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The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge Companions to Literature) Paperback – 26 Oct 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (26 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521016576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521016575
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'Overall, the volume is a major achievement. There's no other book like it on the market, and it will surely become the first point of reference for students coming to the study of SF. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction is highly recommended.' Alien Online

'The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction … appears to be structured as an undergraduate teaching resource, although one accessible to both the interested lay reader and to readers and fans with more than a basic knowledge of sf. This, in itself, is something of a feat, and that the Companion pulls it off admirably is a credit to its editors and contributors.' Vector

'This is a solid, intelligent, sophisticated scholarly assessment from a major academic publisher. Every bit the intellectual equal of other titles in the Cambridge series, it will likely become one of the most referenced secondary works in the study of sf, especially in pedagogical contexts.' Science Fiction Studies

'… an ideal introductory companion for the uninitiated … a range of interesting themes … This book is thought provoking, informative and intelligent. It successfully reveals the critical intricacy of this much-maligned genre … This is an excellent addition to any collection supporting the study of modern English literature and a superb source book for librarians seeking to develop the definitive science fiction collection.' Reference Reviews

'… this is a coherent, well-edited collection, which covers all of the bases and is more than fit for purpose. The production of the book alone, given its scope, must have been a mammoth task and the fact that the whole comes together so well does real credit to its editors.' Foundation

'A thoughtful compilation of ideas about the genre, a bit of history, some politics and good guides make The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge, £24.99) worth the read.' New Scientist

'… this is one of the best literary companions I have discovered … a comprehensive and clearly accessible guide to current sf writing … Science fiction does what so few of such reader's guides manage. it coveys both rigorous academic erudition and a genuine love and interest in the subject … will do much for the academic study of science fiction in future years.' English

'… it does an excellent job cataloguing and condensing in a mere 300 pagesthe basics as well as some current trends in Science Fiction (Studies). … the book suceeds in offering a comprehensive and inspiring introduction to Science Fiction (Studies). Next to the many brilliant essays it collects it's greatest strength lies in the rich topical surveys of sf literature each contribution supplies, whetting the reader's appetite for these novels which might otherwise slip her/his attention.' Anglia

'… a comprehensive analysis of a literary genre which stands at the intersection of numerous fields. … it retains coherence in style and purpose throughout …' Revue d'études anglophones

Book Description

Science fiction is at the intersection of numerous fields; it draws on popular culture, and engages in speculation about science, history, and all types of social relations. This volume brings together essays by scholars and practitioners of science fiction, which look at the genre from different angles.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The Cambridge Guide to Science Fiction is a laudable and largely successful attempt to give an overview of the genre which is both academically rigorous but also accessible to non-academic readers. I say "largely" successful because it's divided into three sections. The first and last (devoted, respectively, to the history of the genre and an analysis of its key themes) are largely excellent, but the middle chunk, which looks at SF from the perspective of critical theory, stinks the place out (with one notable exception). In other words, it's a bit of a s*** sandwich. Thankfully, the bread is substantial, tasty and nourishing, and there's not much of that rather iffy filling.

Let's get the unpleasant stuff out of the way first. The "critical theory" section purports to examine SF from the perspectives of Marxist, feminist, queer and postmodernist theory. The essays are, as you'd probably expect, jargon-heavy (though by the usual standards of this stuff, they're relatively transparent), and, as you'd also probably expect, they seem to feel that the core SF canon consists of three books (and if you're guessing they're "The Dispossessed", "The Female Man" and "Triton", you're guessing correctly), which of course match the authors' own cultural agendas. Those are significant novels, to be sure, but it's an insult to readers and writers to dismiss the rest of the genre because it doesn't match the political views of the academics. I actually have a reasonably high tolerance for academic abstraction, and my politics are left of centre, but these essays do nothing to counter the view that arts faculties are disappearing up their own neutron stars under the influence of incomprehensible jargon, political agendas and general irrelevance to the wider population.
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Format: Paperback
For a Cambridge Companion, this is surprisingly shallow. The other reviewer pinpointed one of the faults of the book; but the chapter about Religion and SF by Mendlesohn is also quite poor. A discussion about religion in SF in a book printed by such a prestigious press which does not mention James Blish's A Case of Coscience? I can't believe it. It's like a book on Renaissance Revenge Tragedy which doesn't mention Hamlet. But what might be even more disappointing is the absence of Philip K. Dick. Of course the author of the chapter is allowed to devote more time to what authors she thinks are more important, but since this is a book that should help students to understand what is sf and what are its most important works and issues, the fact that such novels as VALIS, The Divine Invasion, Radio Free Albemuth, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch are not mentioned in the context of a discussion of sf and religion is bewildering.

