Genre Non-Fiction Publisher Porcupine Books Year Published 2005 Review Posted on 7/21/2005 Reviewer Rating
10 out of 10
Essential SF: A Concise Guide, by Jonathan Cowie, Tony Chester
Reviewed by David A. Olson
If you've read this book, why not
Essential SF: A Concise Guide is a listing of popular science fiction books,
movies, TV shows, magazines, and authors. Each entry gives enough
information that a reader can decide if they are interested in that item
while at the same time not spoiling the plot.
Which pieces of science fiction are included is based on the results of the
voting of science fiction fans, meaning that they looked at the Hugo Award
and the annual Locus poll and other similar awards and included the winners.
Their system means that notable awards like the Nebula are excluded when
deciding what works to include because that award is based on the votes of a
small number of authors. The guide also includes several older works that
came before such awards, like "Frankenstein." Their system largely works, but
they have included such works as "The Princess Bride" and "Harry Potter and
the Goblet of Fire" because they each won a Hugo, even though both of these
are clearly fantasy and not science fiction. So, calling this guide concise
is a misstatement since it includes works which are not science fiction.
However, these are the rare exception, and the vast majority of the works
clearly should be included.
The organization of this book is alphabetical, so it is relatively easy to
find any particular work. However, there is only one giant list. So, if one
wants to browse the authors, one must also page through endless books and
movies as well. This makes the book harder to use than is necessary. The
lack of an index adds to this problem.
The book ends with a checklist of every work listed in the guide. This may
be useful to a collector who is looking to complete their collection of
The small size of this book would make it easy for carrying to a bookstore
or library to help in searching for something to read.
Overall, this book would be useful for becoming familiar with science
fiction. However, a well-seasoned science fiction reader would probably be
better off buying the "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction" by Clute and Nicholls.
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Comments on Essential SF: A Concise Guide, by Jonathan Cowie, Tony Chester
Posted by Jonathan on 8/16/2005
Because Porcupine is a small press (spin off from a specialist Sf book dealer) the link below may help those seeking out copies of Essential SF.