BSFA Review – Vector #271
This issue of the BSFA Review is something of a science fiction special and covers the whole spectrum of SF. I am also pleased to welcome several new contributors to these pages: Alison Page and Finn Dempster covering recent novels and Roger Luckhurst and Aishwarya Subramanian discussing a pair of academic volumes. Oh, and just for good measure we have Tricia Sullivan writing on Greg Egan too.
In keeping with the overall theme of Vector, the BSFA Review opens with LJ Hurst’s review of London Peculiar And Other Nonfiction by Michael Moorcock and Allan Kausch: “If Moorcock’s London were an organism, I suggest it would be either a chameleon or an amoeba. An amoeba because the city grows and absorbs what it grows around, a chameleon because it takes on appearances, possibly intentionally, becoming something else.” This quote gave me the impetus to pull the only one of China Mieville’s books which I hadn’t read yet, Looking For Jake And Other Stories, off the shelf.
London has been a looming presence in all Mieville’s work since his debut novel, King Rat, a shoddy attempt to fuse folk mythology with the its street culture. It was also re-imagined for the Bas-Lag novels that made his name as the violently febrile New Crobuzon and is there in his standalone works, above or below ground, for adults and for children. It also recurs again and again in this collection and, to someone who has made his home here, there is something transfixing about his ruined, post-collapse capital:
Primrose Hill was continually tunnelled through by some great maggoty imago; Kentish Town was a wasteland of heat and burnt-out houses that smouldered endlessly, in some arcane transmirror pyrosis. But Camden, where they had to go, was the running ground of apocalypse scum, the worst spivs from the dead market’s stall-holders, the least politicised of its punks.
It is an acquired taste though, saltier than his novels; his stories are more out of kilter, weirder than his novels and the hand of M John Harrison hangs heavy. They are also more personal and funnier: “I know I never came to you. You lived in fucking Barnet. I’m only human.”
Mieville lost out on the BSFA Short Fiction Award to Paul Cornell this year and those two stories as well as the other shortlisted works were collected in a booklet that was sent to members with the last mailing. This is becoming an annual tradition and one we are keen to continue. In our final review, former Vector editor Kevin Smith reviews the booklet and finds nothing to entice him back into the world of science fiction. As he puts it: “Have the authors lost the wow factor or have I?” Since nominations and votes come from the membership, I would hope people found something in the shortlist to excite them, but I’d be interested in comments from those of you who didn’t take part in the selection process itself and for whom the booklet was your first exposure to the stories. And I’d certainly encourage you all to start thinking about your nominations for next year now; the more people take part, the stronger the award is.
- London Peculiar And Other Nonfiction by Michael Moorcock and Allan Kausch – Reviewed by LJ Hurst
- Reflections On The Magic Of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones, edited by Charlie Butler, and Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones – Reviewed by Jessica Yates
- The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – Reviewed by Dan Hartland
- The Godless Boys by Naomi Wood – Reviewed by Paul Kincaid
- The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan – Reviewed by Tricia Sullivan
- Machine by Jennifer Pelland – Reviewed by Ian Sales
- vN: The First Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby – Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
- Rocket Science, edited by Ian Sales – Reviewed by Alastair Reynolds
- Adrift On The Sea Of Rains by Ian Sales – Reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
- Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse, edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin – Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller
- The Broken Universe by Paul Melko – Reviewed by Finn Dempster
- In The Lion’s Mouth by Michael Flynn – Reviewed by Duncan Lawie
- The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett – Reviewed by Jim Steel
- The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown – Reviewed by Gary Dalkin
- Random Walk by Alexandra Claire – Reviewed by Anthony Nanson
- 172 Hours On The Moon by Johan Harstad, translated by Tara F Chace – Reviewed by Anne F Wilson
- Manhattan In Reverse by Peter F Hamilton – Reviewed by Martin Potts
- Final Days by Gary Gibson – Reviewed by Stuart Carter
- Champion Of Mars by Guy Haley – Reviewed by David Towsey
- Age of Aztec by James Lovegrove – Reviewed by Sandra Unerman
- Girl Genius Omnibus: Volume One – Agatha Awakens by Phil and Kaja Foglio – Reviewed by Glyn Morgan
- Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker, Doctor Who and the Crusaders by David Whitaker, Doctor Who and the Cybermen by Gerry Davis, Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen by Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion by Terrance Dicks and Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters by Malcolm Hulke – Reviewed by Tony Keen
- Shada by Gareth Roberts, adapted from a script by Douglas Adams – Reviewed by Alison Page
- Maps Of Utopia: H. G. Wells, Modernity, And The End Of Culture by Simon J. James – Reviewed by Roger Luckhurst
- Postcolonialism and Science Fiction by Jessica Langer – Reviewed by Aishwarya Subramanian
- Kevin Smith on the shortlist for the BSFA Short Fiction Award