The Universe of Things
Locus 2011 Recommended Reading List
The stories in The Universe of Things span Jones's career, from "The Eastern Succession," first published in 1988, to the just-published "Collision." Each opens a window into a richly depicted culture in which intelligent, resourceful characters struggle to make sense of the mysteries of their world.
In the introduction by Steven Shaviro, author of Doom Patrols and Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society, Shaviro notes, "As a feminist writer, Jones refuses to accept compromises that leave gender inequities in place—and recognizes how they may well have staved off something worse. And as a science fiction writer, Jones shows deep awareness of how provisional, and fragile, all our acceptances and reconciliations can be, for there are always new potentials, new cultural or technological disruptions in the offing. Jones envisions a future that is different enough from the present that we are forced to recognize the contingency—and changeability—of the things we take most for granted."
"Perhaps the most affecting of these stories is also the most nearly mainstream: 'Grazing the Long Acre.' A student hitch-hiking in Eastern Europe may or may not witness divine intervention in the lives of prostitutes working and dying along an impersonal road. We don't really know, how we interpret our narrator's experiences will determine whether we read the story as fantasy or mainstream. But there is little doubt about what the student felt she saw: 'I saw the gateway between creation and the uncreated. I saw the immaculate void of all our desire' (104). And the immaculate void of all our desire lies at the heart of every relationship that Gwyneth Jones explores; it is what makes the stories so memorable and necessarily incomplete." (read the whole review) —Paul Kincaid SF Site, September 17, 2011.
"Jones is resolutely anti-consolatory, staunchly
contraPanglossian. She fits out every story with enough ideas to power a
lesser writer's novel. She will break your heart, and she will make you
think. She will challenge what you think science fiction is about, what it
is for, and what it can do in the hands of an expert."
(read the whole review)
Starred Review. "Clarke Award-winner Jones creates several wondrous
universes in which reality and fantasy bleed into each other. A
sword-and-sorcery virtual world masquerades as therapy ('Red Sonja and
Lessingham in Dreamland'). A self-harming princess and office worker makes
a real marriage out of an evil spell ('The Thief, the Princess, and the
Cartesian Circle'). Jones takes classic fairy tales like Cinderella ('La
Cenerentola') or genre tropes such as the haunted house ('Grandmother's
Footsteps') and reveals that the wonder and the horror lie not in glass
slippers or creaking staircases but in the relationships revealed when
'dreams come true.' Jones's sharp writing forces the reader to reconsider
the standard building blocks of SF in light of real human history,
sociology, and radical analyses of power structures. As engineer-journalist
Johnny Guglioli observes in 'Blue Clay Blues,' The technology is helpless
to save the world. It's what goes on between people that fucks things up."
When sitting down to pen this, there was one particular volume which rose
above all the other contenders, and is fairly without peer in this year's
crop of SF: Gwyneth Jones's collection, The Universe of Things. Published
by Aqueduct Press in January, this may not in one sense even be eligible,
since all the stories within its covers were published well before 2011. In
terms of sheer consistent quality, however, this was a book unbeaten for
the rest of year, and acts as a timely retrospective of an author
currently—scandalously—without a publishing contract.
ISBN: 987-1-933500-44-7 (13 digit)