Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson

quicksilver2Quicksilver is a book that defies with ease any attempts at writing a pithy and flashy review. Swatting-a-lame-old-fly is the kind of ease I’m going for here. Read the blurbs if you are looking for that, a review of this type just wouldn’t really be a review, but rather an extended blurb.

Quicksilver, the first part of the Baroque Cycle trilogy, is vast and winding. It spans decades and continents, its subject matter is difficult to pin down, its method is an even more elusive beast. Perhaps the most apt definition I have arrived at comes from the novel itself:

“It seemed that Jack, here, had blundered into the fourth or fifth act of a drama – neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but a history.”

And although the sentence refers to somebody else’s historical drama, it self-consciously echoes the structure of the novel. Which, like history, maintains only the illusion of such a structure. As some proponents of New Historicism would have it, historians and document-makers are part of the historical process they are untangling and seeking to document and explain. They are just as much embroiled in the material practices and texts of their time, as are the agents of their narratives. Continue reading

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Yellow Blue Tibia – Adam Roberts

Note: This review was written some time ago for ShadowDance. What appears below is a translation of the original. Hence the recognizable formatting with “+” and “–” sections.

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote some time ago that Adam Roberts’s Yellow Blue Tibia should be awarded the Booker prize for 2009. I am not in a position to say whether I agree or not, as I rarely read the shortlisted novels. What I can agree about is that this strange and strangely-titled book absolutely deserves a spotlight. Authors of so-called “literary realism” will definitely benefit from reading it; its methods can make their stories more interesting, their worlds more imaginative and their ideas more provoking.

Adam Roberts is probably one of the currently active authors who are best versed in the genre. He is a London-based professor who specialized in Robert Browning and Victorian literature, author of Science Fiction, a critical introduction to SF,and of the comprehensive study The History of Science Fiction (to the extent such a thing can be comprehensive, of course). In addition to that Roberts maintains an active blog, where he frequently demonstrates and hones his fine critical skills and incisive humor. When an author’s name sits beneath an intellectual overview of the ideas of Frederic Jameson andbeneath popular parodies (such as The Soddit, The Sellamillion, The Dragon With a Girl Tattoo, etc.), and when that author manages to pull off roughly one good SF novel per year, take notice and keep close tabs on that particular career. Continue reading