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A tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City from a master of contemporary fiction, and a sublime precursor to The Savage Detectives Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift in Mexico City. Obsessed with poetry, and, above all, with science fiction, they are eager to forge a life in the literary world–or sacrifice themselves to it. Roberto Bolaño’s The S A tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City from a master of contemporary fiction, and a sublime precursor to The Savage Detectives Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift in Mexico City. Obsessed with poetry, and, above all, with science fiction, they are eager to forge a life in the literary world–or sacrifice themselves to it. Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction is a story of youth hungry for revolution, notoriety, and sexual adventure, as they work to construct a reality out of the fragments of their dreams. But as close as these friends are, the city tugs them in opposite directions. Jan withdraws from the world, shutting himself in their shared rooftop apartment where he feverishly composes fan letters to the stars of science fiction and dreams of cosmonauts and Nazis. Meanwhile, Remo runs headfirst into the future, spending his days and nights with a circle of wild young writers, seeking pleasure in the city’s labyrinthine streets, rundown cafés, and murky bathhouses. This kaleidoscopic work of strange and tender beauty is a fitting introduction for readers uninitiated into the thrills of Roberto Bolaño’s fiction, and an indispensable addition to an ecstatic and transgressive body of work.


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A tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City from a master of contemporary fiction, and a sublime precursor to The Savage Detectives Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift in Mexico City. Obsessed with poetry, and, above all, with science fiction, they are eager to forge a life in the literary world–or sacrifice themselves to it. Roberto Bolaño’s The S A tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City from a master of contemporary fiction, and a sublime precursor to The Savage Detectives Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift in Mexico City. Obsessed with poetry, and, above all, with science fiction, they are eager to forge a life in the literary world–or sacrifice themselves to it. Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction is a story of youth hungry for revolution, notoriety, and sexual adventure, as they work to construct a reality out of the fragments of their dreams. But as close as these friends are, the city tugs them in opposite directions. Jan withdraws from the world, shutting himself in their shared rooftop apartment where he feverishly composes fan letters to the stars of science fiction and dreams of cosmonauts and Nazis. Meanwhile, Remo runs headfirst into the future, spending his days and nights with a circle of wild young writers, seeking pleasure in the city’s labyrinthine streets, rundown cafés, and murky bathhouses. This kaleidoscopic work of strange and tender beauty is a fitting introduction for readers uninitiated into the thrills of Roberto Bolaño’s fiction, and an indispensable addition to an ecstatic and transgressive body of work.

30 review for The Spirit of Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Roberto Bolaño with Mario Santiago Papasquiaro in Mexico City sometime in the 1970s The Spirit of Science Fiction - Roberto Bolaño’s recently translated 1984 novel written when the author was age thirty-one. The setting is Mexico City in the early 1970s and the tale focuses on two young penniless writers, Mexican poet Remo Morán and aspiring science fiction novelist Jan Schrella from Chile, living in their ramshackle rooftop apartment and embarking on their odyssey within the world of literature. Roberto Bolaño with Mario Santiago Papasquiaro in Mexico City sometime in the 1970s The Spirit of Science Fiction - Roberto Bolaño’s recently translated 1984 novel written when the author was age thirty-one. The setting is Mexico City in the early 1970s and the tale focuses on two young penniless writers, Mexican poet Remo Morán and aspiring science fiction novelist Jan Schrella from Chile, living in their ramshackle rooftop apartment and embarking on their odyssey within the world of literature. Of course, there's plenty of friends, sex, and cool motorcycles but their poetic souls are aflame at the mere mention of the state of poetry in Mexico and throughout all of Latin America. If a reader is looking for straightforward narrative, they will have to look elsewhere. Similar to the author’s 1998 The Savage Detectives, although on a more contained canvas: one city (Mexico City) versus many cities, two narrators (Remo and Jan) versus many narrators, 200-pages of large print versus 600-pages of small print, with its swirl of external events flowing into and mingling with hallucinations, dreams and stories within stories, The Spirit of Science Fiction shares much of the literary aesthetic of the author's sprawling masterpiece. Indeed, one could trace the manner in which Roberto Bolaño takes characters, topics and themes from this shorter work and later incorporates them into The Savage Detectives. Again, if anyone is reading this review looking for a neat and tidy summation, they must be joking (or smoking some good weed). In the spirit of The Spirit, here are several snapshots of this novel-as-swirling tornado in action: Perky Powwow: Having won a literary prize, Remo is interviewed by a lady journalist who comes across as the prototypical wide-eyed North American from a city like Los Angeles. Deep into the interview, she tells Remo now that he’s won the prize, his life will definitely take a turn for the better. Remo replies: “You poor, naïve reporter. First you mistake this room in the middle of some random forest for a crystal palace on a hill. Then you actually predict a bright future for art. You don’t realize that this is a trap. Who the hell do you think I am, Sid Vicious?” Zealous Dispatches: As if writing with his very own blood, Jan sends off a string of letters to famous American science fiction authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip José Farmer imploring that they support and champion science fiction written by authors in Latin America. As part of his letter to Robert Silverberg, Jan writes: “The scene my dear Robert, is this: dog-colored dawn, spaceships appear over the mountains on the horizon, Chile goes down along with the rest of Latin America, we become fugitives, you become killers.” You gotta love a seventeen-year-old who has dedicated his teenage years to voraciously reading hundreds of sf novels and clamors for recognition both for himself and his Latin American brothers and sisters who likewise have taken sf to their hearts and set out to write great science fiction. Peppy Pal: Frequently the boys as jolted awake by the roar of a motorcycle at 3AM – ah! none other than their older poet friend, Jóse Arco. Based on Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, Jóse breaths the rhythms of poetry and turns the boys on in more ways than one. Remo recounts: “Sometimes I dreamed that Jóse Arco was gliding on his black motorcycle along a frozen avenue, without a glance at the icicles that hung from the windows, shivering with cold, until suddenly, from a sky that was also white and frozen, came a blazing red lightning bolt, and houses and streets split apart, and my friend disappeared in a kind of hurricane of mud.” Fabulous Far-Out Fiction: Jan’s imagination overfloweths to the point he must relay to Remo the story behind Silhouette, a sf novel by Gene Wolfe. Aboard a rocket ship on a voyage from Earth about to land on a newly discovered planet, protagonist Johann discovers his very own shadow has grown darker, nay, it isn’t his shadow after all but a separate being, powerful and sinister. Meanwhile, the crew tries to convince Johann that he’s one of the chosen on board destined to create something new on this planet. Oh, wow! Chosen to create something new on this planet – no wonder Jan is so taken by Gene Wolfe's novel. Sounds as if Jan has completely identified with Johann. Does this sound like a unique way to approach The Spirit of Science Fiction? You bet it does. Hot Honeys: Angélica and Lola Torrente and Laura are among the poetesses who make their appearances at poetry workshops and also at the boys' rooftop apartment. It isn't hard to guess who falls deeply in love. You got it - both Remo and Jan. Well, actually, cupid's arrow strikes Remo deeper. Reflecting back on the time of the events reported in this tale, Remo muses over an indelible memory from those days: "A series of images of Laura naked (sitting on the bench, in my arms, under the shower, lying on the divan, thinking) until she disappears completely in a growing cloud of steam." Fortunately, Remo's love of poetry never comes close to disappearing. Bountiful Bolaño: Heaps more encounters and discoveries to be made by a reader of The Spirit of Science Fiction. Among their number: a potato farm caretaker who believes a book on the history of Latin America is really signals in code, the caretaker's dream of being a lieutenant watching a recruit shoot a colonel in the chest, reflections on the number of Mexican literary magazines swelling in one year from 32 to 661, the appearance of an Aztec Princess both in the flesh and as a motorcycle, A Mexican Manifesto, Jan's dream of a Russian cosmonaut, a mysterious Dr. Carvajal's poetry magazines that appear to Ramo "as skeletal as prisoners of a Nazi concentration camp", Jan's letter to Ursula K. Le Guin that ends: "Who should we wake with a kiss and break the spell? Madness or Beauty? Madness and Beauty? Much love, Jan Schrella", and surprise, surprise - Jan's final letter signed: Jan Schrella alias Roberto Bolaño. Go for it! Read The Spirit of Science Fiction. ¡Magnífico! Roberto Bolaño, 1953-2003

