Friday, July 16, 2010

Canary Fever

John Clute
Canary Fever

Beccon Publications, 2009

No need to explain who John Clute is. He is known for his Encyclopedia (new edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which will be published online), critical works and reviews. Actually, reviews made this solid, more than 400-page volume. «Canary Fever» is the fourth book of this kind By Clute. In this edition, he collected his reviews as from 2003 to 2008, written primarily for online magazines, as well as older ones.

The book is divided into 5 parts: three of them were brought to the reviews of individual writers important for the author - Thomas Dish (who the book is dedicated to), John Crowley and Michael Moorcock, and one, only 8 reviews, is compiled from old reviews, which were not included in previous books; a main body comprised reviews of recent years.

In almost every review Clute invariably mentions two of those key words around which criticism of Clute is built. These are fantastika and Story. Once invented a term “fantastika”, he remains faithful to it, always picking works for review so that they could illustrate the viability of the term. Sometimes it seems that the author too flirts with fantastika, giving the term too much room in the review, as though he has nothing to say about the actual book.

Story is generally supporting structure of his reviews. Clute skillfully retells the stories; sometimes his scale in the description of the book is amazing. Retellings of some of the books look more solid and weighty than the books themselves. In his reviews he gives the comparison with films, classical literature and even opera. I can not say that he encourages them to help because he had nothing to say. He always has something to say about the Story, and he knows how to say that. Sometimes written by Clute requires has not yet written Clutish vocabulary to understand. His style is baroque, but behind it there could be always seen how story is unfolding- Story of review.

Moreover, the critic in his reviews had managed to create a tower of Babel of the dozens of languages. However, the tower is not falling apart, and serves entirely to Clute. The critic uses words from different languages not to display his encyclopedic knowledge, but in that case, when the English equivalent is not required. Encyclopedic knowledge helps him in catching errors in academic books, though.

The critic can be blamed for his passion for space opera and British authors. Both reproaches are not solid: space opera (those examples selected by the author of the book hardly anyone calls weak books) allows Clute display hi talent fully, stretching Story to cosmic proportions. But American authors in the book, perhaps, are not less than the British (and British reviewed books are of the highest grade).
«Canary Fever», perhaps, isn’t a guide to the reader for the stated period (there is also quite mainstream authors and small press, important figures in science fiction), but I doubt that the author set himself this as a goal.

This Clute’s book, despite the fact that this is not fiction, is a Story.

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