Sunday, 12 December 2010


I read quite a bit of science fiction earlier this year. My favourites were Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds and Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatskii, the latter of course was filmed in 1979 as Stalker by Tarkovsky. Got it out from the library after reading the book and was very impressed - ok it was slow, but some of the images were stunning - especially the slow tracking shot over the water-covered floor towards the end. A moving documentary in the extras revealed that almost everyone involved with the film is dead. Thought the whole basic idea of Roadside Picnic was great - what if a vastly powerful intergalactic race just stopped off here for a quick break but left behind a contaminated area containing a collection of stunning technological wonders and deadly traps?

Obviously a lot of Ballard was devoured as well this year. For this reader much 'classic; science fiction seems very dated now or is so badly written that I just can't get into it - I wish it could be better. Apart from JGB the only other great writer I can think of in this genre is William Gibson or Burroughs if you count some of his stuff as SF - M John Harrison can also be included and mustn't forget Christopher Priest (another Hastings resident). Philip K Dick's ideas and outlook are fascinating, but I've found some of his books hard going - A Scanner Darkly is great, I thought The Man in the High Castle overrated. In some ways H G Wells has never been surpassed.

Worst book for me was one that has been voted best SF novel of all time in some places - Enders Game by Orson Scott Card - I think I'm probably 30 years too old for its thinly disguised right wing politics and queasy pseudo-mysticism that reminded me too much of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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