Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Gary K Wolfe
Beccon Publications, 2010
For nearly 20 years (he began writing his column in 1991), Gary Wolfe is a permanent reviewer of "Locus". In his columns he usually writes about three or four or five books (such reviewing policy is set by the magazine), often finds in even the most dissimilar books something in common, any link. "Bearings" is his second collection of this kind. In the more than 400 pages volume contains his reviews written for “Locus” from 1997 to 2001. In the introduction Wolfe notes that he excluded from the book “year in review” columns, reviews of annual best anthologies, as well as small-circulation academic books, which is now difficult to obtain.
Whoever he wrote about, Wolfe always seeks the roots of modern science fiction writers in science fiction writers of the past, of "Golden Age", "New Wave” etc. He's very good at reviewing classic SF: the critic can not only praise covered with dust and sometimes outdated prose by Sturgeon, Bester, CM Kornbluth, William Tenn, but also give them a place in history, knowing that what was written 70 years ago can not be evaluated as well as what was written ten years ago.
He is equally good at reviews on both the author's collections and novels either. When reviewing the novels he is less than Clute absorbed with plot descriptions, digging deep into the problem, wondering how would a novel look after 5 years, and is there anything to expect from a writer in the future.
Wolfe prefers science fiction to fantasy; he is interested in hard SF as well. Among his favorite writers (judging by the number of reviews, attributable to the writer) are Le Guin, Elizabeth Hand, Sheri Tepper, Baxter, Greg Bear.
If Clute in his reviews builds Baroque performances, Wolfe rather is called a realist: he is persuasive, keen-eyed, trying to be unbiased.
"Bearings" is hardly a guide to all the attractions of fantasy and SF during five years, it is impossible to write a monthly column about all, besides that we need to consider the taste of the critic, but weak books among reviewed in this book almost did not appear - that's for sure: Wolfe simply does not spend their time on them.
Perhaps, there is not enough eccentricity in his text (sometimes reviews are too smooth to be interested), but it already can be attributed to his manner of writing.
That's 20 years of writing about the same theme in the same venue - and Gary K Wolfe didn’t write himself out. It needs a great talent for that.