  2. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Orey

    I imagine you're more likely to read this if you're already a fan of Roberto Bolaño's work. My copy says this is his previously unpublished first novel, and it definitely reads like one. I liked it overall. There are flashes of brilliance, some supremely beautiful scenes, and a lot of unevenness. If you're already a fan (I'm a huge fan), I recommend you check this out with low to medium expectations. I did really like the sci fi writer elements. In particular, one of the characters writes bizarre I imagine you're more likely to read this if you're already a fan of Roberto Bolaño's work. My copy says this is his previously unpublished first novel, and it definitely reads like one. I liked it overall. There are flashes of brilliance, some supremely beautiful scenes, and a lot of unevenness. If you're already a fan (I'm a huge fan), I recommend you check this out with low to medium expectations. I did really like the sci fi writer elements. In particular, one of the characters writes bizarre letters to classic sci fi writers, and the contents of the letters always made me laugh. And it's another depiction of the rough but vibrantly wonderful world of emergent poets in 1980s Mexico City, which from Bolaño's writing seems like it must have been so incredible. But mostly this book made me wish I could read The Savage Detectives again for the first time. If you're new to Bolaño's work, check out the Savage Detectives or 2666 instead. Those books are incredible. If you're already a fan, there's something here for you, but it's not as easy to find.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    “She sighed wickedly. “I wasn’t even saying good-bye to him, but to his penis. Ten inches. I measured it myself with my mother’s measuring tape.” “Shitshitshit. I’ll never let you come near me with a measuring tape.” The Spirit of Science Fiction ~~ Roberto Bolaño Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction reads like an ode to Mexico City ~~ part epic poem, part Hymne à L'Amour, and part John Rechy novel amped up on Acid. Reading The Spirit of Science Fiction continued my summer long Baptism by “She sighed wickedly. “I wasn’t even saying good-bye to him, but to his penis. Ten inches. I measured it myself with my mother’s measuring tape.” “Shitshitshit. I’ll never let you come near me with a measuring tape.” The Spirit of Science Fiction ~~ Roberto Bolaño Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction reads like an ode to Mexico City ~~ part epic poem, part Hymne à L'Amour, and part John Rechy novel amped up on Acid. Reading The Spirit of Science Fiction continued my summer long Baptism by Bolaño. So many friends here on Goodreads told me The Spirit of Science Fiction was a minor work ~~ a series of sketches that lead to nothing. It’s anything but that. The Spirit of Science Fiction fits beautifully into the Bolañoesque Universe, style, themes and all. In fact, The Spirit of Science Fiction may be the book that opened the door to the Bolañoesque Universe leading us to The Savage Detectives. It is obvious that The Spirit of Science Fiction is an attempt at what would later grow into The Savage Detectives. As with that novel, we’re in the company of young penniless writers in Mexico City: Jan Schrella, an aspiring science fiction writer who spends his time writing letters to the established names in that genre; the man Jan shares an apartment with is Remo Morán. Jan (Bolaño?) has come to Mexico City from Chile (Bolaño!). Those who've read Bolaño's The Savage Detectives will recognize themes and characters that will be further developed in the years to come. There are the Torrente sisters, Angélica, a prizewinning poet, and her sister, Lola, who will be recognized as a version of the Font sisters in The Savage Detectives. There is the attempt to hunt down other writers, other publishers, which, in the later novel, will become the quest to find the poet Cesárea Tinajero. If you've read Bolaño’s collected poems, The Unknown University, will recognize the surrealistic bathhouse scene ~~ a brilliantly written scene ~~ that comes at the end of The Spirit of Science Fiction. There’s a lot of great writing in the unfinished The Spirit of Science Fiction. But is it unfinished??? It seems to me it's an abandoned project ~~ a draft to be repurposed later ~~ which, of course, it was. I loved The Spirit of Science Fiction. I knew I'd love this book before I even cracked the cover ~~ my only complaint was it left me hungry, wanting more Bolaño. I would be hard pressed to explain why I love Bolaño’s work so much ~~ maybe it's because he never settles for the mundane ~~ like Murakami, Bolaño always takes risks. His work has a vividness that is so lacking in most contemporary fiction.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is a new translation of a novella from the trove of unpublished works Bolano left behind when he died in 2003. Another GR reviewer pegs it from when he was about 30 around 1984 (I wish there was more provenance in this advanced reviewer’s copy). I have read his masterful and massive “2666”, but have not yet read his “The Savage Detectives”. Like the latter, much of the action here takes place among literary wannabes in Mexico City, but unlike his two major novels completed during his later This is a new translation of a novella from the trove of unpublished works Bolano left behind when he died in 2003. Another GR reviewer pegs it from when he was about 30 around 1984 (I wish there was more provenance in this advanced reviewer’s copy). I have read his masterful and massive “2666”, but have not yet read his “The Savage Detectives”. Like the latter, much of the action here takes place among literary wannabes in Mexico City, but unlike his two major novels completed during his later years in Spain, there is little focus on political realities and diagnosis of pervasive human evil. Instead, we get her a nostalgic and fanciful look at the ambitions and pleasures of youth and yearning to make a mark in poetry or other literary accomplishment. The 21-year old narrator, Remo, alternates his account between his friendship with his reclusive 17-year old roommate Jan, who spends a lot of time writing letters to iconic science fiction authors, and his own bohemian adventures and partying with the literary crowd and burgeoning love relationship with Lola, a 19-year old poet. The strange plot of Jan’s novel in progress, featuring a potato research institute and “Unknown University” hidden away in the woods somewhere in Chile, as well as the letters to sci fi authors, are interleaved in a way to cast the mundane, but exuberant life, in Mexico City in an otherworldly light. Another magical realism twist to an otherwise straightforward tale of youthful excess is the very abundance and prevalence of writing talent. Remo learns that there are over 600 poetry and literary journals in Mexico City, tons of writers’ workshops, and almost everyone he meets, no matter how uneducated, has substantial literary knowledge or ambitions. Don’t expect much in the way of a coherent arc to this tale, which sort of drifts along and flows into various diversions. I often liked this flow. For example, both Jan and Remo become enthralled with a young poet Jose Arco, and Remo gets captivated with his style and mobility through his motorcycle. The freedom of their rides was intoxicating for me. Toward the end, there are a number a strange interludes of Remo and Lola’s strange experiences at public steam baths. Some of the innocence of their love relationship is challenged by events with others that take place there, yet much is retained. This odd way to close the tale feels like an analogy to the whole story being like a memory standing up despite the surprises life presents in the fog and mists that encompass us. This book was provided by the published for review through the Netgalley program.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Originally written around 1984, this novel was first published 2016, 13 years after Bolaño's death - and now there's also an English translation. The book tells the story of two young writers trying to make it in Mexico City: Remo is an extrovert, mingling with the literary crowd and hunting for opportunities, while Jan is more introverted and spends his time in their small room on a roof top reading and writing letters to famous science fiction authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr. Originally written around 1984, this novel was first published 2016, 13 years after Bolaño's death - and now there's also an English translation. The book tells the story of two young writers trying to make it in Mexico City: Remo is an extrovert, mingling with the literary crowd and hunting for opportunities, while Jan is more introverted and spends his time in their small room on a roof top reading and writing letters to famous science fiction authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr. et al. (Jan is an alter ego of Bolaño himself). The story is told in numerous, uneven vignettes that read like explorations that play with the creation of different, settings, atmospheres and encounters, and while the whole thing does not quite come together (and maybe wasn't intended to), it becomes apparent where the author can go from here. What unsettles me a little is that my research tells me that it's unclear whether Bolaño ever wanted this text to be published in the first place. It think it is important to honor the wishes of an author when it comes to his legacy, so I hope the publication of this book didn't happen against his will. For Bolaño aficionados, especially fans of The Savage Detectives, "The Spirit of Science Fiction" seems to offer many interesting passages, and also for those new to the author (like me), it gives a glimpse into his unique style.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    I pledged never to read these posthumous bottom-drawer shavings from the writer’s table, although the lipsmacking title, my nine-year absence from things Bolaño-shaped, and warm recollections of Nazi Lit & 2666 pulled me towards the latest legacy milking. Moral: NEVER BETRAY NINE-YEAR-OLD PLEDGES.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Another notch, further nostalgia and a stirring survey of what it means to be young and thirst for both Art and absolution. I refuse to capitalize the latter. Two aspiring writers live in a rooftop garret in Mexico City. Science fiction and poetry fill their heads while their stomachs suffer from deprivation. Wanting to be heard and acknowledged amidst the pincer movements of the soul. There are apparently six hundred literary magazines (a decade before the Zines of the Clinton years) at some lev Another notch, further nostalgia and a stirring survey of what it means to be young and thirst for both Art and absolution. I refuse to capitalize the latter. Two aspiring writers live in a rooftop garret in Mexico City. Science fiction and poetry fill their heads while their stomachs suffer from deprivation. Wanting to be heard and acknowledged amidst the pincer movements of the soul. There are apparently six hundred literary magazines (a decade before the Zines of the Clinton years) at some level of activity throughout the city and one of the pair pens letters to established sci-fi authors hoping for recognition. The PRI and Reagan are barely acknowledged, taking a safe stance on the political vision of poets who’s Cold War concerns the liver and the libido. This work appears shamelessly inchoate and undoubtedly wasn’t ready for publication. I still loved it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luís

