Climbs and Punishment, by Felix Lowe, published by Corgi, £9.99
This isn’t a particularly new book, but it does serve to illustrate one very important point…don’t ever buy anything based solely on Amazon customer reviews. Why? Because they’re clearly all idiots.
Of the 34 reviews on the UK Amazon site for this book, 28 people give it five stars, three people give it four stars, and three people give it three stars or fewer. Interestingly, of those 28 five-star reviews, only 16 are verified purchases. For what it’s worth, here’s my review from Amazon:
Climbs and Punishment can be summed up thusly: “Hello I’m Felix and I’m a world-famous cycling blogger with a world famous cycling blog and column in a cycling magazine and I’m truly awesome and despite never having ridden a bike before I rode across Europe better than all the other idiots who were cycling with me. I also ate a lot of food and fantasised about all the nice things the other people were thinking about me and I have a fabulous cycling physique and know lots of very famous cyclists. Did I mention that I’m a famous cycling writer? Anyway despite being a cycling arriviste it turns out that I’m completely brilliant at riding a bike despite being incredibly old and I’m really great mates with Greg Lemond and then I cycled up a famous mountain in southern Europe and retold all the old cycling stories we’ve all read a million times in other people’s books. Did I mention my slender cycling physique? And then I threw in a few paragraphs here and there about the 2nd Punic War and rode really fast with some Australians and I could have been a pro racer if I’d taken up cycling earlier and I even managed to tell everyone that my family discovered Tuscany long before Tony Blair went there for his holidays. Did I mention my column in Cyclist magazine? Ow, my knees hurt.”
I wanted to like this book (I like history, food and cycling), but couldn’t get past Felix’s egotistical self-satisfaction and his superior attitude to his fellow travelers. At times the self-congratulatory tone is toe-curlingly awful. The writing style is mostly OK, but he’s no Tim Moore or Ned Boulting. I think part of the problem is that Felix embarked on this trip specifically in order to get a book out of it. But nothing much happened, so it’s not much of a book. Try “French Revolutions” or “Gironimo” by Tim Moore…they are so much better.
Anyway, my point is that despite being a not very good book, it scores a total of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. So clearly I am wrong about this book. Am I fuck! It’s a nice idea done not very well by someone with a very high opinion of themselves. I kept on reading it, not because I particularly enjoyed it but because I wanted to see if Felix was going to spontaneously combust in a cloud of amour-propre. I suspect if Felix could have turned himself into one of the sickly desserts he describes in his book, he probably would have done…so that he could gobble himself up. Yum yum yum.
But the fact is that most reviewers, for whatever reason, thought it was marvelous. Which makes me wonder about all the other reviews on Amazon. And once you start to delve, you realise that people give one-star reviews to things simply because Amazon sent the wrong colour, or because the postman lost it, or any number of moronic reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the product itself. At least one review for this book is from someone who bought it for their dad as a present, who said he liked it (as opposed to telling your kid that you didn’t like it). But the good news is that the cycling book-buying public will buy, and enjoy, practically anything cycling related, which bodes well for my forthcoming book about the history and development of the quill stem, entitled Stem Sell Theranostics (Rotherham University Press, £49.95).