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4.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, but... an author with an Agenda?
This interesting book is arranged into thematic chapters each of which is a mini-history of its Sci Fi subject. They skip quickly over many Sci Fi stories with very brief three or four sentence summaries of each one relevant to the topic.

The first chapter surveys voyages into outer space, voyages into a hollow earth, and voyages into unearthly territories...
Published 2 months ago by Christopher H

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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did he even watch the films?
I enjoyed reading this book. As a source of information on older texts I am sure it is useful. However, the author in writing about the Alien film series has made several basic errors. The Alien is not first encountered on "a derelict alien space craft floating in space." It is first encountered on a planetoid, LV-426 as it is designated in the sequel Aliens, inside a...
Published on 12 Jun 2011 by AlanKS


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4.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, but... an author with an Agenda?, 1 May 2014
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
This interesting book is arranged into thematic chapters each of which is a mini-history of its Sci Fi subject. They skip quickly over many Sci Fi stories with very brief three or four sentence summaries of each one relevant to the topic.

The first chapter surveys voyages into outer space, voyages into a hollow earth, and voyages into unearthly territories including microscopic journeys into the body, and drug-induced trips into the inner mind; the next chapter plots out confrontations with hostile Alien life forms in space, then Alien invasions of earth (many influenced by the Cold War), and finally encounters with friendly Aliens; then follows a chapter on Future technologies, shifting to views of future cities, followed by robots, cyborgs, and computers. The fourth chapter sees David Seed sketch out the main novels supplying templates for utopias and dystopias; then a chapter on fictions involving time travel and time displacement. The final chapter is very academic (it reads like a long, interesting conference paper) where the author plots out his allegiances and interests in literary approaches to Sci Fi.

That said, David Seed's book is heavily American in its focus. Apart from H.G.Wells, British writers come in at a distant second place, and the rest of the world is left out. This means that minor Americans get undeserved attention while some seriously major writers are missing, like Stanislaus Lem (why not Solaris in the section on aliens?). It also leads to the demotion of Brits - like Fred Hoyle, a distinguished astronomer who also wrote very influential Sci Fi novels on encounters with plausible alien life forms (not silly monsters), but he is nowhere mentioned. Meanwhile American writers who lifted Hoyle's ideas (his major A for Andromeda has been repeatedly pastiched) do get a guernsey.

David Seed's stress throughout is on novels, with some Hollywood films brought in at times. Admittedly, you can't touch on everything, but television is barely mentioned: major and influential TV shows like The Twilight Zone, "Out of the Unknown" and The Outer Limits are completely missed. Apart from Orson Welles, radio is also ignored - a key vehicle for Sci Fi pre-1960. Assorted B grade US movies are promoted over important British TV shows. This can lead to a skewed perspective: the discussion of Cyborgs suggests all stems from the 1972 US novel "Cyborg", although the idea had long been around in UK television, even appearing as the Cybermen introduced in Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet during 1967.

David Seed, the author, writes with a strong Agenda throughout. He searches for Social and Political messages in Sci Fi, praising works that fit this formula - in this he is influenced by Marxist literary criticism, indeed, his final chapter glowingly praises Marxist approaches to Sci Fi. The author prefers Sci Fi to be railing against or somehow attacking mainstream society. The value of escapism and apolitical speculative imagining is not considered, while anti-Communist Sci Fi gets short shrift (the overt political meanings of Zamyatin's 1920 We, a mighty Sci Fi novel that influenced Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley's Brave New World, is neither explained nor even acknowledged).

Curiously, given that David Seed writes as an academic, the book doesn't address the matter of literary quality, which was very important to British Sci Fi writers in the 1960s and 70s. There was a real push in those decades to raise the standard of writing, figures like Ballard and Aldiss lifting the bar well above the level of prevailing American pulp (which affected the Sci Fi right around the world).

Certainly worth reading, but be aware of its limitations (I've since found Roger Luckhurst's overview Science Fiction (Cultural History of Literature) a more systematic work overall). An uneven book which mixes many strong sections discussing novels, with slices of Marxist academic material that doesn't quite fit.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for All Science Fiction Fans, 1 Oct 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I am a big fan of science fiction, and like most other fans consider myself fairly knowledgeable about this genre. Nonetheless, I have not thought deeply and systematically about science fiction, and this very short introduction was very informative and enlightening.

This book presents a good short overview of some of the most important Sci-fi writers of all time: H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many others. This is a very nice and historically well-researched introduction, with plenty of references to some of the most influential works of science fiction. The book is structured thematically along the main subgenres of science fiction: voyages into space, alien encounters, science fiction and technology, utopias and dystopias, and fictions of time. I would have also liked to see a dedicated genetic manipulation and biotechnology chapter. This has become one of the most significant science fiction themes in recent years. The last chapter deals with the field of science fiction as such, and it takes a bird's view of science fiction literature.

One slight issue that I have with this introduction is its overwhelming emphasis on science fiction literature. A few notable movies are mentioned, but only as book tie-ins. The fact is that the most successful movie of all time (Avatar), as well as many others on the top-grossing list, are all very much science fiction works. Far from being a fringe, science fiction is one of the most dominant forms of the cinematic arts. Hence an introductory book like this one should have given it much more space. Another minor annoyance are the several attempts throughout the book to raise the issues that are very dominant in the academic literature departments, but are very far from the concerns of most science fiction readers. I feel that these attempts were made in order to make science fiction seem more important from the point of view of "serious" literary studies, but I find these concerns somewhat artificial. Fortunately these digressions are few and far between.

Overall, this is a very well written book that would be of a lot of interest to all the science fiction fans, as well as to people who want to learn more about this fascinating genre.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did he even watch the films?, 12 Jun 2011
This review is from: Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I enjoyed reading this book. As a source of information on older texts I am sure it is useful. However, the author in writing about the Alien film series has made several basic errors. The Alien is not first encountered on "a derelict alien space craft floating in space." It is first encountered on a planetoid, LV-426 as it is designated in the sequel Aliens, inside a derelct space craft. According to Seed, Alien 3 is set on Earth! Earth! It is set on a prison planet, Fiorina. Perhaps the fact that the prison is largely populated by English character actors confused the author.

Hopefully, he spent more care writing about the books.
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