*What makes this book so great*

That is the title of the new Jo Walton book, and the subtitle is Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  It is an extended paean to the pleasures of re-reading, exhibiting a taste which is interesting , useful, and yet uneven (fifteen separate works by Lois McMaster Bujold are covered, each with its own chapter.  I do like her, but…).  Most of the book offers analyses of individual works, here is one broader bit:

In a science fiction novel, the world is a character, and often the most important character.

In a mainstream novel, the world is implicitly our world, and the characters are the world.

In a mainstream novel trying to be SF, this gets peculiar and can make the reading experience uneven.

…The difference between a mainstream novel and a SF one is that different things are just scenery.

She is trying to tell me that I should attempt Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren again.  She recommends re-reading Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, but can’t bring herself to say it is good.  Overall buying this book caused me to make four additional Amazon purchases, a good sign that is was worth my while.


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