Wednesday, 1 October 2014

SCI-FI CHRONICLES - Aurum Press - Out 2nd October

It's not often that we open something that we've been sent to review and let out very unmanly fanboy squeals, but that is exactly what happened when we opened the packaging on SCI-FI CHRONICLES. Our very first impression was 'Oh my God, it's beautiful'. The cover is a lush patterned black with a rendering of Hal 9000's eye lens and some very shiny lettering that just isn't done justice by the image alongside.

But, the beauty of this book doesn't just stop at the cover. It is lavishly illustrated throughout with glorious colour images. They're not huge, but there are so many of them. Each entry is illustrated with small icon images with some of the larger subjects getting two or four pages devoted purely to the pictures.

You need a lot of pages to get all of that onto and SCI-FI CHRONICLES has more than 570 of them (though admittedly 40 of those are dedicated to the index and the credits.

With so much information now readily available on our electronic devices at the swipe of a finger, encyclopedias like this one are much harder to come by, so it's to Aurum's credit that they are willing to even produce the book, let alone do such a good job on it. There are 27 listed contributors, all of whom seem to have a passion for the subject.

And it's a wide-ranging subject too, since the book doesn't restrict itself to just one medium. There are landmark books, films, TV shows, comics, video games and even characters and personalities all contained within. Isaac Asimov shares space with The Day The Earth Stood Still and Jack Kirby. Steven Spielberg jostles elbows with King Kong and Halo. Even with half a thousand pages, it can't be all-encompassing, but we've yet to come up with one entry that we thought ought to be featured that wasn't. The detail is more of a sketch, an introduction to each subject, but you'll know whether you're interested in finding out more about each by the time that you reach the end of the page.

It's not perfect, though, surely. Very nearly. The chronological structure makes it a little harder than necessary to find your subject of choice if you're not interested in reading it as a narrative and the index is a touch fiddly to find the main article of choice. The chronology also stops in 2009, which suggests that there has not been one single book, film, video game, graphic novel, character or creator who has emerged in the genre in the past five years. That seems a little hard to believe.

The space devoted to each entry can be a little obscure as well. Blade Runner, visually the second most influential film of all time, shares its page with the book Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep and mention isn't even given to the excellent video game version and the not quite so excellent KW Jeter sequels. This means that the most influential movie in the genre since Metropolis actually gets less page space that soggy submarine series Seaquest DSV!

Also, any book that states as fact that Tom Baker was the third Doctor has to lose some credibility points.

All of which is nit-picking. The fact is that we have lost hours to this book already and we've had it for less than two days. It has become our favoured reference book of choice and has pride of place on our shelves. That is seriously not bad going.

The £25 price tag might seem a little steep, but take a look inside and you'll probably fall as instantly in love as we did. Also, it's a book that you will go back to time and time again. And it's the kind of gift that your science-loving significant other would thank you for and mean it.

The lovely folks at Aurum have promised one lucky winner a copy of this book absolutely free, so trot on over to and take part in our giveaway.

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