Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Liz Bourke. Aqueduct, $19 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-61976-123-0
This strong collection is culled from Bourke’s similarly titled Tor.com blog as well as other online sources, and features eight original selections. Bourke’s critiques of fantasy and science fiction—most running fewer than 1,000 words—demonstrate both her critical acumen and her appreciation of the genre. Nearly all of the works she discusses are by present-day female writers, and though she purports to bring “an explicitly feminist perspective” to her reviews, she mostly applies the classic critical yardsticks of plot, character development, and authorial voice. Bourke has read widely, especially among multi-book sagas, and her familiarity with so many modern writers’ oeuvres gives gravity to her appraisals of the limitations of a literary canon for science fiction and fantasy. She observes that depictions of queer womanhood in contemporary fantasy and science fiction are often disappointingly “titillating or tragic.” Her critical standards are high—she doesn’t flinch at pointing out weaknesses in favorite books by popular writers—but not inflexible, as is implicit in her observation that “an interesting failure can prove far more entertaining than a novel that’s technically successful but has no heart.” This collection is sure to provoke debate among genre fans, and also to drive them to the books under Bourke’s scrutiny. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/19/2017
Release date: 07/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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