Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book Review: 'Literary Wonderlands' (Edited by Laura Miller)

"Literary Wonderlands," edited by Laura Miller, is a visual and intellectual delight. It is "a journey through the greatest fictional works ever created," and spans thousands of years. The book is divided into five sections: Ancient Myths and Legends; Science and Romanticism; Golden Age of Fantasy; New World Order; and The Computer Age. The book includes a series of essays about such works as "The Divine Comedy," "Don Quixote," "Gulliver's Travels," "Brave New World," "The Little Prince," "The Lord of the Rings," "Slaughterhouse-Five," "A Game of Thrones," "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," and "The Hunger Games."

Most readers will want to dip into it this volume to see what various critics, editors, and scholars (whose names are listed at the back) have to say about the author's life and times; what prompted him or her to create this particular work; and the significance of the author's ideas. You may not always agree with the essayists opinions, but their comments are provocative and intriguing. For example, Andrew Taylor's piece on "Brave New World," written in 1932 by Aldous Huxley, presents us with a chilling portrait of mankind in the year 2540. Resident Controllers run the World State; individuality, meaningful relationships, and dissension are unheard of. The rulers anesthetize their underlings with feel-good drugs and human reproduction takes place in a Hatchery. Taylor encourages us to ponder what Huxley was implying, not just about mankind's future, but also about Huxley's era of industrialization and mass production.

The black and white photographs, maps, drawings, and colorful illustrations help bring the text to life. Big Brother stares down at us with a menacing expression, Dorothy playfully scolds the Cowardly Lion, and Gulliver lies on the ground, tied down and bewildered, while the Lilliputians look on. This is a richly imagined, beautifully designed, and enthralling look at the romantic, satirical, symbolic, cultural, and historical elements of fantastic fiction.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.