Are you a 7th Grade reader?: Perspectives on The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy

The problem with reviews, whether on Amazon, Goodreads, or Yelp, is that they are unreliable. A wonderful restaurant is degraded because the service was too slow or the reviewer didn’t like the waiter’s expression. The subjectivity taints the report and it does about the food, but other things (“I didn’t like the decor.”

Now, knowledgeable readers are familiar with Kirkus, Portland, Midwest, and San Francisco Book Reviews. Their staffs are professional critics who read for story, writing skills, and to be transported into the world of the novel. Not all submissions are reviewed. Here are some examples:

–Brian Allen, Editor of Phenomena Magazine, says, “Anyone who has seen the film ‘Lucy’ will get the idea, but more so… [This] is an absolute thrill ride of a book that is almost impossible to put down.” 

–Kirkus Review–“an exuberant and involving read,” 

–Portland Book Review–“having the right amount of adventure and romance, this crisscrossing genre tale isn’t just a good read, but may also look great on a big screen,”

–Self-Publishing Review–“the book mixes uncommon palettes and manages a masterpiece with it. If The Andromeda Strain was analyzed in four dimensions, The SHIVA Syndrome might be the result,”

–Midwest Book Review– “highly recommended, indeed; especially for thriller and sci-fi readers who have become deluged with too much predictability and who seek cutting-edge action, believable protagonists, and action that is solidly intense throughout,”

–San Francisco Book Review “Science fiction fans will love The SHIVA Syndrome. Fans of paranormal fiction, psychological thriller, philosophy and fantasy will love it, too.”

Some lay readers, it seems, want their literary food chewed for them. They are turned off by being challenged by a novel, made to think, opened to new areas they’ve never explored.

Harold Bloom, an American literary critic and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University is a prominent Shakespearean lecturer. He refers to some of Shakespeare’s work as “elliptical,” or ambiguous. The author/playwright intentionally doesn’t shed light on all aspects , but leaves the readers/audience guessing. For example, it’s hinted that Brutus is Julius Caesar’s illegitimate son as Hamlet is that of Claudius.

As a psychologist/author, I examined the reviews of ordinary readers of The SHIVA Syndrome Trilogy, I found interesting trends. Many readers wanted an easier read. Hollister Creative (Jun 20, 2017) writes, “Do you read like a 7th grader? Actually, the question should be, “Do you like to read like a 7th grader?” If so, you are like most people who read website and blog content. The average American adult reading level is that of a 9th grader. But popular mass-market novels are written at a 7th grade level because studies show adults prefer reading two grades below their ability.”

Here some very different examples:
“5.0 out of 5 stars Long and Exciting Thriller June 28, 2019
The SHIVA Syndrome Trilogy is a long and exciting thriller that contains three books in one. Dr. Walker, the protagonist has special powers. Born to an African American mother and Native American father, he is blessed (or cursed) with a higher sensibility. He could read people’s intentions and their lives with a single touch and could also feel the intense pain of people many miles away. He possesses a deeply analytic and receptive mind and due to it gets involved in a high-secret mission. There are other gifted people in the team, but it is difficult to maintain the trust factor and know who is his alley and who an enemy. The story is filled with numerous revelations and contains many elements like paranormal and psychotic. There are many frightening pieces of stuff like drug-induced mind control of soldiers which in real-life could create havoc on the earth. The plot is a mixture of fantastical and realistic. It is brilliantly written and maintains the interest from the first page to the last. “

4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, Exciting, and Thrilling June 21, 2019
This exciting sci-fi trilogy deals with subjects like psychology, biotechnology, spirituality, and more. I thought that the story was well-written and full of some very captivating plot twists. There is a lot of complexity in the series; it has a lot of interesting layers that all come together in unique and interesting ways, but I would definitely say make sure you are paying attention while reading or you might get lost and confused. This book is action-packed and explores some really thought-provoking subjects, making it both a thrilling read and fascinating book. I really appreciated having all three books in one so that I did not have to stop while consuming the entire story. There is a lot going on, and it is all very exciting. This book makes for an excellent read.

4.0 out of 5 stars Intense and Detailed June 20, 2019
The SHIVA Syndrome Trilogy: (The Mind of Stefan Dürr, The Cosmic Ape, The Interdimensional Nexus) by Alan Joshua is a trilogy that will blow your mind. The first book itself opens with a creepy scene, a man floating in a tank much like a fetus in the womb. This book crosses the genres of thriller, sci-fi, and the paranormal. If you like any of those, you will most likely dive into this book and never look back. The story line itself is fairly complex, and a bit difficult to keep track of, the author has definitely done his research when it comes to scientific matters. The average reader may find these things hard to follow, but nonetheless the story is interesting and clever. A thought-provoking and riveting read, set aside a few hours to fully delve into this heady book. It will make you question your perception of reality and more. There’s a little bit of everything here from the paranormal to anthropology, making this a challenging and substantial book. Highly recommend.

In contrast, here is a review from another pole:

“This is a trilogy, released here as one book, though you can purchase and read them separately if you wish…I admit, I’m very confused as to why the option; if this shouldn’t be experienced fully as separate novels, then it should simply be one novel instead of three. [This has nothing to do with story and was a New York editor’s suggestion]. Anyway, “The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy” consists of “The Mind of Stefan Dürr,” “The Cosmic Ape,” and “The Interdimensional Nexus.” Alan Joshua gives us nearly 700 pages of science fiction mixed with paranormal cut with psychological thrills and mythology, and then double dipped in social and philosophical dilemmas. There is nothing simple about this story, so much so that it can be quite hard to follow at times. [Not true, but why should there be? This is written for adults reading above the 9th grade level.] Characters are plentiful, nearly to the point of over-saturating the plot, [Subjective: not said elsewhere] and never mind that I actually couldn’t stand any of them and couldn’t possibly care less about what happens to them [No one criticized the “plentiful” characters; she could not relate to any Sounds like a rush read and or lack of empathy.]. I tried to give this a fair chance and I believe I made a good effort. The fault doesn’t lie with me. I think this author should go back to the drawing board, take only the bare bones, core concepts, and give this sci-fi idea a brand new lease.”

Always interested in my readers, I discovered that she is not a sci-fi buff and should not have been chosen as a reviewer. She says, in relation to another book says, “Well, simply reading the summary, I would have had zero idea what “XXX” is about beyond it being in the science fiction genre.  I feel guilty ripping this to shreds [which she would do] because if the blurbs are true, “XXX” has been a hit with readers from South Korea to the United States. It could be that I am not the intended audience [sci-fi] the author was writing for, and that’s okay. Based on positive feedback from others and overall good press surrounding this sci-fi book, I am settling on an intermediate rating. [This rating is based on guilt and the reactions of others]

So, in assessing readers, I have learned many prefer to read below their education level, many do not like to be encouraged to explore new ideas, and their reviews–as on Yelp–can be biased by choosing the wrong genre. Others become frustrated if they have to consult a dictionary, this lowering their rating. What subjectivity and dishonesty–rating a book based on the blurbs of others!

After two years, The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy has 66 reviews on Amazon (4.3 average) and 49 reviews on Goodreads (4.29 average).

I hope I haven’t offended anyone. My intent was to clarify the subjectivity of readers’ reactions. After all, who of us liked Shakespeare while in high school only to discover his brilliance as adults?

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