26 Nov 2015

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Jan-Apr 2015
Oryx & Crake / The Year of the Flood / MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood - Virago, 2009 / 2013 / 2014

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I am usually quite negative about mainstream authors who dabble in genre writing, particularly when they disavow that that is what they have done. However, one has to admit that anyone who writes not one but three books in the same setting over ten years, and who actively engages with critics, has put the hours in and should not be dismissed lightly. And a literary sensibility, with its focus on complex and well-developed characters and a willingness to question conventions, could even be a good antidote to the tired cliches and stereotypes that infest much SF writing.

There is, however, a problem with writers who come to genre fiction without a strong grounding in it, which is that they tend to reinvent the wheel while thinking that they have discovered something new. To a certain extent, that is true here. A future world where governments have been replaced by corporations is not exactly a new concept - William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, to name just two off the top of my head, have created rich and interesting environments based on just that idea, and Atwood's gated compounds and Pleeblands seem thin gruel by comparison. However there are some original notions and the strong characterisation does help.
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