Skip to main content

Jack Glass (SF) - Adam Roberts *****

I was blown away by Jack Glass by Adam Roberts. I suspect what made this for me is that Roberts consciously was setting out to write a book that took on some of the conventions of the golden ages of science fiction and crime writing - both favourites for me. It is a new book. It is a modern book. However it encompasses the best of the old. And the result is absolutely wonderful.

The antihero of the novel, Jack Glass, tells us up front that he is the murderer in each of three sections of the book - but this doesn't prevent the stories (which fit together almost seamlessly) from working in terms of suspense and anticipation.

The first section is probably the weakest and the middle the strongest, so if you make a start and struggle a little with the starkness of the first, do keep going. Roberts happens to be a professor of literature and if I say it doesn't show, I mean that in the best possible way. Although the book is very well written with some elegant turns of phrase, it doesn't get in the way of the storytelling as is so often the case with 'literary' writing.

If I'm going to quibble, Roberts gets the faster than light science wrong in the third section - but I always say that SF is fiction first and science second - this really isn't too much of a worry. If you like old school science fiction and haven't found anything you can really enjoy for years you should rush out and buy Jack Glass


Paperback 


Kindle 

Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Rockets and Rayguns - Andrew May ****

The Cold War period saw dramatic developments in science and technology, coinciding with the flourishing of the science fiction genre. In Rockets and Rayguns, Andrew May draws on the parallels between reality and fiction, each influencing the other.

Inevitably a major Cold War theme was the threat of nuclear war, and May opens with the bomb. It's fascinating that fiction got there first - nuclear weapons were featured in science fiction when many physicists were still doubting the practicality of using nuclear energy. Of course, it's a lot easier to simply take a concept and dream up a weapon than it is to make it for real - for example, H. G. Wells' prophetic nuclear bombs from his 1914 The World Set Free were nothing like the real thing. And some science fiction devices concepts - notably ray guns and force fields - came to very little in reality. However this doesn't prevent the parallels being of interest.

May gives us a mix of the science - describing how nuclear we…

Galileo Galilei, the Tuscan Artist – Pietro Greco ****

Near the beginning of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, he refers to a ‘Tuscan artist’ viewing the Moon through an optic glass. He’s talking about Galileo – one of history’s greatest scientists, but not the most obvious person to slap an ‘artist’ label on. Yet Galileo lived at a time – the Renaissance – when it was fashionable to dabble impartially in both the arts and sciences. Look up ‘Renaissance man’ on Wikipedia and you’ll see Galileo’s picture right there underneath Leonardo da Vinci’s. It’s a less well-known side to his life, but it crops up again and again – interspersed among his many scientific achievements – in this excellent new biography by Pietro Greco.

If you’re looking for interesting trivia, you’ll find plenty in this book. Galileo’s father was a musician with scientific leanings, who carried out some of the first experiments on musical acoustics – which Galileo may have assisted with. As a young professor of mathematics, Galileo delivered a couple of lectures on …

Meet Your Bacteria - Nicola Temple and Catherine Whitlock ***

There have been a good number of books on our microbiome - the bacteria and other tiny organisms living in our body - from The Wild Life of Our Bodies throughI, Superorganism to I Contain Multitudes. Each of these is a traditional popular science book format, and all, to some degree, suffer from the same problem - in part, they have a tendency to present collections of facts, little more than bullet points of information strung together, rather than providing an effective narrative. As Meet Your Bacteria is in a significantly different format, there was a chance to imbue the subject with more dynamism and interest.'

When I first looked at the book, I assumed from its shape and cover that it would be in the style of highly illustrated, two-page spreads with large illustrations and the text little more than captions. In reality, Nicola Temple and Catherine Whitlock manage to subvert that format - it is, indeed, presented as a series of separate two-page spreads, but there is far more…