Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reviews of books, natch

an eminent domain

An old bit of advice from the days when I was still working seriously on trying to get short fiction published went along the lines of: submit your work to the venues you read most regularly. (I got some fairly prestigious rejections, obvs.)

I’ve broadly kept to that dictum with my writings, fictional or otherwise, which is why I’m distinctly chuffed to have placed a book review at The Quietus—a site I read very regularly, even when they’re reviewing things that I’ve never heard of and/or don’t think I’ll actually like. I like their editorial positionality, and I like that they have a big roster of writers, some of them quite random, who are broadly left to their own devices in terms of style and attitude.

The review is of Carl Neville’s latest novel Eminent Domain, which… well, you should click through and give tQ the benefit of your eyeballs in exchange for the thrilling verbiage of my prolix hot-takery, because that’s how the business works these days. Suffice to say I found it a brilliant and sui generis science fiction story that’s frustratingly hobbled by some of its narrative strategies, at the levels of both sentences and structure; strongly recommended, but with strong caveats.

Maybe I should have gone easier on it? After all, it appears that Neville and I share a fondness for Screaming Trees… though that seems to surprise Neville himself even more than it surprises me.

Review of Carl Abbot’s Imagining Urban Futures at Planning Theory & Practice

After a dozen years of writing book reviews, this is the first one I’ve had published in an academic journal*. Here’s the intro:

It’s long been a truism of science fiction (sf) scholarship that the genre has rarely dealt with the city as anything more than an engineering problem to be solved. I said as much in my Master’s thesis back in 2012, while justifying my own clumsy attempt to reconcile science fiction and psychogeography, but the sentiment was best and most thoroughly expressed by the redoubtable scholar Gary K Wolfe, who has argued that cities and the urban “are basically antithetical to the science fiction imagination” (p5).

Carl Abbott’s Imagining Urban Futures doesn’t exactly gainsay Wolfe’s theory, so much as it seeks to show that the genre’s attitude to the urban has in fact changed with time.

Click through to read in full, if you’ve got institutional access; if you don’t, drop me a line and I’ll hook you up in some completely legitimate and legal not-abusive-of-weird-academic-copyright-protocols type of way.

* Not, however, the first review I’ve written for an academic journal; one of my more lengthy and furious** anti-transhumanist screeds has been languishing for so long in the development hell of what was supposed to be a new journal that I’m pretty much presuming said journal ended up stillborn.

** If you’re wondering “why furious?”, the short answer would be “the book in question is a shameless attempt to rehabilitate eugenics and ‘race science'”; it’d be bad enough if that were all it attempted to do, but it’s not. (And yes, it’s an academic title by a tenured professor with a long reputation of going in to bat for morally repugnant positions.) Once I’ve determined for certain that the aforementioned journal is defunct, I’ll try to find somewhere else to publish it, even if it’s just here.