Having done one excerpt today, I thought I might as well tackle Paul Kincaid’s Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction). We only get one chapter of this biography (Chapter 2, which mostly revolves around the Culture books), which is probably for the best as I haven’t read any Iain Banks and am unlikely to be a useful audience. It’s thirty pages, and I thought I could knock this one off very quickly, but oh dear, it was dull. I think you have to be a very engaging writer to write extended literary criticism of an author and make it interesting to people who haven’t read that author, and… this doesn’t manage it.
Andrew has actually read some Banks (though not the ones reviewed in this chapter), and he actually reads literary criticism for fun (why?), so he obligingly read the chapter when I gave up on it, and provided some comments.
Behold, the wisdom of Andrew!
I don’t know how to rank this one. I imagine it is doing what it is trying to do, and this is probably a worthwhile thing, and Andrew enjoyed it, so it clearly wasn’t a bad book, but it was fairly unreadable from my perspective. I sort of want to rank it above the Ellison book, because apparently I’d rather be bored than aggravated, but this is probably not fair. Part of me wants to leave them both off the ballot, but that doesn’t seem right, either.
Fortunately, based on Andrew’s review, I feel that I *can* now put it above the Ellison book, which is very pleasing, because did I mention that I really took against Ellison?
(All of this begs the question, how do we judge quality, in any case? Readability for the widest possible audience? Quality of writing – not a useful category when there is no actual bad writing to be seen here –? Personal enjoyment? I’m hoping that the last three related works will just blow me away so that my votes for these two don’t matter.)