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  • 22/08/2023 18:50 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Beyond the Burn Line cover

    Beyond the Burn Line by Paul McAuley

    (Gollancz, 2022)

    Reviewed by by Nick Hubble

    Beyond the Burn Line defies easy categorisation. It is simultaneously the tale of a far-future post-Anthropocene Earth and a first-contact novel. The first half is a somewhat leftfield quest adventure set in a just-about preindustrial society. The second half is a high-tech thriller, complete with unreliable AIs and action scenes in exotic locations. If this sounds potentially bewildering, have no fear because the novel is such a beautifully written, character-driven and enchanting narrative, that it is a delight to immerse oneself within. I think a key reason for the intense readerly pleasure I experienced lay precisely in the way that Beyond the Burn Line combines so many types of stories that I like and does something meaningful with them.

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 18/08/2023 08:28 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Nightmare cover

    Nightmare: The Unfolding of a World Crisis by Liz Cowley and Donough O’Brien

    (GB Publishing, 2022)

    Reviewed by John Dodd

    I like disaster films. I like world ending crises. I like the sort of thing where the stakes are so high that the only thing that can justify them is a resolution of equal height. From the read on the background, this wasn’t going to be a disaster along the lines of Armageddon or Resident Evil, but I liked that something that threatened the world might not come along in a large, loud package.

    Unfortunately, that was as far as this got…

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 15/08/2023 19:13 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Thousand Earths cover

    The Thousand Earths by Stephen Baxter

    (Gollancz, 2022)

    Reviewed by Dan Hartland

    Sleepers have been waking for much of the history of science fiction. From William Morris to Philip Francis Nowlan through to generation starships and Dave Lister, the trope of a human preserved beyond their natural lifespan waking into a transformed future has proven surprisingly stubborn. Of course, it is a usefully direct means of achieving the contrast between tomorrow’s innovations and today’s challenges that gives some kinds of SF their characteristic frisson; but in that utility it is also rather blunt. The awakened sleeper can sometimes seem to lead the reader by the nose.

    One of the many things Stephen Baxter attempts in The Thousand Earths is to under-cut our expectations of this hoary old staple of the genre. His John Hackett boards a ramship in a 2154 already overcoming the challenges of our own time and swapping them for others. His mission: to use his “relativity-busting” (p. 581) ramship to travel to Andromeda and back—a five-million-year-round trip from the perspective of Earth, but on his endlessly accelerating ship only a few years of subjective time.

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 12/08/2023 09:38 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dice Men cover

    Dice Men: The origin story of Games Workshop by Ian Livingstone with Steve Jackson

    (The Book Publicist, 2022)

    Reviewed by Stuart Carter

    Dare you enter the terrifying world of Dice Men, our new adventure in which YOU are the hero? Follow in the footsteps of fearless knight Sir Ian Livingstone and mild-mannered wordsmith Steve Jackson, the twin creators of Games Workshop—the realm’s mightiest purveyor of pastimes!

    You play as a lowly Reviewer with a fierce deadline to beat. To calculate yours, roll one six-sided dice and add 2 to the result. This is your Deadline; if it reaches 0, you have failed in your quest.

    Now, take up your notebook and stride forth, noble Reviewer!

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 09/08/2023 19:54 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Of One Blood cover

    Of One Blood by Pauline Hopkins

    (The MIT Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven

    In reviewing this addition to MIT Press’s boldly designed Radium Age Science Fiction imprint, which is dedicated to bringing back into print seminal works of proto-sf that were originally released in the first few decades of the C20th, I find myself doing something a bit unusual: I’m going to recommend that you read Of One Blood by Pauline Hopkins even though, as a novel, it is not very good.

    I generally avoid definitive statements regarding quality, and part of me would like to do so here. I am not an aficionado of the period—Of One Blood was originally published in 1902—so I cannot assess it against some accepted standard of quality, even were we able to agree on the metrics for such a measurement. Nonetheless, I can say objectively that the prose veers between overwrought and hackneyed, the pacing is erratic, and the plotting largely obvious with flashes of where-the-hell-did-that-come-from. (Apparently the story was originally written for serial publication, which goes some way to explaining its rather lurching progress: even with a solid outline to go by, a tale told in episodes can come out lumpy, particularly if there are wordcount restraints.)

