Friday, September 15, 2006

Review roundup

My review of Adam Roberts' The History of Science Fiction is now up over at Green Man Review for your reading pleasure. It was a difficult book to finish, mainly because it was so uneven. Certain sections would just sing, fascinating explorations of SF history heretofore unknown to me. And then the book would stop me in my tracks, bogging down in naval-gazing academia. A mixed bag, yes, but one I'm glad I have on my reference shelf. I like to think I have a better understanding of the genre for having read it.
One thing in Roberts' favor is his thoroughness and attention to history. Whereas Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is the oft-repeated "beginning" of science fiction, Roberts pushes the envelope much further back. The second chapter makes very clear his stance on matters with the unambiguous title "Science Fiction and the Ancient Novel Interlude: AD 400-1600." Following that are chapters on 17th, 18th and early 19th century science fiction, which makes for a broad survey before the book even reaches the likes of Verne and Wells and Shelley who shaped modern SF as we know it. Roberts makes a very compelling case that fantastic literature was a strong and vibrant form (as much as any literature could be) throughout the ancient and medieval world, staking claim to the voyage extraordinaire. No less a writer than Plutarch is claimed for SF, on the basis of his speculative "On the Face Apparent in the Circle of the Moon," as well as Lucian of Samosata, who wrote of a journey beyond the moon in "Ikaromenippos."

I also have a couple of reviews in the new issue of Brutarian (actually a double issue, no. 47 and 48) which doesn't do you much good if you're not a subscriber, but there it is. I review Zoran Zivkovic's Time-Gifts from Northwestern University Press and also his The Writer/The Book out from Prime Books. Not the type of books you'd normally see reviewed in Brutarian, but the editor, Dom, said he wanted unusual and obscure. Zoran's writings certainly qualify as such--at least to Brutarian's audience, but I suspect he's growing less obscure on a daily basis.

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