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1. Voyages into space
2. Alien encounters
3. Science fiction and technology
4. Utopias and dystopias
5. Fictions of time
6. The field of science fiction
Posted October 1, 2011
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.