    Though more a collection of scenes and impressions and thinner than his other novels, this work is an intriguing and dreamy portrait of two writers taking different paths in the pursuit of their love of literature, hoping to discover their voices.

  9. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    written in 1984 (around the time of monsieur pain), roberto bolaño's the spirit of science fiction (el espíritu de la ciencia-ficción) is another of the late chilean's posthumously published earlier works. presaging themes that would be more fully (and successfully) explored in later writings, the spirit of science fiction is the story of two young mexico city poets (jan and remo, the former a literary alias for the author himself) intrigued by the recent unprecedented (and perhaps record-settin written in 1984 (around the time of monsieur pain), roberto bolaño's the spirit of science fiction (el espíritu de la ciencia-ficción) is another of the late chilean's posthumously published earlier works. presaging themes that would be more fully (and successfully) explored in later writings, the spirit of science fiction is the story of two young mexico city poets (jan and remo, the former a literary alias for the author himself) intrigued by the recent unprecedented (and perhaps record-setting) proliferation of literary journals and magazines around the city. whereas jan spends most of his days flat-bound composing letters to his science fiction heroes (ursula k. le guin, james tiptree jr., fritz leiber, philip josé farmer, etc.), remo indulges the friendships of his fellow young writers – each seeking romance as best they can. while the spirit of science fiction seems like a thinly-sketched precursor to the savage detectives, it also offers, perhaps, a more ebullient bolaño seldom seen elsewhere. nearly wholly absent are the dread, foreboding, and shadowy scenes that seem to so effortlessly abound in later books. nazis, war/board games, the "unknown university" (its origin revealed herein), youthful unrest and ambition, itinerant yearning for literary fame, and a host of allusions and authorial references can all be found in the spirit of science fiction. this novel, however, will likely be most rewarding to devotees who have already enjoyed and assimilated his other works (this certainly isn't the place to start for any readers embarking upon constellation bolaño for the first time). apparently, another novel (or two), another poetry collection, and another short story collection have been discovered since his death 15 years ago. from many accounts, bolaño was a very organized writer and there seem to be indications that he wished to have his unpublished works see the light of day (for more on this, see shaj mathew's 2013 guernica piece). the joys of bolaño's fiction are legion, though the ways his books, characters, and stories entangle one another are tantalizingly intriguing. the spirit of science fiction, to be sure, isn't bolaño's most accomplished outing, yet, as with every piece of his writing later published (and eventually translated), we're treated to a more complete picture of the creative stellar cluster which, as a totality, outshined nearly every one of his contemporaries. but sunrise came, and the fear went away. it was a sunrise that said hello, hello, little cowards, hello, hello. do you know who i am? as it pushed on the windowpane and pressed our shadows against the wall. of course, i said. five minutes later, half asleep and pulling the sheet over his head, jan said: of course, you're the incredible sunrise that promised to show up every three days. exactly, exactly, said the sunrise, and we yawned, made tea—kind of a pain in the ass, this sunrise, don't you think?—we smoked, we told each other our dreams. hello, hello, yippee! i'm the mexican sunrise that always beats death. *translated from the spanish by natasha wimmer (the savage detectives, 2666, vargas llosa, enrigue, giralt torrente, restrepo, fresán, zaid, et al.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    To me, her smile is still the terminal smile of that other Mexico, a place sometimes revealed between the folds of a random dawn: part rabid will to live, part sacrifice stone." (79) Like these apocryphal texts (one of his most common themes) he speaks of, after the death of the promising writer, his stories/novels/books were published... scattered to the wind. Some of his novels are like unfinished pieces of a larger novel--and they are. It all belongs to the same world of the Mexico DF writers, To me, her smile is still the terminal smile of that other Mexico, a place sometimes revealed between the folds of a random dawn: part rabid will to live, part sacrifice stone." (79) Like these apocryphal texts (one of his most common themes) he speaks of, after the death of the promising writer, his stories/novels/books were published... scattered to the wind. Some of his novels are like unfinished pieces of a larger novel--and they are. It all belongs to the same world of the Mexico DF writers, poets, bohemians. Here we again meet the main character of "Amulet" and the two young poets from "The Savage Detectives." Smack in the middle, the beautiful writer manages to put these beloved faux poets and writers in a little room in a comical way. Because! He! Can! (2666 is a novel claimed to be incomplete, and yet it is a whole other world from "Detectives," "Nazi Literature in the Americas," "Secret of Evil", "Monsieur Pain" and "Amulet." (The first and last title in this list, of the books I've read personally, are his masterworks, along with 2666... and this one.) It was jarring: the novel ends with a "Mexican Manifesto" and boy o boy can I relate to everything the writer says about Mexico, his adoptive country. No one before has gone to the streets of DF, Buenos Aires, Paris in this manner, or in this contemporary (albeit from the 50s) way. His voice is unique, his prose is exquisite. He writes of the artist in absolute perfection, giving us the madman and hero that a writer really is. Bolano died young and he dedicates his writing to greats who died young (fiction or real, it DOES NOT MATTER), or who were completely forgotten. All his novels are petitions from the writer (Q.E.P.D.) to continue to exist after death and avoid being forgotten. I will read the all!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    While I see that this posthumous Bolaño novel (someone here says that is was found, even perhaps unfinished, on his hard drive after his death) has taken a bit of a beating here on Goodreads, I'm going to go way out on a limb and say not only that it is a good novel well worth reading, but also that it may be my favorite Bolaño novel. No, it doesn't have the epic grandeur of either The Savage Detectives or 2666 (which I've yet to read--saving it up as a finale of sorts while I read the earlier n While I see that this posthumous Bolaño novel (someone here says that is was found, even perhaps unfinished, on his hard drive after his death) has taken a bit of a beating here on Goodreads, I'm going to go way out on a limb and say not only that it is a good novel well worth reading, but also that it may be my favorite Bolaño novel. No, it doesn't have the epic grandeur of either The Savage Detectives or 2666 (which I've yet to read--saving it up as a finale of sorts while I read the earlier novels), or the holistic perfection of some of the more controlled shorter tales (A Little Lumpen Novelito or Amulet), this one acts as a kind of key to the Bolaño I love the most, the mode in which he tries, it