13 August 2009

Voyagers Gets A Great First Review

The Wellington launch of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand is next Monday at the New Zealand Poetry Society meeting, Thistle Inn, 7.30pm. The wonderful Meliors Simms passed on to me the first review of Voyagers, and I'm so happy with it that I've reproduced it below.

Review of Voyagers from Star*Line, Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, May/June 2009, p. 19. Reviewed by Edward Cox.

Science fiction is a fertile ground for poetry. As easily as snapping fingers, it seems, imagery and ideas can kick the thought processes of readers into overdrive. The very mention of words like 'galaxy', 'sky', 'Earth', and 'alien', 'robot', 'human', can fill the imagination with all kinds of possibilities. With Voyagers, editors Mark Pirie and Tim Jones have gathered together some of New Zealand's finest poets to compile a collection that shows us all why the realm of science fiction poetry knows no bounds.

The book is divided into six parts, with titles drawn from popular culture: "Back to the Future", "Apocalypse Now", "Altered States", "ET", "When Worlds Collide" and "The Final Frontier". As these titles suggest, each part comes at science fiction from a different angle. In the introduction, the editors acknowledge that there is no universal definition for the genre, and with this in mind, all the poems herein are thought provoking, enigmatic and entertaining.

Janet Charman's "in your dreams" is a nice reminder of where we are, and that all the poems in the book are by Girls and Boys from New Zealand. "Einstein's Theory Simply Explained" by David Gregory is anything but simple, while Alistair Te Ariki Campbell's "Looking at Kapiti" uses classic literature and Maori history to describe the destruction of an island. Without doubt, the most humorous poem of the collection is "Tabloid Headlines" by Helen Rickerby. This one is a list of headlines, which sometimes invert expectancies or carry quotes that will have you chuckling long after reading. The best headline, perhaps, is of the woman who walked on water, who then explained, "No I'm not the messiah, I'm just very clever."

My favourite poem in Voyagers is also the very last poem in the book. "Space & Time" by Brian [sic] Sewell returns us to possibilities, fuelling the imagination, the heart of this collection. On one hand, the poem seems to wonder how far the human race can be trusted with space exploration and colonisation, given its history. On the other hand, it is a poem of imagery and ideas, adventure and peril, which opens in the way perhaps all great science fiction should:

a long time ago
in a galaxy far far away
are things that we know
and things that amaze—

Although Voyagers is a strong collection in its entirety, the bok is undoubtedly at its strongest when its source is New Zealand itself, and is often an education. For most, we only know this country from the stunning landscapes Mr Jackson showed us in the "The Lord of the Rings" movies. We tend to forget that New Zealand is a land of diverse cultures, mysticism and deep folklore. Editors Pirie and Jones have produced a collection that is an antidote to ignorance. The authors and their works have tapped into a fertile ground to ensure Voyagers is most worthy of note.

There will be copies of Voyagers available for sale at the meeting, but if you're not going to be there and would like a copy, you can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book; New Zealand Books Abroad; or Fishpond. You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

UPDATE: My interview on Plains FM with Helen Lowe about Voyagers is now available as a podcast: http://bit.ly/9mxI3 (12 minutes)


harvestbird said...

Congratulations. I hope similarly complimentary reviews follow.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Megan! I hope so, too, but after my experience with "Transported", which some reviewers loved and others ... loved less, I am going to try to remain on an even keel. "Keep Calm and Carry On", as they used to say.

Kay said...

Reviews are so fraught. I remember being upset when I saw someone had given Feeding the Dogs three stars out of five ... it's like a slap in the face with a wet cold cloth - yet it's so subjective, we shouldn't mind.
This is a great review. I am looking forward to buying the book when I surface from travels etc one day soon!

Mike Crowl said...

I'm interested in getting a copy of this book, Tim, but puzzled that the NZ online site, Fishpond, is selling it around $40NZ, when the direct site has it as NZ$27.99 or thereabouts.
It's enough to make me want to strike Fishpond from the favourites list...

Tim Jones said...

Kay, as I sometimes write reviews (though I prefer doing author interviews on the whole) I should learn to take them on the chin (which doesn't mean I always do!)

Mike, Fishpond prices are a mystery to me too! I'll be in touch.