Essential SF: A Concise Guide
(2005) Jonathan Cowie & Tony Chester, Porcupine Books, pbk, circa 270 pages, ISBN 0-954-91490-2.
The genre of SF is so large, it is impossible for any person to have absorbed absolutely everything. So what are the essentials? Essential Science Fiction provides a core guide to the genre.
The criteria for inclusion in the guide are based on what the many (and not the compilers) consider best: 'the many' includes those numerous SF enthusiasts who vote for the Hugo novels and films, or Locus Awards, or who responded to the Blackwood film poll, who attended the Festival of Fantastic Films, or the countless whose purchases keep the works of authors three quarters of a century or more old still in print... And there are others still! These are 'the many'. They may include you, or they may not. Either way this guide is a systematic distillation of a mass of primarily Anglophone literature, cinematic production, TV series and graphic SF.
By definition more has been left out than included. Nonetheless anyone collecting just the works herein would find that their library had amassed video/DVDs of over 50 TV series and more than 200 feature films, while shelf space would be required for in excess of 500 books. Essential SF will be of interest to the seasoned enthusiast and invaluable to others wishing to identify the principal features of the genre's landscape.
"The world is sinking under the
weight of science fiction. We call it 'Global Warning'. The mission of levity
of the editors of Essential SF is to enlighten us, not with the oxygen
of publicity, but with the helium of heterodox knowledge. The result is a
fact-filled. A highly personal, enthusiastic look at SF by true enthusiasts."
"Remarkably concise and lucid
reviews and notes of the best Science Fiction."
"You can really learn a lot from
all this info... This is a great book for every SF fan from the seasoned
enthusiast to compare notes or (especially) for a newcomer to the genre who
wants to make up some ground and get started."
"There are several brief
introductions, and appendices of 'collector's core checklists' of books,
films, and TV series. Selection criteria tend toward fan/reader awards,
including the Hugos and Locus Awards... overall seems to be a reasonable
overview for the intended audience."
"Take a huge group of Science
Fiction fans. Ask them what they think are the most important books, films,
tv shows and conventions. You'll get some strong opinions. Trying to come up
with a "Greatest Hits" of any kind is difficult work, but the
authors of Essential SF give it a shot... This guide deals with
accessibility as well as popularity, omitting popular works that may be
out-of-print or otherwise unattainable, and focusing on items that the new or
inexperienced SF reader can easily obtain. I believe that's a good idea for a
guide like this; all the description in the world isn't going to help you get
your hands on a brilliant, award-winning novelette that is out-of-print. Save
that kind of information for fans that already have a basic knowledge and
want to search for a Holy Grail... Essential SF packs a lot of
information into 268 pages. But it doesn't feel swamped by excess nor is it
uselessly brief. It's a handy reference guide that can be picked up and
leafed through anytime you need information about the most popular aspects of
science fiction fandom."
"The book ends with a checklist
of every work listed in the guide. This may be useful to a collector who is
looking to complete their collection of science fiction... The small size of
this book would make it easy for carrying to a bookstore or library to help
in searching for something to read... Overall, this book would be useful for
becoming familiar with science fiction."
"For those on a budget, or the
uninitiated who just want a good summary of What Has Gone Before, there's Essential
SF: A Concise Guide..." "[A] monumental
task of filtering out everything except the most important and the most
popular items..." "99% of what makes it into
the Guide is worthy, with accurate summaries of books, movies and TV shows -
not to mention biographies of dozens of sci-fi celebrities. Also included is
the Collector's Core Checklist that fans can use to get the most bang for
their buck." "Essential SF: A Concise Guide
is an impressive achievement, and worth every penny. It's a reference that
hits nearly all the high points, and should be considered an indispensable
resource for both hardcore fans and newcomers."
"Hunt this small press title down
if you can. It's a pocket-sized encyclopaedia of the diverse worlds of SF.
It's one of about ten books that our reviews editor keeps on his desk for
UK Mail order price = £6.48 inclusive of
from Porcupine stalls at SF conventions = £5.00 (But contact Porcupine in
advance so that a copy can be reserved for you to pick up during the first
two days of the convention. After that, if there is particularly heavy demand
then your copy may be sold.)
© The Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation 2005/6