Sunday, March 31, 2013

John Clute: Appleseed

Appleseed, John Clute (2001; Tor Books, 2003)

John Clute's known as perhaps the most learned and intelligent critic of SF/fantasy alive; he's sorta like Northrop Frye with a passionate love of the space opera form, an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire speculative canon, and a prose style that sometimes rivals RP Blackmur's for knotty insight. So you perhaps can imagine what Appleseed, his second venture into actually writing SF, is like. Or maybe not – the vision of the future here, the sheer technological and social otherness of Clute's world is so fantastically imagined that it's hard for a reader to get a grip of anything like the whole. I'm used to being off-balance for the obligatory opening 50-75 pages of an SF novel, getting used to its novum (or nova); Clute keeps you off-balance for pretty much all of this medium-sized book, not least in his astonishingly various prose, which shimmies from the technologically gritty to the lyrically visionary to the weirdest yee-haw vernacular, often in the course of a single sentence.

Appleseed, alas, is way short on fully realized characters – it's really a kind of verbally and conceptually souped-up space opera, after all – but its mind-blowing imagination of a future of cybernetically "augmented" human beings, shimmering artificial intelligences, and vast metaphysical / theological forces almost makes up for that. At the very least, it's worth reading just for the relentless baroque energy of its dialogue & descriptive prose.


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