What it is we do when we read science fiction by Paul Kincaid Beccon Publications 2008, £15 order here

What it is we do when we read science fiction
by Paul Kincaid

Beccon Publications
2008, £15
order here

Martin Lewis at Strange Horizons:

Opening its pages made me want to read books I had never considered before, such as Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, and also made me think again about books I had read. I remember with great pleasure reading Langford's reviews of Gene Wolfe for the first time in Up Through an Empty House of Stars and finding a path opening in the previously impenetrable thicket of Wolfe's prose. There is much on offer here to stimulate the same response. Kincaid has a taste for "difficult" writers: Wolfe, Priest, Borges, Erickson, and Clute. Often, when reading fiction by critic-authors (rather than author-critics), you have the sense of the critic hovering over the author's shoulder second-guessing and causing a stuttering performance anxiety. When I read Appleseed I found the book so clogged and clotted by an impulse to make the novel watertight against misinterpretation that it virtually declared war on the reader. Now, reading Kincaid's analysis of it as "a novel all about answering back to God" (p. 203) and "a story and stories about Story" (p. 204), I feel as if I am seeing the book with fresh eyes. And I am. This is what is so wonderful about What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction.

Larry at Blog of the Fallen:

On the whole, I found What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction to be a thoughtful exploration of a rather difficult subject to cover at length. The fact that the organizational structure (collected essays rather than a single book-length essay) and "blind spots" (much more on how non Anglo-American SF has developed) combine to create a sometimes spotty read is not as much of a condemnation of this otherwise excellent book as this illustrates just how vexing it is to cover a subject that is itself almost impossible to define precisely. Even with its flaws, Kincaid's book serves as a very good exploration of SF hermeneutics. Highly recommended.

Jonathan McCalmont at Fruitless Recursion:

What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction contains over thirty pieces of top-notch criticism running from the review to the theoretical essay.  All of the individual pieces are worthy of your time and, as this review suggests, thought provoking in the extreme. 

Steven H. Silver at SF Site:

Focused, as it is, on British science fiction, although with vast swathes of American SF as well, What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction may not answer the question posed in the title, but it does provide a view of science fiction which will be eye opening to just about any reader. Kincaid's essays and reviews offer in depth analysis of the authors and topics he has selected to write about.

Andrew J. Wilson in Interzone 217:

What is most satisfying about Kincaid's criticism is that his deep readings of the material he dissects are always enhanced by a healthy amount of common sense and a desire to illuminate the work under discussion.  He also has the happy knack of citing choice examples just as you're wondering if he has missed these tricks.

Pawel Frelik in Science Fiction Studies 108:

What is, however, most important about this collection is the author’s capacity for engaging readers. Good reviews (not that there are many venues that feature them) encourage reading; the same cannot generally be said about academic and literary criticism. Often, a thorough discussion of this or that angle of the text may impress intellectually but not necessarily compel one to go out and purchase the title. Paul Kincaid’s views, opinions, and analyses, no matter how detailed they can be, simply make one want to read the books he writes about. The perfect balance between incisive reading and accessible style results in what all critics—and especially those writing about authors that are not household names—could ultimately aspire to: involving their readers in the texts they are discussing. In this respect Paul Kincaid succeeds on all counts and in all departments.

Brian Attebery in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Volume 19, Issue 3:

Kincaid's method involves knowing a lot, especially a lot of other books, both in and out of the genre at hand. He looks for allusions, references, revisions of other writers, recurring images and themes. This practice makes for some rich experiences: Kincaid really appreciates writers whose work supports his alertness and breadth. 

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