Review: What Makes This Book So Great

What Makes This Book So Great is a collection of  Jo Walton’s blog posts about rereading works of SF great and obscure.  While the essays are insightful analyses of works of SF, this is not really a critical work.  Walton is quick to point this out herself, and the missing element is any sense of distance.  While she consistently marshals considerable insight about the specific works she’s reading and about SF and literature in general, she’s unabashedly a fan of the genre and a skilled writer as well.  As you can tell from the title, there are no negative reviews in the set.  This is about neat books she found while rereading.

One of the first things Walton makes clear is that she is always rereading.  If you poke around SF and reading in general, you’ll eventually run into someone like her.  They are always reading something.  They can easily read 10 books a week and usually do.  For those of us nearer the mean of the books per week curve, it can be daunting to see and hear.  But the truth is that folks like Walton are tearing through a frightening amount of text at all times.

While there are readers with Walton’s appetite, there are few with her insight and enthusiasm for SF.  Her reviews are honest, well informed and accessible.  The balance between the latter is particularly helpful.  She knows a lot about writing and SF history and puts the various works into useful juxtaposition with one another.  But she does it in a way that’s inviting and interesting.  She’s not showing off that she can make these connections, just pointing out what she saw and inviting you to play along.  It’s a very tricky line to walk, and she does it consistently.

I came away with a list of new things to read and an appreciation for the breadth of SF.  If you have any interest in that, have a look.


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