As reviews editor for Vector, my priority is to make sure that our members receive regular, timely reviews which bring critical insight to a wide range of books. At the same time, I don’t want all this material to be locked away in the print magazine forever. So I am keen to make some of the BSFA’s huge archive of reviews available online.
This is a big job and I am starting with small steps. I already publish my First Impressions column on this blog and that lists each review published in Vector. I have also agreed with a couple of reviewers that they can also republish their reviews on their own blogs to bring the Vector and the BSFa to the attention of a wider audience.
My main goal is to make much more available through the BSFA’s own sites though. Now, you may well have noticed that the Vector website has been in stasis for some time but I can assure you that the overhaul of all its websites is one of the BSFA’s priorities for 2011. In the meantime, I have been using Torque Control as an interim measure and this week I reprinted all my old Vector reviews over there.
Pretty Little Things To Fill Up The Void clearly harks back to the early days of cyberpunk but it is too redundant even to be the future as envisaged in the Eighties. In fact, this is almost pre-cyberpunk and shares more in common with Hubert Selby Jr than with any current SF writers. It is clearly a conscious choice but I’m not sure exactly why or to what end. One thing is for certain; this isn’t science fiction but nor is it purely mimetic because is so strongly abstracted from the real world. The city is a sort of fantasy sinkhole, a playground for malcontents, and this robs it of its power.
(It is clear I struggled to understand what Logan was up to here. I liked his next novel, Katja from the Punk Band, rather more.)
Nanson writes well, if not particularly excitingly. For a writer who makes clear in his introduction that his work is infused with spiritualism he is surprisingly rigorous. If anything it is so self-consciously precise as to be slightly stifling. It is not his writing that proves the problem though but rather his subject. The problem with trying to convey the ineffable is that it is, well, ineffable.
Imagine if Richard Dawkins was not only American but retarded. Imagine he taught himself to read using the work of illiterate megasellers like James Patterson and Tess Gerritsen. Imagine he further fleshed out his understanding of human nature on a diet of romance novels and misery memoirs. Finally, imagine he stayed up one night getting drunk and watching piss poor police procedurals before having the sudden brainwave of re-writing American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Imagine all that and you have imagined Melinda Snodgrass’s dire The Edge Of Reason and thus saved yourself the pain of actually reading it.
Edward M Lerner is a traditional SF writer in that he is an engineer who knows a lot about S and not much about F. After ghostwriting a couple of Ringworld prequels for them, this is his first novel proper for Tor and only adds to my sense that something has gone badly wrong with their quality control of late. Fools’ Experiments is a tedious technothriller doled out in 71 bite-sized (but not particularly thrilling) chapters.
The main selling point of Wireless is ‘Palimpsest’, an unpublished novella. A mix of time travel and deep time future history, it is a powerful piece but sabotaged by an afterword in which Stross makes clear that it should really be a novel, had industry requirements not dictated otherwise. I understand the travails of the jobbing writer – Stross has chronicled them well on his blog – but Wireless is so market-driven that any enjoyment of the stories was overwhelmed by a desire for less haste and graft and more reflection and quality control.
As a bonus, here a few further thoughts about Wireless and the amount of sunshine in Stross’s fiction.