Thursday, May 25, 2006

As Others See Us... 

Two reviews that in the end are favorable yet that begin by pandering to cliche. (I know this is Dave Langford's domain, but these are longer quotes that those he usually runs.)

Newsweek reviews Keith Donohue's The Stolen Child:

In the event this is a deal breaker, you should know right off the bat that "The Stolen Child," by Keith Donohue, belongs to the genre known as fantasy, and that its pages are populated by hobgoblins and changelings. Fantasy is often dismissed as a necessary evil to get kids to take their medicine -- i.e., learn values -- or as a soft blanket for 40-year-old virgins. But as the success of "The Time Traveler's Wife" attests, fantasy can serve a nobler function. By replacing the sordidness of the everyday with magic, writers can approach the philosophers' stone with questions about history, identity and (why not?) the meaning of life.

In the LA Times, a review of the Tsunami Relief Anthology Elemental, edited by Steven Savile and Alethea Kontis:

SUFFERIN' saurians of Saturn!!! Can reading still be just plain fun? The way it was when judging a book (or a comic or a pulp magazine) by its cover (square-jawed hero in the grip of revolting Thing blazing away with his fearsomely foreshortened Antimatter Gun) was the rule to follow?

The virulent science-fiction and fantasy bug seems to infect most reader-kids somewhere around age 12. Once the jolt of pure story-spinning hits the preteen bloodstream, it is goodbye to chores, homework, even television. Although there is no known cure for SFitis, most of those affected appear to go into remission a few years later, thanks to copious doses of cultural elitism administered in high school. Others, either oblivious or more independent, stay fans of the genre for the rest of their days. To their delight, the sci-fi universe is continually expanding — there's now the option of warping into parallel universes on the Net.
Well, yeah, these may be cliches, but they're also a way to entice a general reader who might otherwise be turned off by a genre description. Admitedly, the reviewer could just describe/critique the work, and not worry about the genre discussion. On the other hand, and I plead guilty, even within the genre reviews still get into the "here's a serious work that gets ignored because it's fantasy/sf" because, well, because it's still an issue. When Borders&Noble maintains just one section for "Fiction" then this sort of thing will go away. Which means it won't.

Actually, I kind of like the LA Times review. It only seems a cliche to people who aren't familiar with the cliche, which I presume is the intended audience.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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