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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Swiftly by Adam Roberts

Swiftly: Stories That Never Were and Might Not Be by Adam Roberts. San Francisco and Portland: Night Shade Books, 2004. ISBN: 1-892389-71-1

This is a collection of science fiction and/or fantasy short stories by an author with whom I am unfamiliar. Apparently he has is a British author who has written five science fiction novels since 2000, but I've not encountered any of them, and was not familiar with his name when I picked up this book.

The attraction here was that the title story, with which the book begins, and the final story that ends the book are both sequels to, continuations of, or set in the same universe as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. This was an intriguing enough premise to get me to pick up the book. And I'm not sorry that I did.

Gulliver's Travels was a book that I had heard of, or read about, and I remember persuading my mother to let me buy a copy at a used book store, or maybe it was at a thrift shop, at some point when I was still living at home, which means it was probably while I was still in grade school, or perhaps I might have already been in academy (boarding high school), but when I was still pretty much subject to my parent's control and authority where my reading was concerned.

I'm not sure my mother was completely convinced that Gulliver's Travels was something I should be reading, but I managed to convince her it was a literary classic. I only cite this story to indicate that my interest in Swift went back quite a ways.

These stories are yet another example of modern writers capitalizing on classic authors and their works, a genre which interests me, and of which I've chronicled quite a few examples in this blog, the most prominent being novels based on the works or lives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (see the entries for Laurie King, Caleb Carr and Alan Vanneman), Jane Austin (see entries for Pamela Aiden, Linda Berdoll and Carrie Bebris) and Edgar Allen Poe (see John May and Matthew Pearl), with recent nods to H. G. Wells (see Gabriel Mesta) and Scott Joplin (see Tananarive Due) as well.

So how does this example stack up? Fair to middling is my assessment. The Swift stories are worth reading, but overall, these and the other stories in the book don't strike me as being top rate, but rather as just a bit above average in their conception and execution. Execution getting a better rating than conception. Marginally recommended, especially for fans of old Gulliver, for whom the two Swift stories might be considered essential reading.

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