very prolific reader (I'm a librarian/6-12 LA teacher) and, just this past year, I've read quite a few. There are quite a few authors out there who are still masters of the "surprise" ending or even endings that you just didn't expect.
But even if the ending could ONLY be "flip of the coin" (two possible outcomes, which is somewhat rare in decent literature), I still don't want to know which side is going to land face up or the events immediately proceeding it that resulted in it landing that side up.

maaliskuu 4, 2012, 10:32pm


maaliskuu 5, 2012, 4:41am

>10 thorold: I'm looking for author's craft and whether or not people thought the story was believable/entertaining/interesting. You can say all of that without giving away how things turn out.

You can say it, but a random reviewer's mere statement of opinion is not likely to be of any interest to me as a potential reader unless it also explains why the reviewer thought that. Sometimes that's very difficult to do without entering into details of the plot. And then you get into the grey area where one person's necessary evidence is another person's spoiler. Especially when you're talking about a book that "everyone's read", or where a particular kind of ending is imposed by the genre. No-one's got a right to complain if you say "Troy falls" or "reader, I married him", but what about the ending of Tess or Moby-Dick? You might find it hard to say something interesting in a review without referring to the outcome of Captain Ahab's epic struggle with the whale, or Hardy's even more epic struggle with the conventions of tragedy, and 99% of the people reading your review will have read the book or seen the film. Is it reasonable to festoon it with red flags for the benefit of a few silly people who think that knowing the ending will spoil their enjoyment of a great work of literature?
I agree that it's bad manners to give away the outcome in a genre where the plot is the whole point of the book, e.g. to name the murderer in a detective story or to reveal whom the heroine of a romance marries, but beyond that level I wouldn't want to see any fixed rules.

maaliskuu 5, 2012, 5:02am

or Hardy's even more epic struggle with the conventions of tragedy

Spoiler Alert!

maaliskuu 5, 2012, 5:23am

>11 tomcatMurr:
Of course, there is a certain ever-so-slightly provocative review of The murders in the Rue Morgue that appeared recently...

maaliskuu 5, 2012, 7:53am

really? I know nothing about it.


maaliskuu 5, 2012, 2:40pm

12> that contemptible, terse review completely spoiled the outcome and obliterated any future possible enjoyment I might muster out of Poe's story!

maaliskuu 5, 2012, 4:12pm

To people who read on airplanes, I used to lean over and say "I read that last week. Did you get to the part yet where they get kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru?"

You wouldn't believe how often readers get pissed off: "I hope you're happy now you've spoiled it for me!"

Being a prolific reader doesn't automatically make a person a good reader. My sister-in-law reads incessantly but seldom understands what she's reading and doesn't remember what she read three weeks ago -- which is to say she usually remembers a title but cannot recall what was actually in the book. She might as well spend her time watching Dobie Gillis reruns.

Adult readers (those who get bored reading 6-12) all understand that writing novels is in some ways like building boats: some of them float and others don't. I don't know how to build boats or how to tell a good one from a bad one just by looking at it. So if I went looking for a boat, I'd like someone there to tell me which will weather the storm, which will capsize and sink, and why.

My sister-in-law, when she goes looking for a car, finds one in the color she likes. Sometimes it runs; sometimes it runs straight into a junkyard -- or a ditch.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 2012, 11:47pm

I assure you, I am a very good reader as well as being a prolific reader. I can't remember ever reading something I didn't understand (aside from my Arabic and Spanish textbooks).

And I don't blame readers at all for getting angry for you giving things away. That's incredibly rude. If you want to discuss the book with them, you ask them where they are first so that you know what you can and cannot discuss. It's a bit extreme to say it ruined the entire book for them, but you ruined that point of suspense for them.

If you don't mind books being spoiled, it's perfectly acceptable for you to seek that information on your own, but to force that information on someone against their will, without knowing whether or not they want to know, just seems kind of arrogant to me, like you're showing off that you know something that they don't. You're robbing them of their own personal experience.

I made a Facebook post asking my friends how they felt about people spoiling books/movies for them and my favorite response was "it's kinda like stealing someone's kidneys while they sleep." I agree with that.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2012, 12:09am

>16 benuathanasia: -- You just don't get it.