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 05/08/2023 14:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tyger cover

    Tyger by SF Said

    (David Fickling Books, 2023)

    Reviewed by Kevan Manwaring

    This is the fourth collaboration between SF Said and the multi-talented artist, Dave McKean (preceded by Varjak Paw, The Outlaw Varjak Paw, and Phoenix), and the integration of text and illustration is a pleasure to experience. Along with the stunning cover, endpapers, and other paratext, it is a total aesthetic experience that restores a bibliophilic delight to the reading experience. Although ostensibly in the ‘YA’ category, Tyger, like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust, has a genuine crossover appeal that would connect with adult audiences as well as with younger readers. In a similar way to how Pullman draws upon John Milton in his series, Said here draws heavily upon William Blake—not only in the titular ‘Tyger’ of the title (an anthropomorphic and archetypal presence that looms large in the story and in the textual plane—akin to how the armoured polar bear, Iorek Byrnison does in Pullman’s universe), but in other intertextual allusions to the Lambeth-based artist and poet. The main antagonist is Urizen, Blake’s god of reason—and the Tyger is almost an embodiment of Los: his blazing deity of the imagination. Yet beneath this Manichaean conflict there are several allusions to Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience: Said draws upon the poet’s iconography (the lamb; the chimneysweep; shepherds) and cosmology. For Tyger is set in a parallel contemporary London—one of many in Said’s quantum multiverse—in which the British Empire still exists, slavery has not been abolished, and the sprawl of the city has been checked by an authoritarian, xenophobic regime. This ‘other England’ evokes the alternative London of ‘The Crystal Cabinet’, a poem featured in The Pickering Manuscript:

    Another England there I saw
    Another London with its Tower,
    Another Thames and other hills,
    And another pleasant Surrey bower.

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    Review from BSFA Review 20 - Download your copy here.

  • 24/06/2023 09:41 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Death by Landscape cover

    Death by Landscape by Elvia Wilk

    (Soft Skull Press, 2022)

    Reviewed by Niall Harrison

    In 1998, Jonathan Lethem published an essay, ‘The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction’, which imagined that Gravity’s Rainbow won the 1973 Nebula Award and that subsequently, as a positive consequence, both the term ‘science fiction’ and the separate science fiction community gradually withered away. The essay was knowingly provocative, albeit with a sincere desire behind it for a less territorial literary ecology. It came to mind while reading Elvia Wilk’s essay collection because Lethem has lavishly blurbed it, and because I suspect part of the reason he did is Wilk’s total comfort in segueing from Margaret Atwood to Kathe Koja to Daisy Hildyard to Tricia Sullivan, or between solarpunk and 19th-century poetry and vampire LARPing. Death by Landscape is a lively, wide-ranging demonstration of how far and how fast the borders have fallen: the back cover even describes the contents as ‘fan non-fiction’.

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    Review from BSFA Review 19 - Download your copy here.

  • 19/06/2023 20:06 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Arab and Muslim Science Fiction: Critical Essays cover

    Arab and Muslim Science Fiction: Critical Essays edited by Hosam A. Ibrahim Elzembely and Emad El-Din Aysha

    (McFarland, 2022)

    Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

    This baggy (43 essays, plus introductory and concluding material over nearly 400 pages) but important book is the brainchild of the Egyptian Society for Science Fiction (ESSF), an organisation established in 2012 with ambitions to reach out to and showcase the Arab/Muslim sf world. It has published a number of anthologies, but this seems to be the first major English-language publication attributed to the group. As such, it’s a work of amazing ambition and energy, some frustration, and great dedication.

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    Review from BSFA Review 19 - Download your copy here.

  • 12/06/2023 19:31 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Constellations: Minority Report cover

    Constellations: Minority Report by D. Harlan Wilson

    (Auteur, 2022)

    Reviewed by Graham Andrews

    Of the making of films based upon the works of Philip K. Dick, there has been…well, not so many, of late. I know their titles, as do you, you, and especially you. For the purposes of this review, however, it would be hard not to reference Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and—has it really been twenty years?—Minority Report (2002). And the literature about PDK (for short) threatens to overwhelm the literature by PDK, if it has not already done so. This Liverpool University Press monograph (C: MR ditto) by Professor D. Harlan Wilson (Professor of English at Wright State University-Lake Campus) considers the Steven Spielberg film version of MR, in depth, width, and not-inordinate length (128 pages).

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    Review from BSFA Review 19 - Download your copy here.

  • 08/06/2023 17:06 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alfred Bester’s ‘The Stars Are My Destination’: A Critical Companion cover

    Alfred Bester’s ‘The Stars My Destination’: A Critical Companion by D. Harlan Wilson

    (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)

    Reviewed by L.J. Hurst

    How important is Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination in the history of sf? A couple of months ago I had the chance to find out when I thought that my hardback copy was lost and went online to buy another. That copy—fortunately found before I began reading D. Harlan Wilson’s Critical Companion—would have cost a fortune to replace. In money terms Stars (to abbreviate it) is very important. It is also not inappropriate a way to consider the book because one of the themes of the novel—and it has a number—is the persistence of finance capitalism. Money—or resources and what they can buy—is an engine of the story.

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    Review from BSFA Review 19 - Download your copy here.


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