— On the film Blade RunnerRoberts, Adam. Sibilant Fricative: Essays and Reviews . Steel Quill Books.
In fact, this is what links all the films I love the most: they manifest what I take to be a new cultural logic in SF. The genre has shifted from being a literature of ideas (books are good at ideas) to a literature of enduring, powerful and haunting visual images (films are poor at ideas, but very good at the poetry of beautiful images). This is what La Jetée, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stalker, Alien and The Matrix have in common – their gobsmacking visual aesthetic. But Blade Runner beats all of these. It is the most beautiful, the most haunting, the most visually perfect of all of them. It is Scott’s expert conjuring with near-palpable beams and shafts of light amongst the cluttered, smoky and misty darkness; the shadows blocking out a somatically believable city; the gorgeous design; the detail.
— On Quantum Thief
At the heart it’s a heist story: Jean le Flambeur is sprung from a deep space prison by the enigmatic warrior Mieli and her Banksish sentient spaceship Perhonen, in order to pull-off a complicated crime upon Mars. Meili is in the service of a mysterious, capricious goddess-like being, and the plot unwraps its several mysteries in a very satisfying manner. The Oubliette in particular is a splendid creation; not so much in terms of its far-future hardware as its social codes of privacy, guarded by information-exchange veils called ‘guevelots’, policed by ‘tzaddicks’ – and its currency, time, to be lavishly spent or carefully hoarded as citizens countdown towards a ‘death’ that reprocesses their consciousnesses into ‘Quiet’ machines that do all the hard areoforming and city maintenance work. There’s also a quick-witted Holmes-like youth, with a genius for solving crimes.
— On Chris Priest’s The Islanders
One of the things I loved about The Islanders is that pretty much all the Priestian fascinations and preoccupations are here: doubles; mirrors; dreams; stage magic; the unreliability and instability of narrative, and several intriguing and underplayed metafictional touches (a young [female] novelist writes fan letters to a tetchily unpredictable Kammeston; when her first novel is published she sends a copy to him. It is called The Affirmation). It coheres, or more precisely refuses quite to cohere, very stylishly indeed. It’s an archipelagic novel in more than one sense (always assuming that the word has more than one sense), formally embodying its scattered loosely connected strings of island subjects in loosely connected strings of narratives. There’s a distant family relationship with Borges, perhaps; or Ballard’s anthology of ‘condensed novels’, The Atrocity Exhibition.
Sibilant frictive is a collection of 40+ reviews/essays by Adam Roberts, collected in print in 2014.
You may disagree with Roberts on some things, but you will find his comments interesting and worth reading.
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