TRILLION YEAR SPREE: The History of Science Fiction by Brian W. with David Wingrove Aldiss

TRILLION YEAR SPREE: The History of Science Fiction

Email this review


A substantially expanded, revised, and updated version of Aldiss' 1973 Billion Year Spree (but why didn't he simply write a new book?). One curious lacuna: the authors provide hardly a mention of Aldiss' own considerable contribution to the field. The early chapters--dealing with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Poe, ancient tales with sf elements, Wells and his contemporaries, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Victorian speculations, the 1930's pulps, John V. Campbell's influential magazine Astounding (now Analog), and the shock dealt to sf by real-life sputniks and men in space--are recognizable from the original Spree. The remainder is nearly all new. Aldiss examines what he calls ""the Day of the Dumpbin,"" disposable science fiction inspired by the various Star Wars movie imitators and the sword & sorcery neopulps (none of which is actually sf). He notes the growth of ""life-style"" sf as opposed to hardware/gadgetry, examines the works of Philip K. Dick and other psychological sf writers, probes the New Wave revolution, ponders the survival of the old-time sf giants (Robert A. Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, etc.), and eyes the clutch of new writers striving to replace them. To note points of particular interest almost at random: Aldiss' attitude towards Heinlein and Asimov has grown markedly more critical and harsh; meanwhile, he has come round to a full appreciation of Frank Herbert's Dune saga (while still ignoring Herbert's notable non-Dune novels). His blind spot concerning the estimable Jack Vance is still firmly in place. Elsewhere, thankfully, Aldiss has reined in his tendency to take cheap shots. And his examination of sf's younger leading lights (Gregory Benford, Bruce Starling, Octavia Butler, Greg Bear, etc.) is balanced and penetrating. Overall: provocative, enthusiastic, comprehensive, deflationary--and utterly indispensable.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Atheneum