Friday, December 10, 2004

K is for Kindred, S for Seward

The great thing about moving flat is that people are chucking out cool stuff you can liberate. So, I just finished reading my new copy of:

Science Fiction: 100 Best Novels, by David Pringle.
***1/2 (out of 5)
The novels span the period from post-WW2 to 1984, covering novels from (ironically) 1984 to Neuromancer. It’s always exciting to read an overview of a genre – it leaves me with a bunch of stuff that I havetoreadrightnow. In this case, I’m jonesing for …

Inverted World – a wheeled city in a mathematical universe.
The Left Hand of Darkness – I’ve kept hearing about it since 1991.
Pretty much all the Philip K. Dick novels I haven’t read
Nova Express by William S. Burroughs – a battle for reality between the mob and the cops (lead by Uncle Bill himself)
A Clockwork Orange – I didn’t know the title was a metaphor for the impossibility of a perfectly controllable human.
Bug Jack Barron – one media giant versus one corporate tyrant.
The Embedding – about the structure of language … and aliens.

Pringle’s main point is that sf novels lead us into conceptual breakthroughs – where we are shown a new world or our world in a new way.

There’s also a second layer to the book. As he writes his two page comments on each novel, Pringle’s voice is at first unnoticeable; just a critic talking about stuff he likes and doesn’t like. Then his tastes start to intrude onto the reviews. He begins to disparage the books he’s included, making snide comments about some aspects of them. At that point I began to despise David Pringle, whoever the hell he was.*

But slowly my opinion changed. I argued, then considered his points. Grew fond of his tendency to quote long passages devoted to the landscapes a novel’s characters are passing through. In the end, I felt like I’d been through an emotional journey just like I would have with a character in a novel.

Now to read those books.

* Turns out he’s the editor of Foundation, a British SF magazine in the 70’s and 80’s.


Anonymous said...

Svend here - just to say that I have a copy of "Bug Jack Barron", if you wanted to borrow it. :)

hix said...

Yes yes hot diggity yes.

hix said...

And I just picked up a copy of 'Inverted World' for $3 from Nathaniels.

Anonymous said...

(Svend's thinking that maybe he should bite the bullet and register a name. :)

The only problem that I have with a lot of SF of the 1970s is that it wants to be Literature, and a lot of it really isn't. And while Neuromancer is dystopic, from what I remember it's not despairing or completely cynical - which is a vibe I remember from a bunch of SF from around that time.