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on 26 June 2001
The hours and hours of brousing you can do with this text may it worth the price alone, and its a great reference to fill in the gaps in your sci-fi knowledge. The mayor let down is that its age is now showing, as it was last updated in 1993. All the major tv shows and movies that have come out over the last near decade are missing and so its writing can often seem obsolete. Sci-fi up to 1993 is however brilliantly covered, with critical but not overly cynical reviews, often with a gentle level of personal opinion that will make you smile. It will also appeal to all levels of fans, with easy surface skimming and greatly increasing depth if you wish to go deeper.
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This is a massive reference work and an obvious labor of love. It covers almost every conceivable aspect of science fiction, from movies to history to criticism. This is the second edition of this work, with large updates to bring the work up to the time of publication (1992), especially new authors and newer works by old hands, and there has also been a good deal of new material added to the thematic sections.
For anyone wanting to develop a good course on science fiction , or anyone interested in how SF came to be what it is today, a perusal of these thematic entries on everything from ANTIGRAVITY to MUTANTS to UTOPIAS will yield a wealth of material concisely presented, profusely cross-referenced, and source material properly indicated. Often within these sections even an experienced long-time fan of the field will find works referenced that he hasn't heard of before but deserve a look.
Within the author entries you will find one of the works most useful features: a listing of all of that author's works that belong within a given series or author created world/universe, often with a good description of the salient features of these author worlds. Also very useful is a listing of all known pseudonyms for each author. Still another useful feature is the indication of every variant title a work has appeared under, which can end up saving the reader money by knowing that he already really has that title under a different name. But these entries are also the most problematic of the information presented in this volume, as the opinion of the writer of the piece (almost all of the author entries were done by John Clute) about the quality of each of the author's works clearly shows. While it is probably impossible to avoid having this type of opinion appear, what I found disappointing was the lack of indication that there are other opinions about some well known works (in some cases these other opinions run to millions of words and many a flame war on the internet), such as Heinlein's Starship Troopers. At the same time, these entries provide a wealth of biographical information and very complete bibliographies for every major and almost every minor writer who has ever written within the field, and this information seems to have been very solidly researched (at least I haven't been able to find any obvious errors, and I've been reading in the field for 40 years).
This is an expensive volume, but it is probably worth every penny of its price when you consider that it collects in one volume such a wealth of diverse information that prior to this work was scattered across hundreds of articles, essays, books, and research papers or had never been written about in any cohesive manner. Highly recommended for any serious student/fan of the field, and highly entertaining and informative reading for just about anyone.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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This Hugo award winner is a gold mine, a treasure trove of useful, or useless, information about all aspects of SF, be it books, films, authors, history, whatever. They say only 4360 entries, but the depth of detail, the love and care that has been instilled in this extends to nearly fourteen hundred pages in this much revised 1999 paperback edition.
Brian Stableford has also contributed his valuable expertise.

It is a true Encyclopedia, and one Christmas when I was quite ill and just wanted the world to go away, I started reading it from the beginning. After several fuddled days and 260 pages of very small type I was feeling much better! And I had only got as far as finishing the fascinating article on Conceptual Breakthrough (no irony, it really is fascinating). The rest of the alphabet beckoned, but I was well again, and the summons of work was more powerful. So since then I have only been able to dip in, in the normal fashion, but it always comes up with something I did not know, and then the next item catches my eye...

It is expensive, and takes a lot of shelf space, and the other two reviewers have have been accurate in their appraisals. So all I need add is that is an essential reference book for an SF enthusiast or author, but maybe not for the average SF reader, and certainly not for non-SF readers.

A much lighter alternative approach might be found in Jakubowski and Edwards Complete Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy Lists
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on 26 April 2014
In its favour, this is the most comprehensive available encyclopaedia of Science Fiction.

Against it? I bought it when it was first published (at a price of around £45), assuming it would in turn be an update on Nicholls' previous, smaller and far better Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (indeed, this is what it claims to be on the inside cover, repeating praise from Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov for the 1979 edition). This book was - and remains - in many respects a disappointment. Gone are the illustrations of the previous edition. The newer book is densely packed with essays, by the editors and their contributors. Most are unreadable. In particular, the emphasis is shifted firmly to Science Fiction in film. The book's introduction admits this, citing in its defence that film sci-fi only covers 10% of the book, while making it at the same time the most comprehensive coverage of film SF.

But the first consequence is that any SF film (or TV series), of whatever critical value, receives its own entry, while this honour is accorded to no book, irrelevant of its significance. David Lynch's deeply flawed adaptation of Dune has its own entry (itself not a particularly useful one, and which doesn't include previous attempts to adapt the material). Frank Herbert's masterpiece does not get an entry. The two (at the time) schlock films based on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend each get their own entry. No entry for the book. And so on.

To be fair, this was also the format of the 1979 book, in a period when film SF was relatively rare. I think the editors should have rethought their approach when it came to this edition.

The second consequence is that the book has dated far more quickly than it should; given rapid advances in special effects and the changing trends in film-making, the focus of the encyclopedia makes it effectively a snap shot of the industry at the time it was published. Equally, by approaching written SF through biographical entries, obviously those writers who were still living at the time of the original publication are due an update either because they have produced additional material, or in some cases because they have sadly passed away. Had the editors concentrated more on the written works themselves, it would have remained far more relevant.

Clute, in his own reviews, is a didactic and often (to my mind) a particularly pretentious reviewer. Much of the remainder of the book, beyond the biographies and the movie reviews, is taken up with sometimes strangely chosen essays. Why is the entry, for example, on SF in Belgium, wrapped into one on the entirely fictional country of Benelux (2.5 pages, which covers Luxembourg in its final paragraph - "virtually nothing is known about sf in tiny Luxembourg").

If you strip all of this away, it's a mainly useful* if outdated set of critical biographies for Science Fiction (the biographies make up the majority of the book) and if you can find a cheap edition (I felt ripped off when I originally bought it) and have the shelf space, by all means buy a copy. But a properly balanced encyclopedia of SF, which gives due weight to the written form, has yet to be produced.

* the critical biography of John Frederick Clute is written by one JC.
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on 17 August 2010
Wonderful book, one that should exist in anyone's personal library; indeed, as Frank Herbert suggested, this is to be a genuine 'Bible' of science fiction.
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on 18 October 2010
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is more than just a reference book - it's clearly a labour of love from the authors and many contributors. Sections are diverse, covering hard sci-fi authors, sci-fi publications and even a large section on 'Star Trek'. There are popular movies from the world of speculative fiction, well known tv shows and even areas devoted to the world of comic books and comic book heroes (notably DC and Marvel, the big two.) It's easy to use and I've had no problems using the cross reference system to look up information for my 'Writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy' class. The only areas in which it falls down perhaps, are in comparison to it's sister title, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and the fact that it's now a little outdated. The Fantasy version is easier on the eye and can honestly (in my opinion anyway) be read for entertainments sake and if you're looking for anything written/shown on the big screen since the early nineties, you'd better look elsewhere, though I hear there is another, up to date version in the pipeline. Despite this, the greats are all here - Asimoc, Dick, Bradbury, etc.

At the very least you'll get a fantastic introduction to the world of speculative fiction and a decent reference material for anything deemed 'Sci Fi'. A must for any hard core fan or a student studying the topic. Buy the fantasy version too!
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on 27 March 2014
Fanboy, academic and furiously eclectic all at the same time. A milestone work.Worth reading by anyone who might want to read it!
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