Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson's novel Communion Town is published by Fourth Estate.

Embassytown features the following: intelligent horse-sized insectoid aliens, faster-than-light propulsion, androids, organic technology (‘biorigging’), warpspace (‘the immer’), clones, advanced bionics, nanotech notepaper, flying microcameras (‘vespcams’), people with futuristically well-adjusted sexualities, projected holographic adverts (‘trids’), a diasporic human race spread across galaxies and tracing its roots back to the mythical home planet of Terre, a pan-galactic language closely resembling English (‘Anglo-Ubiq’), space-adapted monotheism (‘Christ Pharotekton’) and artificial intelligences (‘artminds’) made seemingly sentient with ‘turingware’. In themselves all these elements will be familiar, almost liturgical, to anyone versed in science fiction, but for China Miéville the tradition’s tropes are the keyboard, not the performance.

Fellow Freaks: Wells Tower

Sam Thompson, 9 July 2009

‘Freaks and poor people, engaged always in some violent, destructive action,’ was how Flannery O’Connor once described the subjects of her fiction. She claimed that her vision of an American South full of distorted bodies and maimed souls was not grotesque but realistic. ‘The poor love formality, I believe, even better than the wealthy,’ she wrote, ‘but...

Wannabe Pervert: Howard Jacobson

Sam Thompson, 25 September 2008

In Howard Jacobson’s 1998 novel No More Mr Nice Guy, a newspaper columnist, Frank, is approached on the street by a female reader wanting his autograph. She is flustered by her own boldness, and to his mind she has good reason to be: he thinks that asking a strange man for a signature shows no less temerity than asking him for sex. But what really adds spice to the encounter is the fact...

Out of Puff: Will Self

Sam Thompson, 19 June 2008

A civilised man travels into the wilderness, and is bewildered. You might call this the Heart of Darkness narrative paradigm. Mr Kurtz is fearsomely civilised, ‘an emissary of pity, and science, and progress’ – he is even equipped with ‘moral ideas of some sort’ – but this only deepens his bewilderment. As Marlow sees it, ‘the wilderness had found him...

In Charge of the Tuck Shop: Iain Banks

Sam Thompson, 22 March 2007

In interviews, Iain Banks has said that his new novel The Steep Approach to Garbadale was first imagined as a fantastical tale of multiple realities, in which characters would find themselves magically trapped inside a board game. The novel he has written instead is a family romance, set in the UK in 2005, and the board game it features is safely non-magical. But it seems fitting that we...

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