Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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The first great SF novel of the 21st century?

Yesterday afternoon I picked up my copy of Michael Swanwick's Bones of the Earth. This morning I finished it, as I rode up the escalators from the Central Line platforms of Bond Street tube station. That was an hour ago. If I hadn't had too much to do (and sleep), this would have been a single sitting book

I have to say, I haven't felt this way after reading an SF novel for some time. Swanwick has always been a wonderful storyteller, but here he is at the very pinnacle of his art, spinning words into a gripping, and moving, tale. This is a book about real science, scientists given the opportunity to study in the flesh things they have only been able to recreate from fragments of bone and speculation. This is dream made real, one of my childhood dreams: the chance to meet dinosaurs. From the opening chapter, where the only way a palaeontologist can be recruited to the project is to be presented with the chilled head of a stegosaur, Swanwick drags you into an ever widening spiral of discovery, realtionships and temporal paradox that swings from the deep past to the deep future. It's even easy to forgive the re-rewriting of the wonderful short story Schezro with Tyrannosaur as an underwater vignette...

This isn't just the best SF novel of time travel I've read; it's also one of the best novels about scientific research. Where most SF about science focuses on the physical sciences, this is a tale of observational biology. From field studies to peer review, to academic politics, it's all here. A warts and all picture that succeeds in humanising what the media too often treats as religious dogma.

Ah, damn. I don't think I can do it justice. Just read it.
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