cover image What Makes This Book So Great

What Makes This Book So Great

Jo Walton. Tor, $26.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3193-9

For anyone whose to-read pile is not quite tall enough, this collection gathers 130 of Walton’s blog posts from science fiction site (July 2008 to February 2011) about her favorites works of sci-fi and fantasy. The books she discusses are not the latest to hit the market, but those that novelist Walton (Among Others) has reread time and again, because “something only worth reading once is pretty much a waste of time.” These brief essays are perfect for picking at random; binge on too many and the books cited might blur together. In the transition from Web to print, something is lost in translation: it’s disconcerting to see questions such as, “So, what sort of series do you like?” without accompanying comments. At the same time, the themes of the essays interweave nicely; many are meditations on the genre as a whole more than reviews of specific works, and Walton often ties her points back to earlier posts (most notably in the extended review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga). Walton intentionally approaches these works as a fan rather than a critic, and she successfully captures the sensation of reading on a personal, sensory level. For readers unschooled in the history of SF/F, this book is a treasure trove; for those who recognize every title, Walton evokes the joy of returning to a well-worn favorite. Agent: Jack Byrne, Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency.(Jan.)