ALIEN ENCOUNTERS: Anatomy of Science Fiction by Mark Rose

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS: Anatomy of Science Fiction

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Heavyweight but dubious criticism. Science fiction is ""a transformation of earlier forms of romance,"" says Elizabethan-literature expert Rose, reiterating his introduction to Science Fiction, a 1970 collection of critical essays where the same quote from Wordsworth appears. Here, Rose quickly gets into trouble. His definition of science fiction--""a developing complex of themes, attitudes and formal strategies that, taken together constitute a general set of expectations""--could apply to almost anything; and many of his opening remarks are couched in the same vague terms. Then, he argues that science fiction's main concern is to describe ""the human in relation to the nonhuman"" as it ""projects itself through the related categories space, time, machine, and monster""--a narrow interpretation that Rose attempts to substantiate with extended analyses of selected works within each category. In ""Space,"" for example, he discusses Lem's eerie Solaris (while ignoring Tarkovsky's equally fine film); in ""Time,"" with Rose at his most persuasive, we meet Dick's The Man in the High Castle and Ballard's The Drowned World; ""Machine"" features the Kubrick-Clarke film, 2001, and ""Monster"" the early classic film Forbidden Planet. The analyses are fine, but whether or not they support Rose's contention is debatable; the categories overlap so consistently that we come to doubt their value in the first place. His prose style is turgid, in hoary academic fashion, and qualifications such as ""speaking generally and oversimplifying for the sake of brevity, it would not be entirely inaccurate to say"" don't exactly inspire confidence in the revelations that follow. Of limited appeal, then, even to students and critics of the field.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1981
ISBN: 1583485333
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press