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Friday 25 January 2002

§ Salon 24 January 2002
Laura Miller reviews Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, a first novel published in Britain in 2001 (it's on Locus Magazine's 2001 Recommended Reading List) and coming from Viking in the US this month; a wild alternate history:

"The Eyre Affair" is mostly a collection of jokes, conceits and puzzles. It's smart, frisky and sheer catnip for former English majors, a cross between Douglas Adams' "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and Jonathan Lethem's "Gun, With Occasional Music," with a big chunk of "The Norton Anthology of English Literature" tossed in.

§ New York Times Book Review 20 January 2002
Coincidentally anticipating Philip Pullman's unprecedented victory in this year's Whitbread Prize competition, Margo Jefferson's essay, titled "Harry Potter for Grown-Ups", contrasts the predictable pleasures of Harry Potter with the more substantial enchantment of "His Dark Materials"...

If you are going to preface your books with passages from Milton, Rilke and John Ashbery, then you had better write well. Pullman does. His prose has texture and flexibility, like excellent fabric. And he gives us so much. Suspense of course, but such degrees of pleasure, excitement (the excitement of meeting characters, not just adventurers) and grief. And such joy -- the joy of thinking, of testing your senses and feelings, of knowing your imagination is entering worlds not dreamed of in the usual philosophies.

§ Washington Post Book World 20 January 2002
Michael Dirda reviews Craig Nova's Wetware, calling it "a haunting, heart-stoppingly exciting, brilliantly structured novel of suspense, ideas and subtle characterization"--perhaps even a literary novel worthy of its SF roots:

Because Nova is a "literary" novelist (The Good Son, Tornado Alley, The Universal Donor), I'm sure Wetware won't be marketed as science fiction. But that's what it is. Its themes are those of Frankenstein (and Genesis). Briggs might be one of the alienated, melancholy heroes of J.G. Ballard's tales of "inner space." Kay and Jack recall the replicants of "Blade Runner" and the other unknowingly conditioned characters in the works of Philip K. Dick. William Gibson's Neuromancer certainly helped to inspire the virtual-reality gaming saloons where one can plug into various cyberspace playworlds. And any number of dystopias might have suggested the politicization of trendiness, such that anybody not keeping up with current fashion is liable to draw the attention of the half-witted and doggedly murderous Mungo Men. As in so much late modern sf, Nova's future is technologically sophisticated yet also somehow seedy, run-down and ersatz.

§ CNN January 23, 2002
Ray Bradbury is on top of the world (interview); after all, he's no mere sci-fi writer...

Many of Bradbury's books seem at first glance tailor-made for readers on the cusp of puberty. What 14-year-old, fresh, from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "Huckleberry Finn," can resist "Something Wicked This Way Comes," with its affectionate remembrances of touring summer tent shows and their mysterious, scary carnival barkers?

But a closer reading will show that "Something Wicked" is not really a sci-fi book about a spooky old carnival run by people who never die. It's a metaphor for a universal human fear -- not the fear of dying, but of growing old and being forgotten.

Wednesday 16 January 2002

§ New York Times Book Review 13 January 2002
Gerald Jonas's SF column covers Peter Watts's Maelstrom (Tor), a follow-up to Starfish

What makes his novel exhilarating instead of depressing is the conviction and control he brings to his material -- which, as the last few pages make clear, is intended as cautionary rather than minatory.
as well as Greg Bear's Vitals (Del Rey) — "a horror story that eerily anticipates and then wildly outdoes the headlines of the last few months" — Nalo Hopkinson's Skin Folk (Warner Aspect), and Peter Crowther's anthology Futures (Warner Aspect).

§ Chicago Tribune January 13, 2002
Alan Cheuse reviews a book by Craig Nova called Wetware (Crown), calling it perhaps the author's best novel yet.

"Wetware" is not quite a genre book, but it is certainly an admirable achievement that appropriates many of the conventions of modern science-fiction. The future setting turns out to be oddly appropriate, given Nova's presentation of his characters' emotional complexes. The U.S. he writes about has advanced technologically, but socially it has evolved into a strangely oppressive world of great science, opaque economics, virtual-game arcades and small-minded politics, a world in which no one appears to be very happy. His main character, biotech engineer Hal Briggs, is a creator of sorts, driven by his emotional deficiencies to break a number of laws by adding certain forbidden traits--including the ability to know longing and love, and to give birth--to the androids he has been nurturing in his lab.

§ San Francisco Chronicle January 6, 2002
William S. Kowinski reviews The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson, a book about "outmoded monsters of Western civilization" re-emerging via movie, comics, the Web, and other such sub-Zeitgeist phenomenoa.

§ Washington Post Book World December 23, 2001
An SF column by Tim Sullivan covers recent books by Ray Bradbury, Jack Dann, William Tenn, and Vernor Vinge.

December Field Inspections

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