The book is part of Facts On File's Literary Movements series, and it has its uses. It also has flaws that make it less useful than it might be. It is the work of one writer, who is described in promotional material as "one of the world's leading experts on contemporary science fiction" and a writer of fiction and criticism. The prose is full of errors like muddling prophesy
The work is alphabetical and combines articles on authors, novels, novellas, short stories, and series. A term in capitals in one article sends the reader to another. Articles range from a few paragraphs to a page or two. A glossary, a list of Hugo and Nebula Award winners, bibliographies of science fiction works and secondary sources, and an index complete the volume. Although the emphasis seems to be on British and American authors, there are entries for a few writers outside the English-speaking world. Coverage extends from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the present.
Since the emphasis is on science fiction as literature, this volume does not have the broad coverage of the field found in John Clute and Peter Nicholl's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (St. Martin's, 1993). Terms related to themes and to subgenres, such as cyber punk, hard science fiction, and military science fiction, are defined in the glossary instead of being treated as main entries. The author includes some writers not generally associated with science fiction but has some curious omissions, including Karel Capek's R.U.R., which gave us the term robot, and Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Children of God. Information about authors' lives is cursory at best; someone looking for biographical information would do better with resources such as Gale's Contemporary Authors or Dictionary of Literary Biography series.
Librarians will want to keep in mind this volume's narrow focus when considering purchase. Libraries with extensive science fiction criticism sections may find it useful. Kathleen Stipek
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