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Alien Landscapes (1979)

by Robert Holdstock, Malcolm Edwards

Other authors: Jim Burns (Illustrator), Les Edwards (Illustrator), Bob Fowke (Illustrator), Linda Garland (Illustrator), Roger Garland (Illustrator)6 more, John Harris (Illustrator), Colin Hay (Illustrator), Stuart Hughes (Illustrator), Angus McKie (Illustrator), Terry Oakes (Illustrator), Tony Roberts (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
702307,835 (3.65)1 / 7
"... Explores ten of the best-known [science fiction] worlds with a detailed text explaining their history & politics, climate, geography, flora & fauna and their location in the Galaxy. All are ... visualized in 30 original paintings, specially commissioned ..."--dust jacket.
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I first saw this 1979 art collection in the early 1980s at school as an early teen. I couldn't recall the title until some helpful folks here on LT helped me figure it out, then I was able to snag a copy via inter-library loan to have another look at it these thirty years later. I remembered it better than I thought, although I'd mistakenly believed Majipoor was one of the features.

It begins with a well-written introduction by someone who loves the genre, giving a fair overview of the history and categorizations for science fiction settings, contrasting them with fantasy, and listing the ways in which invented worlds can serve a story. There are many more cited examples than the ones featured in this book. One of the last citations is from George R. R. Martin, which stands as testament to his work long before Game of Thrones existed.

The rest of the volume presents a sampling of invented worlds, each portrayed with three enormous paintings that focus on evoking the setting. As a young teenager I was most swept up by the images of worlds I wasn't yet familiar with: the Okie Cities grabbed my imagination, Hothouse looks wonderfully bizarre (is this artist a Salvador Dali protégé?), and Mesklin is intriguing. For the worlds I was familiar with I had a harder time digesting the clash with my own imagination, especially the renderings of Pern. I've seen more stirring images of Arrakis but these are still good. All of those impressions held on my revisit these many years later, although I've since gotten to know James Blish's work. Brian Aldiss and Hal Clement, you're next.

Reading about Rama made little impression on me, but the images here do a lot to evoke its scale and wonder; more than the novel did. Eros and Trantor unfortunately aren't conveyed with much impact. Ringworld was made interesting enough to get me to read Larry Niven, but doesn't seem as impressive now. The futuristic rendering of The Time Machine makes no sense to me, given the era it was constructed in.

Considerable text accompanies the images, presented as a sort of travel guide that describes the major features and a bit of the workings for each world. There's no plot spoilers, although the identifying of certain elements and places does convey what each story will cover.

I'm glad to have reviewed this treasure and compare my impressions now to then, but I don't find myself desiring a copy. You can google up the best images from this book without having to look for it now, and reading the novels is always a better introduction than an invented tour guide which can only summarize from them. But as an indicator of must-visit science fiction it's not entirely a bad place to start (it certainly helped teenage me), and it can definitely stir the imagination. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Jul 19, 2017 |
Dazzling. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Holdstock, Robertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, Malcolmmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fowke, BobIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garland, LindaIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garland, RogerIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hay, ColinIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, StuartIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKie, AngusIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oakes, TerryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, TonyIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mahn, KlausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Alienness is central to science fiction. Open practically any sf novel and somewhere on the page will be the descriptive hints or behavioural anomalies which indicate the presence of the alien.
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Science fiction worlds ... are more than just settings for fantastic adventure. They may, in a sense, be the central characters of the story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"... Explores ten of the best-known [science fiction] worlds with a detailed text explaining their history & politics, climate, geography, flora & fauna and their location in the Galaxy. All are ... visualized in 30 original paintings, specially commissioned ..."--dust jacket.

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Book description
This book summarizes some major science fiction worlds and provides illustrations.

Arthur C. Clarke's Rama illustrated by Jim Burns, from ("Rendezvous with Rama")

Anne McCaffrey's Pern illustrated by Roger & Linda Garland ("Dragonflight")

James Blish's Okie Cities illustrated by John Harris ("They Shall Have Stars")

Hal Clement's Mesklin illustrated by Tony Roberts ("Mission of Gravity")

Harry Harison's Eros illustrated by Colin Hay ("Captive Universe")

Frank Herbert's Arrakis illustrated by Terry Oakes ("Dune")

Larry Niven's Ringworld illustrated by Stuart Hughes ("Ringworld")

Isaac Asimov's Trantor illustrated by Angus McKie ("Foundation")

Brian Aldiss' Hothouse illustrated by Bob Fowke ("Hothouse")

H.G. Wells' Time Machine (End of the World) illustrated by Les Edwards ("The Time Machine")
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