I read this directly after the Nebula-nominated first novel of Tina Connolly, Ironskin, since that novel obviously was based on Jane Eyre. I must say that the old version in many ways was the better one, even if it lacked fantasy elements. The story was sufficiently thrilling, the characters interesting and the descriptions of nature and houses intense. The gothic parts, with strange buildings and a hidden lunatic, gave the story a dark nature.
Subtitled: SF and the Human Imagination. Atwood starts out with an attempt to define sf, and to me her fairly diffuse definition is a variant of “if it is good it is not sf”. Stories describing impossible events, descending from H G Wells and exemplified with Martians in metal canisters, are sf, whereas those descending from Jules Verne and describe events which can happen but has not necessarily happened at the time of writing, e g submarines, are not sf but instead speculative fiction. Thus, her own novels are not sf but speculative fiction. To me, it seems more logical to use the term “speculative” for the stories without scientific accuracy and “science” for the correct ones.
The book also contains interesting chapters about superheroes and about utopias and dystopias, papers reviewing some well-known sf (meaning science fiction or speculative fiction) novels, a couple of short stories which are really science fiction but not very entertaining, and finally a copy of her very entertaining letter to a school district that banned The Handmaid’s Tale and an interesting paper about the covers of Weird Tales of the 1930’s by Margaret Brundage, where she outlines the genealogy of the brass bra.
This, Christopher Priest’s first novel, was published in 1970, and the story is set in 1989 and 2189 – it is a time-travel story. Much of the story takes place in a future prison or camp, where the main protagonist tries to understand what is happening. The mood is Kafkaesque or Ballardian, and the novel is interesting and rewarding to read. Too much of the plot is given away in the back-cover blurb and maybe even in the cover art. Reading sf about a future which is actually our past is reading alternate history. Neither in the book’s 1989 nor in its 2189 are there any computers. My conclusion is just that it is absolutely correct to include alternate histories among sf.
Translated by Sven Christer Swahn, which I thought would mean that the translation was OK. However, I had problems with the humoristic style. The very complicated plot was difficult to follow since people exchanged personalities too often. Still, a few of the characters stuck in my mind, like the girl Jacky who for the most part of the book was disguised as a boy. The plot involved instantaneous travels in time and space, so there were visits to Greece and Egypt, and London in the beginning of the 19th and the 17th centuries. I would not characterise it as steampunk since the gadgets were rather typical of the time. There were a lot of magic, firmly putting the story into the fantasy category.
This was a pleasant new acquaintance, a new British author of “weird new space opera”. Most of the story takes place in an artificial flying city, constructed by aliens, with a top side where people live and work and an underside for “angels” and criminals. Likeable characters and some very nasty criminals, and an interesting plot made this an entertaining experience.