Thursday 16 June 2011

The Very Slow Time Machine by Ian Watson

This book is full of the sort of mind-bending ideas and narrative experiments that I like best in my science fiction - Watson is very much writing in a British SF tradition, that of Brian Aldiss and JG Ballard I'd say, but his vision is his own. Much as I loved the caliber of Watson's conceits (a mind-meld with an entity within a black hole whose idea of reality is an inversion of our own, a visit to an Earth where impermeable barriers divide various regions along meridional lines, a sojourn among aliens who extend further in time than we do - and what exactly that could mean - and more) and his formal freedom (several of these stories do not deliver conventional narratives but almost fragmentary vignettes), I disliked aspects of his treatment of gender and race. Most female characters are sexualised and people are often characterised a little too strongly according to race or ethnicity. Still a definite classic for all that, and easily goes into my list of favourite SF short story collections. Will be looking out for the new one Ian Whates is publishing.

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