The line about "being kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru" was my standard thrust. I used it no matter what they were reading -- pornography or The Bible or Gone with the Wind. You'd think anybody reading a historical novel about ancient Rome would know that nobody in that book would ever be kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru. Still, some of them did not. On another tack, I never saw one of my victims survey his friends on Facebook for their opinion on the question. In sum, your reaction beats all I've ever seen.

The bright side is all the money I've saved you. You won't have to read the next Stephen King novel because you already know it ends with them all being kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru. Same with your next Harlequin romance: everybody at the junior prom gets kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off. . . . You'll never have to buy any more books or read any of them ever again because they all end in the same way.

And now that I've saved you all that money, I should mention that I have a yellow car you'd probably like. I'll let it go for cheap!

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 5:56am

#6 - I disagree with your definition. Because knowing that the titanic sinks or that romeo dies doesn't change the impact of the writing. Any novel is more than just what happens - it is how it happens and what impact that has on those around them, how it is handled. This can't be spoiled by knowing the outcome.

#12 is perhaps more blatent than I would be - but given the works cover features the ourang, and from what I remember the fairly obvious build-up in the text, the story isn't spoilt by that knowledge, because it gives no clue to the reasoning behind it.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 7:38am

> 17 You won't have to read the next Stephen King novel because you already know it ends with them all being kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru.

Again?? Dang! I hate it when authors get successful, and start to repeat themselves like that!

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 8:50am

>17 dekesolomon: It appeared you were giving an example of something you might have said about a particular book, I saw nothing to indicate that you were being facetious.

18> That's not /my/ definition; that's the generic definition. And while I agree with you that a big part of the book is how something happens, /what/ happens is a huge part, as well. If something were unexpected or someone gave away the ending to a point of suspense, that's a huge spoiler. The first generation of people to see/read Romeo and Juliet, before it became common knowledge, probably would have been pretty damn pissed off if someone told them the ending.

For instance if you're familiar with Fight Club: if someone had told me what the "twist" was before I read it, I think I probably would have punched them.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 10:10am

I think we should institute a police force, and if anyone is caught giving plot spoliers (or spoilers even), they should be SHOT at dawn. For a week.

Benuathanasia, you would make a perfect first recruit for policeman. what say you?

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 10:41am

I do not like spoilers in book reviews. Personally, when I read a review I want to know if the book is worth my time. Something I would be interested in, something that holds up (ie, a comment like 'starts strong but the writer does not know how to end a book' is helpful).

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 10:44am

7) I may suspect how a book will end, but I'd prefer to find out myself if I was right or not.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 11:06am

>20 benuathanasia:
I strongly suspect that most of Shakespeare's first-night audience would have been able to make a pretty good guess that they were going to get a "Boy meets girl, both die" plot: the title plus the fact that it's advertised as a tragedy would make any other outcome vanishingly unlikely. Of course, they wouldn't have known precisely how Shakespeare was going to get them to that point, but then again neither would someone who'd read a "spoiler" review without seeing the play itself.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 4:12pm

> 5

Whenever this topic comes up, it makes me so happy that I only read non-fiction ... don't have to be worried about stumbling over "spoilers".

Someone on another website once mentioned that she was reading Alison Weir's non-fiction book about Richard III, The Princes in the Tower. However, she declared that she was not going to say what Weir's point of view was, because that would be a spoiler.

I nearly lost my mind.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 6:45pm

I write a review for all my books, but I don't like spoilers in the reviews that I read so I try very hard to avoid them in mine. Hints maybe to get others interested in the book, but no out and out spoilers without warning.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 7:47pm

I usually don't read even the whole description of the book on the back cover or inside flaps. Those sometimes give way too much information. Fortunately, I have a bad memory so if I read too much description, I can set the book aside for a few weeks and I've usually forgotten about the spoilers. Loss of memory is less helpful when I'm looking for my car keys.

If reviews start telling too much plot, I just stop reading. Sometimes it works, sometimes I've already seen the spoiler.

maaliskuu 6, 2012, 8:26pm

#8 - Anyway - would you make a couple of suggestions for me of books you've read with a different ending?

