Just Finished Reading: In Other Worlds – SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood (FP: 2011)
I’m a sucker for books on SF which is by far my favourite genre (though historical fiction is fast catching up). As an added bonus I thought I’d try the much talked about Ms Atwood. I thought I’d read something by her years ago but now I’m not so sure. He style is so unique that I’d definitely remember it if I had.
Anyway, to the book itself. This turned out to be only in part about SF and was probably in equal part about her growing up in Canada and becoming an author herself in later life. The book consisted of (largely though not exclusively I think) a collection of slightly modified articles about SF previously published elsewhere. In part one she covered (kind of) super heroes in relation to her very earliest ‘creations’ as a child, how both heaven and hell had to keep relocating to keep at least one step ahead of real-world explorers and (one of my favourite bits) the evolution of Utopia and Dystopia over the centuries. This was followed by various book ‘reviews’ both classic and modern which she analysed with great wit including She by Rider Haggard, Dr Moreau by Wells, Brave New World and a rather intriguing book called Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age by Bill McKibben. The last section consisted of 5-6 very short pieces of fiction.
Despite its scatter gun approach I really liked this little volume. I’d heard Atwood speak on TV a few times and found that she writes exactly as she speaks – or so it seemed to me. Her special unique voice certainly came across loud and clear in every paragraph here and was honestly a delight to sit back and enjoy. It really did feel like I was having a fascinating conversation with a very well read and very intelligent eloquent woman. As I said, a delight. I smiled, I laughed, I nodded sagely in agreement, I gasped at an incisive comment or observation and I downloaded the covers of most of her books to remind me to start picking them up. That’s a warning, by the way. If you do read this you might end up buying her entire back catalogue – just like I’m going to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.