Group-Reading the Guardian Reviews Section

The best part about being in a bookstore at midnight when the latest Harry Potter book was released wasn’t having the first opportunity to read the latest installment. It was the joy of the yearly enterprise of group-reading the same book at the same time, of knowing that a blogged reaction would appear on my feed as soon as any given friend had finished reading it. It showed me the sheer, astonishing speed with which some people were able to skim the entire volume (two hours!) and the steady chipping away at it required by those unable to take time off from the rest of their lives. It was a momentary community of joint reading I have not even found in formal book groups, because for them, the reading is not the synchronous part; the having-read is.

In honor of the exhibit on the history of science fiction opening at the British Library later in the week, the Guardian has dedicated its Saturday Reviews section to the subject of science fiction. It released the first few articles a few days early, beginning the resulting group discussion which percolated across my feeds, which was spurred especially by mixed reactions to Iain M Banks and his irritation over those writing in genre who have never read it.

Today, the reviews section came out. One by one, commentators went to their local news agents to pick up a copy, which made it comment-worthy when at least one had sold out. (Those who have ongoing subscriptions, and thus automatic delivery, have not mentioned it. Why would they?)

To state the very obvious, one advantage of the newspaper section is that it is made up of articles. Small units enable more immediate reactions, such as just how apt or not the top 10 list of the best aliens in science fiction was, or noting the cumulative tendency of respondents in the initial survey of the best books or authors of science fiction (as picked by “top SF writers”) as being oriented towards books written long ago by men.

When it comes down to it, it is a small swathe of geographically-limited internet which is reading and responding to the Guardian today, especially about science fiction. But it is a group of whom many have gone out today specifically or in part in order to hunt down the paper version of a collection of critical works to read together.

Perhaps others of you have encountered it before, but I have never noticed a simultaneous effort to group-read science fiction criticism before, complete with physically tracking down the  publication on the same day as others, and I’m delighted that it’s happening today.

3 Responses to “Group-Reading the Guardian Reviews Section”

  1. Al R Says:

    The Guardian have confused things slightly with the heading for that feature, since all I was asked to do was write about my favorite novel, not the one I considered “best”. As Adam notes in his piece about Dune, one can be abundantly aware of the flaws of a work, while still holding a particular fondness for it.

    If the wind had been blowing in a different direction, I could have nominated a dozen other books, of course.

  2. Shana Says:

    There is a very big difference indeed between a favorite and the favorite! It’s a pity it’s been mispackaged, especially since much of what I have been reading as followup to it has revolved precisely around that aspect of it.

  3. Simon Morden Says:

    Many of the responses there just seem *wrong*.

    Picking your favourite SF book is like asking which of your children you like best. Or, more accurately, which of your grandparents you like best. I’ve a list of books that hovers around the ten mark, but the make-up of the list changes as I change.

    And there were some good choices in the Guardian, too. Excellent to see Canticle getting some love.


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