Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

November Books 15) Up Through an Empty House of Stars

15) Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002, by David Langford

When I grow up I want to be David Langford. I think his "Critical Mass" column in White Dwarf must have been the first regular sf review column I read, over twenty years ago now; I have fond memories also of his just-about-non-sf novel The Leaky Establishment. This volume brings together his own selection of his favourite reviews from the years in question. Some of them - perhaps even all of them - are archived on his website, but there's nothing quite like the printed page for riffling back and forth to find favourite bits.

Not all of the reviews are of sf; Dave has a great familiarity with the classic detective novel, and as well as reviewing several examples of that genre, spots homages to Dorothy L. Sayers in Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign that had quite passed me by. Not all the pieces are reviews: there are lovely obituaries of people I had heard of, like Bob Shaw, and people I hadn't, like George Hay. There are pieces on Terry Pratchett (not on-line) and Tom Holt. There is much about the merits (well-known) of Gene Wolfe and Stephen Baxter, and also (less well-known) Jack Chalker and James White.

And it's all a joy to read. Dave possibly finds it easier to write at length about books that he didn't like than ones he did - see for instance his take-downs of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast and David Wingrove's The Science Fiction Sourcebook (which I've reviewed more positively - having said which, I think Dave's exposition of the book's flaws is masterly). There are great one-liners like his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advance technology is indistinguishable from an ad-hoc plot device".

I winced a bit at the £12 I had to pay for this at Worldcon, one of the most of expensive of my many purchases in Glasgow. But it is worth every penny.
Tags: bookblog 2005, writer: david langford
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