seems to me, to evoke the heady days of his own youth and his generation's jumping into the historical stream of poetry, the eternal Bohemian brotherhood of art and literature, and to capture the moment in Mexico City in which he himself joined this lovable if eternally doomed cultural enterprise that is the endless striving toward the creation of new art/verse/literature somehow also in line with the avant-garde tradition where writers find solace in the tradition while the world at large either ignores or admonishes us for our exquisitely useless works in a world that often seems only to value capital gain through the buying and selling of useless junk over the sublime creation of images, words, and thoughts that might bring some solace to others in such a dreary materialistic world. Obviously The Savage Detectives is the centerpiece of these works, the shaggy masterpiece that came of Bolaño's gesture, but I find this, Amulet, and even Nazi Literature in the Americas and Distant Star, although the latter two are also a bit unique and of a slightly different mindset, all to come together into an even greater, if perhaps also even shaggier, cumulative masterpiece when read together as a kind of restless series of attempts to evoke the same scenes, feelings, and, ultimately, to say the same thing: I was here at this particular historical moment, I was both a part of a longstanding literary heritage as well as a particular literary scene in a single moment in time and place, and me and my friends were lovable crazy poets both on the page and in life. I suppose Henri Murgere's Scene from Bohemian Life, Hemingway's "Lost generation" chronicle A Movable Feast, my own attempt to catalogue the San Francisco underground of the 1980s, Poison and Antidote, and, most notably, the Kerouac of On the Road, Lonesome Traveler, The Subterraneans and others, are all spiritually similar projects. I'm sure there are plenty of others I'm not thinking of right now as well. But what made The Spirit of Science Fiction so key for me were two things. Firstly, as I said above, it acts as a kind of key to unlocking the similarities of several of Bolaño's novels written in this mode and therefore I find it indispensable for isolating and considering these disparate works as a kind of single artistic gesture--will someone not combine them into a single, enormous volume? And, secondly, the motif of science fiction--as opposed to Dada and the international avant-garde of The Savage Detectives was far more unexpected and charming and almost worked better to bring these 1970s central and South American characters into a single brotherhood with North American and European literature than did the Dada motif. So I loved reading it as a single volume for these things, and particularly loved it (or also loved it) for how it illuminated this thread running through several of Bolaño's novels--maybe the short stories and verse as well, but I just haven't gotten there yet. (But I will get there!) But, yes, there's also some shagginess here as well. Of the three or four threads of the novel, the interview--which kicks off the book--kind of fizzles half-way through so perhaps could have been omitted or expanded--although there is an attempt, within the narrative that eventually comes to dominate the latter half, to do a coda to it. That coda was enough for me, but I also see how it could not work for other readers. This might well be why Bolaño himself either saw the work as unfinished or a failed experiment. Also the last section, "Mexican Manifesto," although attached to what comes before in its characters, goes off on a wholly new road and might as well be a stand-alone text as it tackles a completely new theme and therefore fails to close the previous narrative with anything other than a kind of "And then there was this," segue that was perhaps more true to life than art. So while readers who admire the holistic "traditional" novel form (Steven Moore has pretty much blasted this concept, I have to say) will be frustrated, even if this really isn't so different than the oddly crammed together middle section of The Savage Detectives or the disparate entries in the phony catalogue of American writers profiled in Nazi Literature in the Americas. Also the digression of sorts on war gaming in the middle here helped to explain the otherwise, within Bolaño's oeuvres, odd and stand-alone also posthumous The Third Reich. Next up for me is By Night in Chile--apparently another stand-alone like Monsieur Pain, The Little Lumpen Novelito, and The Skating Rink, and then on to 2666.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    Enjoyable, but barrel-scraping. If you are looking for a lesser-known RB novel that’s compact, you’d do better with The Third Reich. That thing is incredible. This...well, it was nice to get yet another ‘new’ Bolaño in English. I think that politely sums it up. Now just to learn how to read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Twice I've tried to read a Bolano and twice I failed. Leave it to a light, early-years, 196-pager to help me out. It was further helped by staying at a B&B that had no televisions in the rooms. Sure, there was the ever-invasive Wi-Fi, but I carry no cellphone and have little use for iPads, so reading it was. This was the second book, then, that I finished in two days. Bam-bam. Bolano now off my bucket list. It's weird, sure. And a slow start. But eventually you get used to listening to young and Twice I've tried to read a Bolano and twice I failed. Leave it to a light, early-years, 196-pager to help me out. It was further helped by staying at a B&B that had no televisions in the rooms. Sure, there was the ever-invasive Wi-Fi, but I carry no cellphone and have little use for iPads, so reading it was. This was the second book, then, that I finished in two days. Bam-bam. Bolano now off my bucket list. It's weird, sure. And a slow start. But eventually you get used to listening to young and vulnerable Remo and his buddy Jan and his other buddy Jose Arco, the Motorcycle Boy of Mexico. It's only tangentially about science fiction because Jan is a fiend for reading that genre and does it for "a living" (translation: while mooching off of Remo). Jose is more a man of action with his short temper and bike. And Laura provides the love interest for Remo, who at 21 is still in need of a teacher in that department. Yeah, it's supposed to be about poetry writers in Mexico, too, but really that has only a small role like the sci and the fi. Bolano only uses his characters to laugh at the number of poetry journals in existence back then and how many of them publish absolute dreck playing poetry on TV. You know. Like the Estatos Unitos now, I guess. Lots and lots of markets, but just try getting into a paying one. You'll bring home about as much bacon as Jan does, and that's no science fiction!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    3.5. Like Denis Johnson, even Bolaño's lesser novels contain enough brilliant and memorable passages to make them worth reading. There isn't much to this one (which is maybe why doubt persists over whether he even wanted it published at all) but it's worth reading for the clear signs of what is to come. 3.5. Like Denis Johnson, even Bolaño's lesser novels contain enough brilliant and memorable passages to make them worth reading. There isn't much to this one (which is maybe why doubt persists over whether he even wanted it published at all) but it's worth reading for the clear signs of what is to come.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

