It Must Have Been a Year

Imagine my surprise, after yesterday’s post, at opening this morning’s Los Angeles Times Book Review and discovering a review of the new Gregory Benford novel. The explanation for this rare event must in part be because Benford is a ‘local’ author, where ‘local’ has a generous, California-sized meaning, Benford living in Irvine, some 60 or 70 miles south of LA proper.

The review is OK, mostly descriptive, though the reviewer, a ‘regular contributor’ to the Book Review, can’t help point out the way in which SF novels work somewhat differently from the presumed norm of literary fiction…

Science fiction, as Benford notes in an afterword, is an “idea-intensive genre,” and the value of this book lies more in its speculations about “where evolution and technology might take us” than in its mixture of a coming-of-age story with an extended chase sequence. At one level, “Beyond Infinity” is little more than a girl-and-her-dog yarn in which the dog, like Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin, is smarter than the girl and protects her from successive perils.


The library is a handy device that helps Benford with the chore that burdens every science-fiction writer: having to spend so much time describing and explaining new things. Lecture material clogs the action and interrupts emotional continuity even after mysterious forces from space scorch the Earth…

Still, it’s nice the LAT notices us, once in a while.

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