Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

"In other worlds" by Margaret Atwood (Virago, 2011)

A pacy, informative and entertaining book about Dystopia, Utopias and soft SF - a mix of autobiography, articles, talk transcriptions and reviews, from the point of view of a reader, student and writer. Her reading seems patchy - she's read Northrop Frye, and as a child read many of the SF classics. Here are just a few quotes

  • Are narratives a means to enforce social control or a means of escape from it? ... Are we the slaves of our own stories - our family narratives and dramas, for instance ... Are they essential to us - part of the matrix of our shared humanity? (p.41)
  • Marxism and its cousin, Christian socialism, were such neo-mythical structures. Their pattern was a linear one, like that of Christianity, but for God's grand plan they substituted History, a godlike entity that would enfold in an inevitable way and justify you id you were on the right side (p.53)
  • So that's why Heaven and Hell - or at least some of the shapes their inhabitants have traditionally taken - have gone to Planet X. A lot of other gods and heroes have gone there as well. They've moved shop because they're acceptable to us there, whereas they wouldn't be here (p.65)
  • Typically a romance begins with a break in ordinary consciousness, often - traditionally - signalled by a shipwreck, frequently linked with a kidnapping by pirates. Exotic climes are a feature, especially exotic desert islands; so are strange creatures (p.157)

Other reviews

  • Kevin Barry
  • Martin Petto (In Other Worlds, then, is a book about science fiction written by someone who doesn't know much about it for an audience that presumably knows nothing about it. Why on Earth should the science fiction reader continue? Many won't ... her 2002 New Yorker review of Le Guin's The Birthday of the World and Other Stories provides a dress rehearsal for the first section of this book: the clumsy taxonomy, the linking of SF with theological speculation, the idea that the Soviet Union put the nail in the coffin for utopia. At the same time, it continues to reveal how half-formed some of her views are.)

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