‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

This is the The This theme things


Some reactions to The This: Brian Cregg admires, but does not love, the novel. A more expansive (though of course not necessarily more accurate) response to the novel from Alan Jacobs, here. Goodreads is currently running at 4.5 out of 5, Buzzmag seems to like the book (or have I misunderstood?) and there are various other online responses, amazon reviews and so on.

And here is the estimable Phil Christman, praising with reservations The This (and talking a little about my other books too).

Roberts’s more recent books have taken an apocalyptic turn. He wrote a nonfiction study of apocalyptic media that just came out in November ... last year’s Purgatory Mount was apocalyptic, too—an attempt to guess where this will all end. Both it and The This gave me actual nightmares. (They also have one obvious technical flaw: his American characters sound a little too British. Something about the rhythm is off. It’s not that we never end sentences with an interrogative “, yeah?”, but we don’t do it very often, IME.) ... Roberts is kind of an anomaly: He is so smart, interesting, and productive that remembering he exists in this aggressively stupid mediascape always gives my mood a lift, but his books are so vivid in their depictions of suffering that I always get a little depressed when I read them. He’s not, I want to stress, a “grimdark” science fiction writer: his work is as powerful as it is because he sympathizes very much with people who are weak, imperfect, limited, and well-meaning, and he hates to see them lose everything, as, in this world, they inevitably do. Grimdark writers revel in reminding you that this is the case; they scorn you for ever forgetting it.
Sorry for the nightmares, Phil: that's unconscionable of me.  

Saturday 12 February 2022

Guardian on THE THIS

Today, The This reviewed in the Guardian. It's the second of my novels Lisa Tuttle has reviewed, and the first she has liked, so that's good.

Imagine a social media app implanted in the roof of the mouth for more immersive connectivity. This one small step turns out to be a giant leap in human evolution, a sort of telepathy that brings everyone together as parts of one vast, gestalt consciousness. But is that really such a great idea? Roberts takes a classic trope of speculative fiction, combines it with current preoccupations and views the whole in the context of religious belief and Hegelian philosophy. The result is dazzlingly inventive, exciting, funny and addictively readable.

Tuesday 8 February 2022

What does "The Times" (of London) think of THE THIS?

I'm afraid this blog will become a bit repetitive over the coming weeks, as I post various reviews of The This, good and I'm sure bad. But I can't pass over this Times review by Simon Ings, which picks it as their SF book of the month. 
Book of the month
The This by Adam Roberts 
The This is a new social media app. One that is injected straight into the body, so you can connect with other people without using technology. Its mass adoption leads humanity ineluctably to the creation of a hive mind-like collective. The story of the consequences of its spread is told through the eyes of various characters living at different epochs: Rich, the deskilled journalist; Adan, the phone-obsessed first-adopter; Ewe, the quantum bomb maker.

That this will be anything but a straight story is obvious from the first few pages as our nameless first protagonist is reincarnated through every single human life, past, present and future, and becomes in the process some sort of Übermensch. And this is no mere flourish: at the heart of the British writer Adam Roberts’s dizzying conflagration of ideas sits an unlikely theological treatise titled The Odourless God, which turns out to explain precisely and convincingly, in quasi-anthropological terms, why pointless social media spats happen, why they are addictive and why they will transform us, sooner than we think, into some ghastly amorphous galactic entity.

Roberts, sci-fi’s most outrageous experimentalist, has for quite a while been trying to renew the toehold that religious thought once had on the genre. In The This he has succeeded, with arguments that will bring modern readers (if they have any sense) to their knees in terror.
Knees! Knees, I tell you! Down you go.