    Review to follow ... Bolano channels Kim Stanley Robinson with the Mexican Manifesto bathhouse chapter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    A book about young poets in 70s Mexico City. Well, not that one. This is to the Savage Detectives what Woes of the True Policeman is to 2666. A first stab at something that will later be a masterpiece. An interesting artifact. That being said, this is for Bolaño completists. If you want to read his fiction but is daunted by the big books, read Distant Star or By Night in Chile instead. Or the stories in Last Evenings on Earth. -- A couple of years ago, I saw a Bolaño exhibit at the Centre de Cultur A book about young poets in 70s Mexico City. Well, not that one. This is to the Savage Detectives what Woes of the True Policeman is to 2666. A first stab at something that will later be a masterpiece. An interesting artifact. That being said, this is for Bolaño completists. If you want to read his fiction but is daunted by the big books, read Distant Star or By Night in Chile instead. Or the stories in Last Evenings on Earth. -- A couple of years ago, I saw a Bolaño exhibit at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. They say that there’s still a dozen or so unedited, unpublished ‘novels’ found in his desk (plus stories, scraps of papers with things written on them, etc). This is one of them. I’m okay with them being published. I’ll read anything by Bolaño. But I think the publisher should point that out. This is not a novel. (Well what is a novel? True. But this is clearly some sort of a draft, a first try). They should include this in a ‘Bolaño Basement Tape Series’ or something like that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    5* 2666 3* As Agruras do Verdadeiro Tira TR Antwerp TR The Spirit of Science Fiction TR The Savage Detectives TR The Secret of Evil TR By Night in Chile

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bhaskar Thakuria

    This is an early work by the late Roberto Bolaño, a work that predates The Savage Detectives, and it is full of all the yearnings of young lust. The story depicts two different narrators, two friends, in essence- one who retreats to a closely confined world full of poetic imaginings and the high adventure of science fiction, and the other a young adventurer full of life, poetry and the need for sexual adventure. Both are young and emerging poets, and have wholeheartedly given themselves up to en This is an early work by the late Roberto Bolaño, a work that predates The Savage Detectives, and it is full of all the yearnings of young lust. The story depicts two different narrators, two friends, in essence- one who retreats to a closely confined world full of poetic imaginings and the high adventure of science fiction, and the other a young adventurer full of life, poetry and the need for sexual adventure. Both are young and emerging poets, and have wholeheartedly given themselves up to enter the literary world of Mexico city. But while Jan spends the entire day reading smuggled sci-fi novels from North America and writing numerous letters to American sci-fi writers, Remo spends the day out in the midst of a wild literary circle in the midst of orgies, sexual escapades, and losing his virginity in dark cafes and murky bathouses (the erotic scene in the bathouse that tops off the final chapter is pure literary virtuosity!). And in between all these we could get the trademark style of Bolaño filling up his pages about anecdotes of literary figures of his time (I especially enjoyed the anecdote about Georges Perec putting off a duel). Vintage Bolaño! Fans would not be dissapointed.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Loring Wirbel

