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What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

Updated on October 9, 2014

Jo Walton is a science fiction writer of some acclaim, having won several awards for her fiction. She is also a voracious reader of speculative fiction, devouring an average of a book every couple of days according to her own reckoning. It is on these two qualifications that she was given a column on Tor.com, a prominent science fiction website, to discuss the classic works of science fiction she rereads frequently.

This book is a collection of 130 of such posts, detailing classics, forgotten gems, and Walton's thoughts on the speculative fiction genre as a whole. Not all of the books written about are science fiction or fantasy in the traditional sense (for instance, she looks at George Eliot's Middlemarch for proof that Eliot viewed the world through a science fictional lens), but there is a definite focus on the sort of far-future space opera series that are somewhat stereotypically associated with the term "science fiction."

Walton is very good at getting across how she feels about the books she reads, and reading most of these essays would be a very good way of filling up someone's to-read list. She is especially good at championing books she feels are extremely thought-provoking or creative in their narrative, but which for whatever reason were passed over by the zeitgeist. This book is a treasure trove for anyone interested in reading more interesting science fiction or fantasy, and it is highly recommended.

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