Future Classics: #5

Not a typo in the subject line, because now we reach the other tie.

Spirit by Gwyneth Jones (2008)

Spirit cover

Spirit is Jones’ most recent novel, and the other science fictional retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, as Karen Joy Fowler explores:

The reader picks up a sprawling space opera with certain expectations: a fast pace, exotic settings, mysterious aliens, badly behaved (and also much-abused) nobility, plenty of off-world adventure and intrigue. In her new book, Spirit, Gwyneth Jones delivers all these and more.

The plot of the novel is loosely modelled on Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. Jones is not the first writer to find that a classic swashbuckler translates effectively into outer space, and, in this case, the fun of finding familiar elements strangely transformed more than compensates for any predictability in terms of how the plot will go. Like The Count of Monte Cristo, Jones’s book features an exiled emperor, a conspiracy involving imperial restoration, an impregnable prison, an unjust imprisonment, a fellow prisoner with wisdom and wealth to bequeath, a daring escape dependent on the removal of a corpse, unimaginable treasure, fabulous fetes and balls, appalling betrayals and the intricacies of vengeance.

To this, Jones has added a great many elements not found in Dumas’s book (and surely the Dumas is the poorer for it): space travel, a Hegemony of many planets and many “numinally intelligent bipeds”, an ill-starred diplomatic mission to a world of bloodsuckers, chitinous serpents that can be saddled and ridden, robots, body modifications and, as the Edmond Dantès character is female in Jones’s retelling, bizarre pregnancies and childbirth.

Other reviews: Paul Kincaid, for Strange Horizons; Dan Hartland, for Strange Horizons; Nic Clarke, for SFX; Duncan Lawie, for The Zone; by Cheryl Morgan; and by Ian Sales.

And here’s a thing: you can download the full text of the novel from Jones’ website. It was release online in January of this year which, I think, counts as its first US publication — which means it’s eligible for a Hugo. Isn’t that interesting?

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (2002)

Speed of Dark cover

Winner of the Nebula Award and shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award, Speed of Dark bowled over many reviewers with its examination of the introduction of a cure for autism; John Grant, for instance:

In sum, The Speed of Dark is one of those exceptionally rare novels that has the power to alter one’s entire worldview, and reading it is a profoundly rewarding and enriching experience. It is impossible to avoid superlatives when speaking of it, even though one’s all too aware that one may be perceived as perpetrating hyperbole. Well … tough. I cannot remember when last I enjoyed a novel this much, but it must have been a very long time ago.

Other reviews: Adam Roberts, at Infinity Plus; and Jayme Lynn Blaschke at SF Site. See also an essay by Moon, “Autism: Past, Present, Future, Speculative.”

Ranking calculated from 101 responses to a poll run during October, November and December 2010.

7 Responses to “Future Classics: #5”

  1. Mike Scott Says:

    Spirit isn’t eligible for a Hugo, I fear. A work is normally only eligible for the year in which it is first published anywhere in the world. If it receives limited distribution in its first year, its eligibility can be extended for one (and only one) year by vote of the WSFS Business Meeting at the Worldcon, so Spirit could have been eligible for 2009 as well as 2008, but definitely not for 2010.

  2. Niall Says:

    The minutes for the 2010 business meeting aren’t online yet, but if it follows previous years, they’ll have passed a blanket eligibility extension for works receiving their first US publication.

  3. Mike Scott Says:

    The Business Meeting did pass a blanket extension, but it only applies (and can only apply) to works first published outside the US in 2009. Works first published in 2008 and earlier remain ineligible.

  4. Niall Says:

    Do you have a link to the wording of the motion? The minutes above just say “The second motion, “This Year’s Model,” extending eligibility for works originally published outside the U.S.” was also adopted without objection.”

  5. Top Ten Writers « Torque Control Says:

    […] Future Classics: #5 […]

  6. Speed of Dark: Recap « Torque Control Says:

    […] Discussion: Part I, Part II, and Part III Discussion and reviews from December, when Speed of Dark Recent Reviews David Hebblethwaite’s Review Alex Ward’s Review […]


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