Though my knowledge of SF is obviously nearly less than zero – surpassed only on the downside by my understanding of science in general, I’m going to hazard a few thoughts about what seems (from my point of view, at least) to be wrong with this genre.
Browsing today through the Sci-fi lists of some of the GR people I follow, I’m stunned to see that even those who are big, BIG readers of this genre think most of the books that they’ve read are, basically..., crap (or mediocre, anyway – two and three stars abound). That’s DEFINITELY not a good sign….
I think the problem is two-fold. First of all, SF – *good* SF – must be incredibly hard to write. It requires that one be a good writer, obviously – no, an excellent writer – and be able, of course, to develop wonderful plots and characters…, and ALSO have the imaginative genius of a Nabokov… (otherwise, all the fantastical material comes off, as it often does, as merely contrived)…; well, ALMOST Nabokovian, since a REAL Nabokov would be producing literature, and not genre.
On the other hand, there’s a huge appetite for SF; …hence, a supply-demand imbalance…. In other words, a lot more SF, than there are brilliant writers around… Moreover – this appetite comes heavily from that part of the brain that’s (still) a 12-year old boy (when a lot of these GR reviewers admit they read this-or-that book which they say they loved so much….). This creates a problem for someone approaching this genre in maturity and without any baggage.
Also – a lot of this stuff is simply written too quickly – people writing 20, 30 books in a career shows a certainly carelessness… That sloppy use of phony-sounding names that I keep harping (let’s take anything that pops into our head approach) is a sign of this…
My guess is that a lot of the best SF probably comes in the form of short stories, rather than novels, where the shorter format is probably better able to sustain the reach that’s necessary… So maybe I should try to focus more on those.
Anyway – this may all be completely wrong.... So I reserve the right to look unashamedly stupid here six months from now…
And that said – this PARTICULAR book just knocked me out – flat-out loved it.