All in all, my very personal opinion is that some parts are quite good (McLeod's chapter on politics, but also Butler's on sf & postmodernism and Wolfe's on sf editors), but some are awfully poor and poorly researched. And this should make us ask why did the editors chose those authors for those chapters, which is a question that directly leads to another, why haven't some very important scholars been involved (no, I won't drop names, but anybody who's knowledgeable with sf criticism knows what people I mean). Once again, the editors are free to choose, but then they're responsible for their choices, which are puzzling at best.
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'The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction', does it need an explanation? I do not think so kind sir, or madam, it speaks for itself, not literally though.
If you are studying science fiction this is a great book to help you understand the context sf has been written in. If you are not studying sf it is still a good book to help you go that step forward into understanding sf rather than just reading the story superficially.
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Format: Paperback
A fantastic book, bringing together a broad survey of critical perspectives on the history, development and ways of reading science fiction - accessible to laymen and academics alike.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9b60b378) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa22cf354) out of 5 stars One of the best anthologies I have ever read 3 Sept. 2006
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Anthologies are notoriously inconsistent. Most contain several essays considerably below the level of the best pieces and many contain a few utterly miserable ones. On the downside, no essay in this collection truly stands out; on the upside, there really isn't a weak entry in the volume. I honestly cannot think of another collection of which I can make that statement.

Whether you are a serious fan of Sci-fi or a casual reader seeking an introduction to the field, this collection will prove invaluable. I fall somewhere between those two categories. Over the years I've read a few hundred Sci-fi novels and seen most Sci-fi films that have been made, but it has never been my main source of reading or film viewing. I've read rather a lot of the historically important works such as Mary Shelly, Henry Kuttner, H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapleton, and David Lindsay, but I've never attempted anything like a comprehensive reading of the classics. And I have ready very little that has been published in the past fifteen years. Still, I found that I learned an enormous amount about the field from this book. I learned about several historical works I had not previously known of, got a better understanding of the state of the genre from one decade to another, and learned a great deal about trends in the field in the past couple of decades. I also learned something about the various literary critical reactions to the genre. For those in the academy, it is a helpful introduction to the scholarly take on things.

The book is also great at pointing the way to other books. I kept a sheet of paper beside me as I read. I have already bought a few critical books on Sci-fi based on mentions of them in this volume, while I also have compiled a list of a number of novels that I plan on reading.

The essays in the book are broken down into three separate sections. The first section deals with the history of Sci-fi, from precursor works to the magazine age to various decades after. The second and most academic section deals with various academic approaches to Sci-fi, including Marxist, feminist, postmodernist, and queer theory. The final and most wide-ranging section covers a variety of themes such as gender, race, hard science fiction, alternate history, space opera, film and TV, and religion. The writers are mainly English and mostly academic, though several are also writers of Sci-fi. Even the writers, however, are fully qualified academics. For instance, one of the more scholarly entries is that by Brian Stableford. Though most of the essayists are British, American Sci-fi has so completely dominated the genre that it automatically demands priority. If anything, I was somewhat surprised by the absence of some European writers. There is, for instance, very little discussion of Stanislaw Lem, though several deserving British writers do receive attention.

In addition to the very good essays there is also a very interesting (though certainly not exhaustive) list of chronology listing some significant novels, short stories, movies, and television series. There is also a good bibliography at the end of the book, though I wish it had been annotated.

I highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in Sci-fi either in a casual or more dedicated fashion. In all honestly I have to say it is one of the most successful volumes in the Cambridge Companions series that I have read.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b19d078) out of 5 stars An excellent academic study of science fiction 13 Oct. 2007
By K. Bunker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is truly a fine volume, highly recommended to anyone who wants a broad sampling of the academic thought that has been applied to the genre. Although it's a collection of chapters by many different authors, I thought the quality was uniformly excellent. The structure of the book results in some overlap of themes, for example with a chapter on "Feminist theory and science Fiction" appearing in "Part 2. Critical approaches" and a chapter on "Gender in science Fiction" in "Part 3. Sub-genres and themes". However, I didn't find this to be a flaw; it gives the reader the opportunity to read different authors approaching related topics from different angles.

My favorite authors and chapters included Ken Macleod's "Politics and science Fiction" and Edward James' "Utopias and anti-utopias". Farah Mendelsohn's chapter "Religion and science Fiction" was a real eye-opener for me, examining a side of science fiction that I'd been pretty dismissive towards.

This is an excellent book, but for a bigger, more comprehensive, and slightly more up-to-date volume of SF studies, I would also recommend The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b78100c) out of 5 stars A great collection of essays for scholars and sf fans 30 Jan. 2013
By Nathanael J. Cloyd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall, this is an excellent collection of essays for scholars and science fiction fans. I originally purchased it in hopes that it would make a good text book for a freshman-level college science ficiton class, but it is way too advanced for that. It would work well for a senior or graduate level class, though. Each essay helped expand my understanding of different periods of science fiction history and various topics and subgenres. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about science fiction, as long as you are okay with reading some pretty scholarly essays.
HASH(0x9b7814f8) out of 5 stars Great For School! 4 April 2016
By Texas Mel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a great book to help understand the genre of Science Fiction. Wonderful companion for help with school papers.
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