Dictionary of Science Fiction Places, The by Stableford, Brian, ed., 1999

Dictionary of Science Fiction Places, The by Stableford, Brian, ed. - Book cover from Amazon.co.uk

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I hope I don't have to tell you what this one is, because the title pretty much says it all. Stableford has gone through a huge number of works and has pulled out and described all of the major settings. There are probably several hundred entire in this book. If that does not sound very complete to you, then you are probably better read in SF than I am. I have gone through this entire book six or seven times since I bought it, and that only place that I have not found an entry for is Todos Santos from Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Oath of Fealty. Other than that, I have not been let down yet. Stableford's style is direct and to the point, and complete at least up until this book's date of publishing which was 1999. Stableford also included sequels and later entries into established series into this work, and for the most part misses nothing. Take his entry on Avalon from The Legacy of Heorot

The colony's early success was abruptly ended by strange metamorphoses of the planet's native life-forms. The river-dwelling samlon were transformed from edible fish into ravening monsters with legs and teeth: grendles. The survivors of the early grendle attacks had to move up the Miskatonic to take refuge on Mucking Great Mountain. The Earth Born eventually managed to kill all the grendles on Camelot Island, thus making it a safe haven for humans and their imported crops. The Star Born who came after them were, however, determined that the colony should not be content with such close confinement; they believed that humans must achieve some kind of permanent accommodation with the native inhabitants of Grendle Country, however difficult the task might be.

Although Stableford fails to mention speed as another offensive weapon of the grendles, he did not miss much in the summary of the history of the island from either The Legacy of Heorot or its sequel Beowulf's Children. Though as I mentioned not all of his articles are accurate. For example in the article on Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga he calls the titular colony:

KIRINYAGA: A space habitat on named after the mountain on which, according to legend, Ngai created the three sons who became the fathers of the Masai, the Kamba and the Kikuyu.

Even a cursory reading of Resnick's book reveals that the Kirinyaga that the title refers to is a planetoid that is orbited by habitat from which the UN overseers watch the Kikuyu in their Utopia.

Despite a few problems Stableford really produced a useful work. I use it frequently when I am having trouble visualizing some setting from a book. He removes all the superfluous text and sticks with what is relevant to his topic: places and settings. This is a handy reference book that is unfortunately out of print now, though it can be bought for pennies on the used book market at Amazon.

Copyright 2008, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 3 star(s)


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