    The brief early novels Roberto Bolano wrote in the 1980s have long been rumored to be in the deceased author's estate, and The Spirit of Science Fiction is a choice example of the author's formative years, published in Spanish in 2016, with an English translation following in 2019. There is something absolutely charming and whimsical about this blob of mercury presenting itself as a novel, but the narrative thread, while present, darts and weaves in front of the reader's eyes. Bolano presents sev The brief early novels Roberto Bolano wrote in the 1980s have long been rumored to be in the deceased author's estate, and The Spirit of Science Fiction is a choice example of the author's formative years, published in Spanish in 2016, with an English translation following in 2019. There is something absolutely charming and whimsical about this blob of mercury presenting itself as a novel, but the narrative thread, while present, darts and weaves in front of the reader's eyes. Bolano presents several of his later themes in this book - the Unknown University is mentioned, which later becomes the title of a volume of Bolano's poetry, and poetry is a focus of this novel as much as science fiction is. Bolano also introduces the Potato Academy, which makes occasional appearances in longer works. The central theme of this book is the parties and misadventures centered around young starving Mexico City students Remo and Jan. The centerpiece of the sexuality amidst poetry circles has a feel somewhat like Pynchon's V or Farina's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, except for those strange elements that don't quite fit, such as Jan Schrella's habit of writing long letters to the world's leading science fiction authors. Longtime fans will know that Bolano's long works such as 2666 or The Savage Detectives display just this sense of disjointedness, but his longer and more mature works are suffused in a feeling of paranoia and fear, since plots that dare not be named dwell just outside the confines of his novels. Here, there is only joy and silliness and a few hints of horrors yet to come, so in that sense this is one of Bolano's most palatable books. However, paranoia gives Bolano's work a unifying theme, which means that without that common denominator, the work seems to wander in a directionless fashion. Take the 15-page concluding section, entitled "Mexican Manifesto" as though it intends to show such a unifying theme. Our hero Remo tries to map out the public baths of Mexico City with his lover Laura, in the same way that Remo and his friend Jose Arco tried to map out hundreds of literary circles in Mexico City earlier in the book. But to what purpose? We get some fine descriptive passages of steam baths, to be sure, but the novel seems to fade into the steam as the reader hits the last page. The best way to consider The Spirit of Science Fiction might be to compare it to disjointed multi-vignette movies like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould. Certainly there is a unifying factor in all the works, but all too often, the reader (or film fan) will spend too much time trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Maybe deciphering the transmitter facility in the attic of the Potato Academy is akin to figuring out what Steely Dan meant by "the fearsome excavation on Magnolia Boulevard." Or maybe there's no deeper meaning to be had; it's just a youthful Bolano having a bit of fun at the reader's expense. Make no mistake, this is a joyful ride, but one with no particular destination.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mr.

    Ah, eternal Bolano. This is an enjoyable romp across Mexico City between poets Jan and Reno. Jan is introverted, writing letters to his favorite Science Fiction writers, and his letters to Ursula K. Le Guin is a delightful tribute to her work. Reno is young, horny, and wants to experiment on a life of debauchery and constant sex. And there's Laura- a pretty girl who enters the picture. It's a beautiful ode to being young and reckless- and has some of the most tender sentences written by the mast Ah, eternal Bolano. This is an enjoyable romp across Mexico City between poets Jan and Reno. Jan is introverted, writing letters to his favorite Science Fiction writers, and his letters to Ursula K. Le Guin is a delightful tribute to her work. Reno is young, horny, and wants to experiment on a life of debauchery and constant sex. And there's Laura- a pretty girl who enters the picture. It's a beautiful ode to being young and reckless- and has some of the most tender sentences written by the master. "The color of the stones around the pool, surely the saddest color I saw in the course of our expeditions, comparable only to the color of some gazes, workers in the hallways, whom I no longer remember, but who were surely there". "For an instant, instead of flesh and blood people, we were two cartoon characters. I said: "I feel like we're two cartoon characters pasted onto the real world. Or maybe the world isn't so real after all".

  21. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Meandering but often magical, lit by many small sparks of brilliance. It took me almost half the novel to find my bearings, to really get a feel for the flow. Right around that halfway point, things began to click. I’ve seen it said around here this is not the best place to start with Bolano; The Savage Detectives is a perfected version of this story, 2666 is his true masterpiece...That might all be true, but I’m glad I started here, getting a taste of his early writing before exploring his late Meandering but often magical, lit by many small sparks of brilliance. It took me almost half the novel to find my bearings, to really get a feel for the flow. Right around that halfway point, things began to click. I’ve seen it said around here this is not the best place to start with Bolano; The Savage Detectives is a perfected version of this story, 2666 is his true masterpiece...That might all be true, but I’m glad I started here, getting a taste of his early writing before exploring his later works. Even if none of this really sticks with me, It's worth the read. Now, the final sequence through the bathhouses, that will stick with me for awhile...For me, the absolute strong point of the novel; by far the most evocative experience through these pages, in my opinion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mooney

    There's been a fair bit of negativity around this latest of the many posthumously-published novels of the great Bolano. But I think it's a little unfair. I mean, it aint The Savage Detectives, but even when he isn't at his best you feel you are in the hands of an undisputed genius. Like a diluted version of TSD, this follows two young, bohemian poets as they traipse around Mexico City trying to confirm the rumour that there are over 600 literary magazines in publication within the city limits. Thi There's been a fair bit of negativity around this latest of the many posthumously-published novels of the great Bolano. But I think it's a little unfair. I mean, it aint The Savage Detectives, but even when he isn't at his best you feel you are in the hands of an undisputed genius. Like a diluted version of TSD, this follows two young, bohemian poets as they traipse around Mexico City trying to confirm the rumour that there are over 600 literary magazines in publication within the city limits. This is a disjointed, self-indulgent book. But there are enough glimmers of brilliance that it makes it well worth the read for established fans. The prose, as always, is exquisite. And the last section is a brilliantly sustained, highly effective piece of disturbing writing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Iris

