Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Worlds Apart by Richard Cowper

Title:  Worlds Apart
Author:  Richard Cowper
First Publication:  1974

I am always torn over whether or not  to use a rating system.  Two sites I like, Stainless Steel Droppings and SF Review, both use ratings.  I tend to look at them for an idea of how the reviewer compares the story to other works.  The hard part for me is deciding whether a book is a six or a seven (for example) on a scale of one to ten.  Stick around for the end of this review and I will tie this into my thoughts on this book.

Richard Cowper is an author I always wanted to read.  “The Road to Corlay” and other novels came highly recommended in the magazines of the seventies.  I was looking at his entry in SF Gateway and discovered this book.  I had never heard of it before.  The summary reminded me of something that Philip K. Dick would have written so I  bought it on my Kindle Fire.

The basic plot definitely sounds like it was inspired by Philip K. Dick.  A school teacher is writing a science fiction novel about an alien world.  As his world falls apart he retreats into his writing.  The alternating chapters take place on the world he is writing about.  On that world, an alien is having dreams about a world called Urth.  I liked the Earth chapters but felt he missed the mark on the alien world chapters.  I felt that Cowper went overboard with the alien based chapters.

So going back to the start of this review, I would give a higher rating to half of this meta-fictional work while giving a low grade to the other half.  In a case like this, what grade do you give the whole novel?  If you are a Richard Cowper fan, it is worth picking up.  I would also recommend it to readers who like meta-fictional works.  Otherwise, I would skip this one.

If you are interested in trying a “what is real and what is fictional” story, I would recommend “Tetrasomy Two” by Oscar Rossiter or one of many books by Philip K. Dick (“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was one of my favorites).  Two movies that play with a similar theme are “Inception” and “Shutter Island”.  Or from the world of comic books, Grant Morrison’s 24 issue run on “Animal Man” ends with the character showing up at the author’s house.  All of them are highly recommended.  

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