Reviews and Articles in General Publications
§ The Globe and Mail September 18
Spider Robinson reviews Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis (Scribner). He finds it admirable in many ways, but is troubled by its ''bizarre mid-course change of genre''.
§ The Sunday Times [London] September 18
In one of those peculiar (if not cruel) mismatches of reviewer to subject, Britain's anti-technology polemicist Bryan Appleyard reviews Arthur C. Clarke's Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! Collected Essay 1934-1998 (Voyager) [US edition]. He finds Clarke self-absorbed, devoid of self-doubt, and a bad writer.
''The one novel of his I ever tried to read I flung aside after a few pages, bewildered that it had found a publisher.'' Predictably, Appleyard is most offended that Clarke ''propagate[s] a meaningless and inane faith in technology'' and concludes that Clarke ''is anti-human''.
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow (Tor) is #1 on Amazon's hardcover fiction list, followed at #2 by Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis (Scribner). Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (Del Rey) is further down at #12; Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is still at #17; Lois McMaster Bujold's new book is at #20. Card's Ender's Game is #22 on the paperback list. On the Not-Yet-Published Bestsellers list: Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties at #10, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune: House Atreides at #17. Among Amazon's 100 Hot Books (books ordered in the past 24 hours) are the three Harry Potter books in the top three positions; Stephen King is at #7; Orson Scott Card at #21.
Card's Ender's Shadow is number 15 on the NYT hardcover fiction list; the first and second Harry Potter books sit at positions 2 and 3. Further down, books by Lois McMaster Bujold (26), Tess Gerritsen (30), Kurt Vonnegut (31), John De Lancie and Peter David (32), and Tad Williams (35).
Card dropped from #1 last week to #10 this week on the Los Angeles Times list. Kurt Vonnegut's new collection is now #3. Reprints by both writers were on the paperback list last week (Card's Ender's Game at #2; Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle at #8) but have dropped off this week.
The three Harry Potter books claim the top 3 positions on USA Today's list (which combines all books, hardcover/paperback and fiction/nonfiction).
Terry Brooks' Star Wars novelization (Del Rey) is #10 on the PW hardcover fiction list; Timothy Zahn's Star Wars: Vision of the Future is #10 on the paperback list.
(Mon 20 Sep 1999)
Coverage of the popular children's fantasy series by J.K. Rowling is widespread with the Sept. 8th release in the US of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Scholastic).
- Time magazine's cover story for Sept. 20th reveals that Rowling plotted out all seven books before writing the first one; that adolescent hormones will play a role beginning in the fourth book; and that in a future volume someone important will die. Rowling says
''I am writing about someone, Voldemort, who is evil. And rather than make him a pantomime villain, the only way to show how evil it is to take a life is to kill someone the reader cares about.''
A chart in the magazine (not online) compares the Harry Potter books to the well-known fantasies by Tolkien, Baum, Carroll, and Lewis.
- Gregory Maguire's review in the Sept. 5th New York Times Book Review ponders the reasons for the books' success, especially with boys.
- A Sept. 20th New Yorker Talk of the Town piece by Daniel Radosh (page 55; not online) examines how Scholastic editor Arthur Levine handled the 'translation' of the books into American English.
- Meanwhile, not everyone is happy about the books' success. As noted in the Sept. 17th Entertainment Weekly, some in the publishing industry resent children's books taking valuable slots on bestseller lists that might otherwise be occupied by adult fiction.
§ Washington Post Book World September 12 A John Clute essay about the ''genres of anxiety'' -- science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime; how they come together in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818); and how they may end.
A millennial issue includes
We are entering a world -- the world we symbolize by the Millennium -- of such mutability and stress that we may need new narcotics to survive the strange nights of tomorrow. It may be that the genres themselves, which have done so much to soothe our brows, have reached the end of their usefulness. There are some indications this is so. The craze for retro in all four genres is an almost certain sign of heat death. The merging of the genres destroys much of each genre's prophylactic function. And so forth. This may be inevitable; indeed it surely is. Two centuries is a long time. But questions arise for which there are no easy answers. What are we going to do when our stories are dead? What are we going to tell ourselves tomorrow?
Douglas E. Winter's reviews two novels in the popular series by Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins based on Biblical prophecy, Left Behind and Assassins (Tyndale House).
The novels are a competent but stodgily written blend of B-movie science fantasy and horror with the tenets of pre-millennial dispensationalism ... If the Bible is to be read literally, why do we need mediators, particularly those who twist its words into fiction? The simple reason, ignored or downplayed by many fundamentalists, is that Jesus was a consummate storyteller. His favorite teaching device, the parable, spoke elegantly through symbols and metaphors. The "Left Behind" books, unfortunately, do not. ... The books read like artifacts of a time machine sent to retrieve pulp science fiction -- and our morality -- from the '50s.
An essay by Everett F. Bleiler about Nostradamus.
A review by Michael Dirda of Henry Petroski's The Book on the Bookshelf, a history of book-making and book-storage technology.
Hearts in Atlantis Entertainment Weekly's Tom De Haven gives the book an A, and calls the opening story, ''Low Men in Yellow Coats'', ''an homage to Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes''.
Caleb Cain's review in the Sept. 12th New York Times Book Review says ''King takes up the Vietnam War, and it scares him so bad he won't let his hero act imprudently. ... 'Hearts in Atlantis'' is a book about survivor guilt.''
A feature by Elizabeth Hand in the Village Voice Literary Supplement, The Metamorphosis of Stephen King, sees his new book as the latest step in the author's efforts to attain literary respectability.
Stephen King's new book is well-reviewed:
Faster Barbara Ehrenreich's review in the Sept. 12th New York Times Book Review
Todd Gitlin's review in the Sept. 12th Los Angeles Times
Edward Neuert's review in Salon Sept. 15th, reprinted the same day on CNN.
Steven Johnson's review in the September Village Voice Literary Supplement.
The most-reviewed nonfiction book recently is James Gleick's Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (Pantheon):
§ Los Angeles Times Book Review September 12 L. C. Strudwick-Turner reviews Stephen King's Hearts in Atlantis.
A special children's books section includes recommendations of fantasy novels for the end of summer, by Lloyd Alexander, Lynne Reid Banks, Susan Cooper, Edward Eager, and Norton Juster.
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow (Tor) is number one on this week's LAT Bestsellers list; Kurt Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box is number two. The second Harry Potter book leads a separate Children's Bestsellers list.
(Sat 18 Sep 1999)