By Adam Roberts | December 17, 2007
Categories: Book News
At SF Site. The estimable Mr Raven is clear enough that some readers aren't going to like this novel, or the sort of books I write more generally; and he has some fun with the 'clever' albatross; but at the end he has perceptive and positive things to say:
It's a powerful work of philosophical literature, thought-provoking from the outset. Of course, not everyone wants this degree of philosophical depth from a science fiction novel. The "needs bigger ray-guns" lobby will probably find it over-complicated, morally ambiguous, and lacking sufficient action and sensawunda, but I doubt very strongly that Roberts was pitching for that particular set of seats. The linguistic tone may be hard going for some readers, also; in keeping with the overall sense of parody and satire, the prose has more than a hint of the King James biblical to it, which is emphasised by the inherent wordiness of Cavala, the man of letters, delivering the narrative second-hand.
But as I mentioned, Roberts is about as literary a science fiction writer as you're likely to find, and unashamedly so. And he walks the walk as well as talking the talk. Land of the Headless is a powerful piece of work that uses science fictional themes and tropes to shine a light into the dark corners of the world we live in right now, which some would argue is science fiction's highest purpose –- I among them. And nothing truly worthwhile is ever easy –- if that's an attitude you share with respect to your choices of reading, I commend Land of the Headless to you as one of the most clever books published in the genre this year.
Neat, eh? 'Most clever' rather than 'cleverest'. There may be some supersubtle distinction being drawn there. More to the point, I discover that "clever albatross" is a googlewhack. Although presumably it won't be after I post this.