Saturday, 27 February 2016

Praising Fiction

"The best novel about human beings making first contact with intelligent but utterly nonhuman aliens I have ever seen, and possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read."

"A spellbinder, a swashbuckler...and best of all it has a brilliant new approach to that fascinating problem - first contact with aliens."

-both on the back cover of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959).

High praise from the highest places in American sf!

My Comments

It is difficult, if not impossible, to say which is the finest sf novel we have ever read but, if I were to try, several by Poul Anderson would compete for top place, e.g., The People Of The Wind makes the human-Ythrian planet, Avalon, feel like a real place.

Contact by Carl Sagan is a major first contact novel.

Herbert's Dune, widely praised as a major sf novel, contains inconsistencies of point of view, a flaw which I have also found in Mote.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And of course Heinlein was more measured, even critical, of his praise for the first draft of THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE. I don't recall where I read Heinlein's letter, but the first draft was severely criticized. It was to Niven/Pournelle's credit that they accepted much of Heinlein's criticism while revising the text of MOTE for the second draft.

My point being that I tend to be skeptical of the more "over the top" praises of books in these blurbs. One exception being Poul Anderson's blurb for Stirling's UNDER THE YOKE: "It's an exciting, evocative, thought-provoking--but of course horrifying--read." The blurb was actually an accurate comment on Stirling's book. And because I was such a fan of Anderson it was enough to get me to buy the book (the first Stirling book I read).

I don't recall seeing many books with blurbs by Poul Anderson. I think he declined to contribute blurbs unless he had actually read the book and liked it.