So some of us hate spoilers and some of us dont. I like to know usually, because, e.g. I would never have read One Day if I had known the ending. I was SO MAD! I HATED that book! but, it's all personal preference right?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2012, 11:48pm

I vote we pass a law that says all authors must end their books with "They all got kidnapped by Chinese people and carried off to the jungles of Peru, where they were eaten by cannibals and they all lived happily ever after. Please buy my yellow car."

That ought to satisfy everyone on this thread.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2012, 11:56pm

Another possible ending that will always surprise everyone: "And they all lived happily ever after. Disregard the first 200 pages. To be continued. The end."

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 7, 2012, 5:35pm

21) I wholeheartedly accept...when do I get my gun?

28) I don't know your genre preferences so:

The entire 39 Clues series has a new surprise/twist every few chapters. It's very simplistic, but still fantastically well done. It definitely caters to children with ADD; you can almost never tell what's going to happen next.

The Kidnapped series by Gordon Korman had an amazing ending. I /felt/ it coming subconsciously, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how he was going to pull it off convincingly; he did.

I find Steve Alten usually has really phenomenal twists (most notably Meg 2 and The Loch).

Michael Crichton has never gotten nearly enough credit, in my opinion. His books get turned into blockbusters that barely do any justice to his work. Prey had the absolute best twists and turns of any of his works.

P.C. Cast's Goddess Summoning series (obviously they'll end happily ever after because they're romances, but the WAY the happily ever after occurs are incredibly well done).

100x more-so for Jude Deveraux's Knight in Shining Armor.

Historical fiction:
Sofia Petrovna - this ending haunted me.

Three Musketeers - if you think you know it because you've seen one of the movies, be prepared to be dead wrong

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem (I suggest taking acid first; if you choose to read this, it makes the book interactive - or so I've been told).

Modern Magic by Anne Cordwainer

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2016, 9:28am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

joulukuu 7, 2012, 11:06am

>32 by Samantha_kathy, Why would you need to mention the wedding? Just talk more generically, whether it held up, the characters acted properly as to their previously defined selves, the ending worked, etc.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2016, 9:28am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

joulukuu 7, 2012, 3:35pm

I don't think readers are "entitled" to spoiler-free reviews, but I do think it behooves both reader and writer to consider the venue, the context, and the audience before you start complaining one way or the other. A reviewer who is writing about a new release for a major newspaper has different expectations than the reviewer who is writing about a book as part of a retrospective in a literary journal, or a person who is leaving feedback on an online shopping site. The guy writing for the newspaper might assume that his audience hasn't read the book yet, since it is new. So it would be wise of him to consider how important certain plot elements are, and whether or not revealing them would deny something to the reader's experience.

The person writing for an online shopping site can at least guess that whoever sees his review is thinking about buying the book, although you can't assume based on that the potential book buyer hasn't read it. Still, caution might be in order.

But for venues where the only concern, or the major concern, is to assess the book in as complete a way as possible, spoilers are a fact of life--perhaps even a necessity. After all, can you really fairly analyze a book if you are required to leave some key element of the plot out? And what does it say about the book if it requires that kind of hands off treatment in order to truly be enjoyed?

And if we are talking about books that have been out for a while, not newly released, then does the reviewer really need to tip toe around the sensibilities of the people who haven't read it yet?

I once got trashed on a mystery forum when, on the subject of Elizabeth George, I made an offhand comment to the effect that "man, it's never about the money with her books." I thus, apparently, managed to "spoil" the entire literary output of Elizabeth George for a couple readers. I couldn't feel guilty. At the time she was on her sixth or seventh book and I thought it was a fair assessment of George, the writer.

I also stopped reading Elizabeth George. Her own writing habits had managed to "spoil" the stories for me.

joulukuu 11, 2012, 12:03pm

In academic circles it seems 'spoiler' has always been a foreign concept as the endings of novels are discussed as casually as anything else about them. I gave up being an English major, when I realized perhaps my love of books is too visceral to surrender my desire to be surprised. I don't give away endings myself, except in one-on-one conversations with people who vow they're never going to read the book anyway.

