When I began reading John Ringo's work, I went into it wanting to like his stuff. After all, he'd been Airborne; I'd been Airborne. He makes his living as a writer; I make my living as a writer (albeit he writes best-selling novels and I write articles for gun magazines). You can understand how he had some good will coming his way before I ever started reading his Posleen novels. And those books rocked, all the way from A Hymn Before Battle right through Hell's Faire. Ringo's gift for characterization and plot was strong, his imagination and sense of humor deranged. I mean, really, how can you NOT love a book where one of the main "characters" is a mobile-Big-Bertha-on-treads-super-sized tank named Bun-Bun?
One of the most vivid characters from the Posleen novels was young Cally O'Neal. I think we all fell a little bit in love with that girl. Thus expectations were high for Cally's War. Okay, I read it. And Cally's War....well, let's just say that every person to whom I've mentioned this novel, who's actually read it, has summed up their impressions in three words: "Cally's War sucks." Though that critique lacks something in length and depth, I can't dispute it. Cally's War sucks so hard I'm not even going to critique its content myself. Others have already done that, and to me that would be too much like kicking a one-legged dog.
Cally's War is credited to John Ringo and Julie Cochrane. A few pages into the book, I knew John had subbed it out to Julie. I said to myself, "This book was obviously not written by John Ringo - because if it had been, it'd be one helluva lot better than this." Cally's War is a victim of the tendency, unfortunately common these days, of writers who've created a popular "universe" to let other authors write novels using their milieu and characters. The published novels always, of course, feature the "name" author first in the byline, thus, a cynical personality might say, to lure in the suckers. I have yet to read a decent novel written under this system. (Hey, here's an idea: if you're too busy to write the book yourself, don't take the publisher's money. Radical concept, huh?)
Then I read John Ringo's comments at the head of the Cally's War's Amazon.com web page. Obviously I was not the first person to be disappointed at the quality, or lack thereof, of this work, and some of those folks have expressed that displeasure in print. Ringo's response can be summed up as, "Yeah, I subbed it out. And I like it. If you didn't like it, tough, because there's more just like it where that came from. And by the way, here's a plug for my next book."
I was amazed. Appalled, actually. Now, obviously John Ringo is not a stupid man. His IQ probably looks like a zip code. I can only assume he thinks his star shines so brightly he can get away with that attitude toward his readers. After all, Harlan Ellison has been insulting fans for decades and they still buy his stuff, right? But the difference is that, for all his attitude, Ellison still delivers kick butt stories. Even people who don't like Ellison personally can't deny his talent, or the quality of any story featuring those three little words that mean so much, "by Harlan Ellison." As a matter of fact, the most common description of Harlan Ellison I hear from his detractors is "talented a-hole." If you're going to pull a millionaire rock star attitude, man, you better be turning out millionaire rock star quality. And Cally's War ain't it.
Pulling an arrogant, dismissive attitude toward your fans, then blowing their socks off with your next work, well, that's less than ideal but you can get away with it. Subbing out your universe and your name, turning out a bad novel that debases one of your most popular characters, THEN pulling that arrogant, dismissive attitude toward fans' justified complaints is only going to alienate formerly devoted readers. When this many long-term fans dislike a book so intensely....it's not the readers' fault. I'd like to see John Ringo, (a) quit subbing out books, (2) formally apologize to his readers. A simple, "I screwed up, I apologize, I'll try to do better in the future," would suffice. I was taught in the Army, when you eff up - which we all do occasionally - and you're standing at the position of attention in front of the First Sergeant's desk, the correct attitude is, "No excuse, First Sergeant!" You do that, you'll be perceived as a stand-up guy who's willing to take responsibility for his own actions, and you can probably skate out of things just fine. You start trying to justify yourself, or, God forbid, pull an attitude, you're going to get hammered.
I still want to like John Ringo's stuff. As a matter of fact, I'm looking forward to reading We Few in the very near future. Just no more Cally's Wars, PLEASE.