    While the two novels couldn't be any more different, TSSF really reminds me of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Both books feel impossible to correctly classify and are unlike anything else that I've ever read in terms of story and structure. But I guess unlike Piranesi, it's a bit easier to give a spoiler free summary because of the more plotless quality possessed by TSSF. The Spirit of Science-Fiction is a collection of interwoven anecdotes that follow two young poets, Remo and Jan, as they settle While the two novels couldn't be any more different, TSSF really reminds me of Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Both books feel impossible to correctly classify and are unlike anything else that I've ever read in terms of story and structure. But I guess unlike Piranesi, it's a bit easier to give a spoiler free summary because of the more plotless quality possessed by TSSF. The Spirit of Science-Fiction is a collection of interwoven anecdotes that follow two young poets, Remo and Jan, as they settle into a life of independence in Mexico City. There are a few consistent plotlines, such as love interests and literary mysteries, but for the most part we follow these characters living out a very specific time in their lives. I'm doing a bad job of making the book sound interesting but honestly, the beauty of Bolaño's writing at many places grabbed my attention without letting go: “What’s more, sometimes I could swear that it didn’t end the way nights always end, swallowed up all of a sudden or chewed over by a slow dawn. The night I’m talking about—cat night, nine-lives night in twenty-league boots—vanished or ebbed in odd moments, and as it was going, part of it (and therefore all of it) was coming or lingering, like in some game of mirrors. The nicest kind of hydra: 6:30 A.M. transforming itself unexpectedly into 3:15 for five minutes, a phenomenon that might strike some as annoying but that for others was a blessing, a genuine reprieve and a rewinding.” For me, the experience of going through TSSF felt more akin to watching a movie than reading a novel. Many of the passages or even individual sentences provided enough detail for my mind to conjure up vivid pictures of a scene, such as at the end of chapter 23. Remo and Jan finally go to bed right before the sun begins to rise and I could visualize from Bolaño’s words the physical positioning and the little movements of Jan and Remo as they settle into sleep. And one layer above that, I could pull from my own memories of going to sleep at dawn to fill in the rest of the picture with elements such as color and lighting to complete the ambiance. But beyond the evocative descriptions and images, the structure of the different recollections also strongly reminded me of watching a compilation of movie vignettes. There are several instances where the use of dialogue almost seems to replicate a movie cut or to serve as a camera pan from one character to another. In chapter 19, we see Laura and Remo as they leave their friends to head over to a local coffee shop. Amidst their conversation, we’re given updates of their route such as the passing of a Señor’s door or the exiting of the lobby. But the way that we’re notified of their arrival at La Flor de Irapuato is via the shop owner’s sudden inclusion in the conversation. It’s a jarring transition from Remo suggesting to Laura to ask the shopowner a question - presumably to do so when they arrive - to Laura actually asking the question in the immediately following line - showing that they’ve now just or have already arrived. Similarly, the dialogue at times brings into question Remo’s role as an active participant in his story versus an omniscient narrator. Chapter 26 begins with Remo waking up to a debate between Jan, Angélica, and Laura over his motorcycle. He then switches to a third person narration in order to recount the parts of the debate that had occurred prior to waking up, brings himself back into the course of events while still asleep with the line “A vision of me … flashed through Jan’s mind”, and then officially brings himself back into the story after a few more paragraphs with the line “Then I woke up”. It’s a structure that would make complete sense in a piece of visual media as a flashback but still somehow manages to work here. And in general, the fact that my inclination is to consider all of the strange individual scenes as “dreamlike” rather than “unrealistic” (particularly the scenes that hint at magical realism) is an attitude that I’d be much more likely to have towards a film rather than a book. But as for my general feelings about the TSSF, I’m just not entirely sure that the book is best suited for me given where I’m currently at in my life. I’m having a much harder time putting this into words so hopefully this explanation will make some sense. As much as this is a coming of age story, I feel like this might be a more poignant read for someone who can fully look back upon their “coming of age” years. I’m smack dab in the middle between Jan’s teenage 17 years old and Remo’s young adult 21 years old: I can go through this book and smugly pick out things like “these wannabe cool guys are living the free life in Mexico City but are still tethered to their parents’ money”, “Remo places himself as a high and mighty judge of poetry without ever really writing any”, “Jan’s letters to these SF writers advocate for a greater Latin American literary frontier but are equally vulnerable love letters or diary entries”, etcetc. But while I can make those kinds of judgments about Remo and Jan, some parts of me must surely be too arrogant and too un-self aware to be cognizant of similar beats in my life. I can identify with Jan’s intellectual identity (his relationship with science fiction is similar to my relationship with the fantasy genre) as well as with Remo’s physical identity somewhat closely. But those are things that I can find in my life rather than things that I can look back on so there’s no emotion of nostalgia or learning for me; while reading, I didn’t really experience that feeling of the fondness that comes with distance because I’m still in the thick of it. I’m assuming that TSSF might be a more reflective piece for some readers and so another thing I’m left wondering is how much of that is aided by the format. Or more specifically, how much more vulnerable the book is as a collection of wildly different interwoven anecdotes within a very short, specific period of time versus if it were a traditional bildungsroman. The random plotlines and adventures were very hyperspecific, to be sure. But as I mentioned with the sun scene, it felt like many of the scenes had just enough specific detail to fix yourself with the characters while also being vague enough for you to fill in the rest of the details with your own memories and experiences. On the other hand, the traditional novel is something where the characters may be much more fleshed out within a clear, fixed arc at the cost of depending more greatly on direct similarities with the reader in order to provide relatability. I really do not know how to rate this book. There were many, many things that I did not understand such as the references to the Hurricane or the Unknown University or the potatoes (which from what I've read are more fully fleshed out in his later works). If it hadn't been assigned for a class, I know that I never would have picked this up. I also didn't feel particularly moved or affected by a great many scenes and events. But at the same time, I felt like I was watching a good movie the entire time and the words were strung together in a way that made my mind feel good. And so, all in all I'm glad to have read this and I'm looking forward to reading more Bolaño!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Crupi

    Well of course this isn't as epochal as is/are/was/were The Savage Detectives and 2666, but then again you'd have to have aphids in your brains if you expected this short novel—which apparently was discovered, fully realized, on one of Bolaño's ghosted hard drives—to punch in that weight class. For anyone looking to make herself familiar with Bolaño's corpus, this certainly is not the book with which to begin, but that's not to say that The Spirit of Science Fiction isn't wholly worthy of you Well of course this isn't as epochal as is/are/was/were The Savage Detectives and 2666, but then again you'd have to have aphids in your brains if you expected this short novel—which apparently was discovered, fully realized, on one of Bolaño's ghosted hard drives—to punch in that weight class. For anyone looking to make herself familiar with Bolaño's corpus, this certainly is not the book with which to begin, but that's not to say that The Spirit of Science Fiction isn't wholly worthy of your time, be you a completist [meek-proudly raises a hand] or someone who simply wonders at how his "new" releases roll out on the same 6-month schedule as early Black Flag and Hüsker Dü platters. One day soon the estate will finally run out of unearthed material to offer Bolaño enthusiasts, and then it will really sink in—Mr. Roberto, he dead.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