I'd rather not know a book's ending, although my enjoyment doesn't depend on remaining in the dark. If that's the only good thing about a given book, I'm probably not going to like it anyway. The exception is the whodunnit mystery genre, when not knowing who did it is the entire point. It's not something I read a lot of, but I prefer to make the discovery on my own when I do.

joulukuu 11, 2012, 12:06pm

>32 Samantha_kathy:, 33, 34 - I've had the same problem, when writing reviews for fantasy novels that are trilogies or sometimes longer. Either the reviews become necessarily more vague and meaningless, else these risks crop up. I probably err on the side of revealing too much for the later books, else I don't see the point in writing reviews for them at all, but still in mind of an audience that is just about to read this particular volume.

toukokuu 28, 2013, 5:21am

When writing a review, I try and not give the whole plot away - otherwise why would the review reader bother read the book?

I've read back some of my earlier reviews, and found they are so light in story and commentary it's as if I didnt read the book at all. recent reviews dont tell the whole story, and rather than give away spoilers I will allude to it (and if necessary flag up that some people will find it disturbing).

huhtikuu 23, 2014, 5:41pm

I am new to reviewing, and this group. I just noticed a review in which the spoilers were hidden by a spoiler warning. I'd like to do this on a review. Can someone tell me how to do it?

huhtikuu 23, 2014, 6:56pm

Use angle brackets <spoiler> and put your spoiler information </spoiler> in them.

which becomes

Use angle brackets and put your spoiler information in them.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 18, 2014, 2:27am

Belated thank you. Now I don't remember what I wanted to review.

kesäkuu 18, 2014, 3:37pm

~~~Someone said:
'When I read reviews (which I guess I'll avoid from now on), I'm looking for author's craft and whether or not people thought the story was believable/entertaining/interesting. You can say all of that without giving away how things turn out."

~~~and I agree.
Long ago at school a "book report" gave all the details and a "book review" was an opinion on the book's attraction. I try for that.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 20, 2014, 8:09am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

elokuu 19, 2014, 1:39pm

> 20

The first generation of people to see/read Romeo and Juliet, before it became common knowledge, probably would have been pretty damn pissed off if someone told them the ending.

Actually, Shakespeare himself gives it away in the Prologue: " . . . From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life/Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows/Do with their death bury their parents' strife . . ."

elokuu 20, 2014, 2:13am


Tom Vanderbilt on endings in a New York Times column. Interesting - it had never really occurred to me that newspaper articles deliberately avoid putting the interesting stuff at the end, because the author never knows how much will be cut by the sub-editor.

lokakuu 28, 2015, 7:26am

This topic has arisen in the general "Book Talk" group and has been interesting to follow:

lokakuu 28, 2015, 9:26am


Actually Romeo And Juliet is a comedy, not a tragedy.

In Shakespeare's time it was only a tragedy is someone important dies like a king everything else was considered a comedy.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 28, 2015, 9:56am


lokakuu 28, 2015, 10:06am

>47 inkdrinker:
I said "advertised as".

lokakuu 28, 2015, 10:11am

Well then... My college prof either lied to me or was an idiot... My apologies. I took her at her word when she taught me this a million years ago... That's what I get...

lokakuu 28, 2015, 10:31am

>51 inkdrinker:
She was probably just simplifying a bit. If you said "somebody noble or admirable (but flawed) comes to a bad end", you would be nearer the mark. But it's always dangerous to try to apply rules to Shakespeare.

lokakuu 28, 2015, 10:51am

Can't say that I've spent tons of time past college studying Shakespeare. I enjoy an occasional play or from time to time a movie version, but beyond that.... well... While I admit and acknowledge that he's a great writer and that he should be studied, I've always felt that his abilities have been blown out of proportion... He is significant, but he's made to be an almost god-like writer...

lokakuu 28, 2015, 11:28am

>51 inkdrinker:

Probably neither. Romeo and Juliet is a bit of an outlier, even in terms of Shakespearean tragedy. It was also one of his earliest, so perhaps he was experimenting!

In general, he did follow the Aristotelian concept of tragedy, which, to simplify, meant the fall of a noble (high-status) hero due to a tragic flaw. His great tragedies are in this mold: think Othello (jealousy), King Lear (pride), Macbeth (ambition), Hamlet (self-doubt)