Essential SF: A
(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
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 bold success."
quirky, fact-filled. A highly personal, enthusiastic look at SF by true
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 reference!"
UK Mail order price = £6.48
inclusive of postage)
orders: Enquire for the rate of discount from the recommended price.
© The Science Fact & Fiction Concatenation 2005/6