    Nother new Bolano book to come out in 2019 huhwhaa??... You probably all thought he was dead. I like to think my man Bob Bolano is instead enjoyin' himself and hangin out with Tupac somewhere. Nother new Bolano book to come out in 2019 huhwhaa??... You probably all thought he was dead. I like to think my man Bob Bolano is instead enjoyin' himself and hangin out with Tupac somewhere.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dustin

    This book caught my eye when it first appeared in my local indie back in 2019. In addition to the smart design, the cover has a coarse, grippy texture that I would feel comfortable leaving on the deck of a boat without fear of it sliding in. I held off on reading it after I saw comparisons of Bolano to Borges, whose Labyrinths collection I just didn't get. It's definitely my loss for judging Bolano too quickly: The Spirit of Science Fiction was a lovely read in this lush translation by Natasha W This book caught my eye when it first appeared in my local indie back in 2019. In addition to the smart design, the cover has a coarse, grippy texture that I would feel comfortable leaving on the deck of a boat without fear of it sliding in. I held off on reading it after I saw comparisons of Bolano to Borges, whose Labyrinths collection I just didn't get. It's definitely my loss for judging Bolano too quickly: The Spirit of Science Fiction was a lovely read in this lush translation by Natasha Wimmer. The Spirit of Science Fiction was published posthumously in 2019, but it was written back in 1984 as a love letter to Bolano's time as a bohemian prowling the streets of Mexico City after dark. The scene depicted here is reminiscent of 1970s New York, with kids spending all night in cafes getting drunk and reading poetry. The protagonist, Remo, supports himself by writing poetry reviews and dubious historical accounts during a time when the local print media is thriving. He also supports his roommate, Jan, a recluse who spends his time reading science fiction novels and writing bizarre fan letters to his favorite authors. Bolano considers himself a poet before a novelist, and the forward motion of the plot mostly serves to introduce new characters and scenarios for Bolano to turn his sharp eye on. I didn't mind this at all, as his keen insights were warm hearted and world-expanding in a way that reminded me of Brandon Taylor. "She talks like a person on the crest of a wave. She could see everything from up there, though she didn't pay much attention to the sights because of the speed and the falling." This was my first Roberto Bolano, but it won't be my last.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jamesboggie

    I was looking for a new audiobook on my library’s website, and I ran across The Spirit of Science Fiction. The description promised a book about two young authors trying to make their way in Mexico City. It reminded me of a panel at Boskone about SFF in Latin America. I thought it would be interesting to see the science fiction genre from an outside perspective and to learn about Mexico. It was not. I knew The Spirit of Science Fiction would be a "literary" novel, but I did not expect it to so em I was looking for a new audiobook on my library’s website, and I ran across The Spirit of Science Fiction. The description promised a book about two young authors trying to make their way in Mexico City. It reminded me of a panel at Boskone about SFF in Latin America. I thought it would be interesting to see the science fiction genre from an outside perspective and to learn about Mexico. It was not. I knew The Spirit of Science Fiction would be a "literary" novel, but I did not expect it to so embody all of the worst traits of literary fiction. It is self-important, self-indulgent, and seemingly pointless. There is no plot to speak of. There is no reason for it to begin or end where it does, and no arc in between. The scenes are almost entirely disconnected. It is one of those novels that bet on pure cleverness to get by, and in my experience those novels are never clever enough. I was annoyed almost the entire time with this novel. It managed to include the faintest hints of what intrigued me about the description, and almost everything I would NOT want in a story like this. The letters to science fiction authors - the most interesting aspect of the book - are so empty and pointless it must have taken effort to make them so uninteresting. The rest is minutes on end about erectile dysfunction, random motorcycle mechanics, revolutions, and bathhouses. It is disjointed and boring. After finishing the book, I looked into the author. Roberto Bolaño was a hip author and poet from Chile. Apparently this book came from back when he was mostly a poet, in 1984. It really shows. I hear that his other novels are much better. I may try those later. I just hope they are nothing like The Spirit of Science Fiction.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    I'll say the same thing I have said about the last bunch of Bolano scraps and juvenalia that have been translated over the past few years - they don't live up to his best work but I'd rather be reading bad Bolano than the best of most anyone else. I'll say the same thing I have said about the last bunch of Bolano scraps and juvenalia that have been translated over the past few years - they don't live up to his best work but I'd rather be reading bad Bolano than the best of most anyone else.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Not the place to start with Bolano, perhaps -- go directly to 'By Night in Chile' -- but a worthy addition to be sure. The word 'spirit' in the title is instructive, critical and apt. Our young poets -- one who pens letters to famous science fiction authors like Ursula Le Guin -- portray their current world, a Mexico City teeming with rich spirits, sights, smells, feelings and tastes, plus poets galore, and their created ones with a feel for mystery, discovery and the fantastic. Per usual, Bolano Not the place to start with Bolano, perhaps -- go directly to 'By Night in Chile' -- but a worthy addition to be sure. The word 'spirit' in the title is instructive, critical and apt. Our young poets -- one who pens letters to famous science fiction authors like Ursula Le Guin -- portray their current world, a Mexico City teeming with rich spirits, sights, smells, feelings and tastes, plus poets galore, and their created ones with a feel for mystery, discovery and the fantastic. Per usual, Bolano bombards the reader with a blizzard of pop, political and literary references, some obvious, some obscure, all somehow pertinent to the moment. Throw in the shifting narrative perspectives, styles and voices and Bolano stuffs this short novel to the limit, without losing control.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cymru Roberts

    Worthless. Not a single line of value. The Calle Bucareli version of Bolaño is increasingly unreadable for me, and in this case, it's like Belano and Ulises from Savage Detectives minus the juevos, chingon. Plus: the dude knew he was going to die, and rushed to publish a few books. This wasn't one of them. That should tell you all you need to know. Worthless. Not a single line of value. The Calle Bucareli version of Bolaño is increasingly unreadable for me, and in this case, it's like Belano and Ulises from Savage Detectives minus the juevos, chingon. Plus: the dude knew he was going to die, and rushed to publish a few books. This wasn't one of them. That should tell you all you need to know.

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