Back in 2008, when we were first preparing to launch Tor.com, I knew I wanted Jo Walton to be a regular writer for the site. And I knew that Jo, unusually among working writers, is not only a prolific reader of science fiction and fantasy but also an avid re-reader as well. So I suggested she write us a regular series of posts about, not newly-published fantasy and SF, but rather what she’s been re-reading lately.
As you’ll have observed if you’ve been reading Tor.com, this worked out very well. Jo is a voluble, insightful, and engaging chronicler of her own re-reading, and her posts have provoked some of the most interesting comment discussions this site has been privileged to host. (Thank you, brilliant commenters!) So gradually we began to think about assembling a collection of some of the best of Jo’s posts on Tor.com. Selected from the first three years, What Makes This Book So Great, forthcoming in January 2014, is the result.
Included are discussions of books by authors ranging from Vernor Vinge, Robert A. Heinlein, and Jerry Pournelle, to Ursula K. Le Guin, Connie Willis, and Susanna Clarke. Several long series get examined in strings of essays; in particular, Jo re-reads and discusses all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Miles Vorkosigan” novels, and all of Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” books, in long multi-part considerations. There are examinations of books you’ve never heard of; there’s at least one essay about a book I’d never heard of. There are insightful and (sometimes) irreverent looks at established classics…and several sharp looks at why and how certain works of the sort that George Orwell called “first-rate second-rate books”…are sometimes exactly what we want to re-read. Taken together, the 130 essays in What Makes This Book So Great are a wonderful immersion in the mind of Jo Walton and a fantastic set of insights into what makes SF and fantasy tick.
And Jamie Stafford-Hill’s cover is perfect.