By Adam Roberts | May 7, 2011
Categories: Lit Crit
The last twelve months, like all the previous twelvemonths in my writing career, have not been lucky for me in terms of awards (of course you may think this has nothing to do with luck and everything with my many writerly demerits); but I have been lucky in a number of, I think, genuinely insightful critical readings of my novels. After Paul Kincaid and Rich Puchalsky, comes another really perceptive piece by Gareth Rees: 'Four novels by Adam Roberts'. I am, naturally, very far from the best-placed individual when it comes to judging rightness or wrongness with respect to this sort of thing; but I can say that I recognized myself in his nuanced, insightful piece.
Although I can see influences from both modernism and postmodernism in Roberts’ work, I think his books are actually a fairly traditional form of science fiction: idea-driven, short and punchy, not too bloated with world-building, aiming for an original mix of style and substance. He’s writing the kind of book that I used to find in the library between bright yellow Gollancz covers when I was young: like mid-period Robert Silverberg (A Time of Changes, To Live Forever, Dying Inside, ...), or early Ian Watson (The Embedding, The Martian Inca, Alien Embassy, ...). Energetic, stripped of detail, stylistically distinctive, short enough that you can forgive them their faults. This kind of work doesn’t garner many awards or collect much in the way of a fan base, so it’s always been a minor part of the publishing mix, and authors who made a mark in this niche have usually had to break out of it to gain mainstream success: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Silverberg and Watson both turned their talents to multi-volume fantasy. Roberts has yet to take that path.
Good call on the 'I nodded' on p.83 of Headless, too: that slipped through the net.No tags for this post.