Hours and hours of reading over years to come, Sci-Fi Chronicles is the bible of science fiction.
It boggles my mind to even contemplate how you go about compiling a comprehensive guide to science fiction starting as far back as 1818 and spanning the centuries to the present day. To relay that information in a simple format onto the pages of a single book? Kudos must be given to general editor Guy Haley because Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction is a thing of beauty from the front cover onwards.
From the moment I unboxed Sci-Fi Chronicles I fell in love. The textured hardcover with silver type and Hal 9000’s red eye peering emotionlessly out at you is simple, yet exquisitely presented. With over 550 pages it’s a hefty read too, almost big enough to cuddle, I feel like I want to cuddle it but resist the urge. A thoughtful foreword by award winning British science fiction author Stephen Baxter extols the virtues of the genre, past and present, whilst Guy Haley echoes the sentiment in his introduction. Haley is an experienced sci-fi journalist and critic who has worked as deputy editor of SFX magazine and as an editor on the Games Workshop’s magazine White Dwarf. Now a contributor to a number of publications Haley has also turned his hand to the odd novel too.
Often when we think of science fiction we have a pre-programmed expectation of what that means. For many sci-fi is represented by films or television series. Star Wars, Star Trek and the likes. For others it’s by the classic books written by Philip K Dick or Ray Bradbury. This book takes a wider view including Film, TV and books, but also includes comic books and video games, giving a wider acknowledgment to sci-fi across other platforms and mediums.
Split into five chapters, each defining a period of time, the book stays chronologically ordered, dating each entry by it’s original release date or appearance where sequels, prequels or continuations of the series occur. With the first chapter aptly titled ‘the birth of a genre’, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein forms the first entry dating all the way back to 1818.
Where Sci-Fi Chronicles excels is in its simple to follow infographic layout. Each entry is colour coded by sub-genre and symbols for awards won are present. A timeline of book, movie, video game and comic covers line the top of each page with a brief but detailed history below. Along the bottom of the page you’ll find a visual timeline which is colour coded to distinguish the media formats with dates and the title of the publisher or production company. The design really is something special and it seems a lot of effort has been made to present such a broad scope of information in an easy to digest format. The number of pages per entry obviously differs dependent on the amount of content produced since release. A title like Star Trek has many offshoots and therefore requires wider coverage than something like Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
It’s not just the shows or titles that are represented though. Creators or authors of note are expanded upon. Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and George Lucas’s works are detailed in their own entries, and extra attention is paid too, to titles like The Terminator where a section is dedicated to the timeline of timetravel. Each page is presented in glossy colour with pages of high-quality images breaking up the immense bodies of information. For the fan of sci-fi spaceships there is an image determining the scale of different craft from different series in comparison to each other.
Placing every significant science fiction title from 1818 to the present day in chronological order is an enormous undertaking and in his introduction Guy Haley acknowledges the fact that it was necessary to exclude some entries to focus on the key inclusions. Again, he acknowledges that this is subjective. For me, Sci-Fi Chronicles is a fascinating resource and one I’ll cherish for many years to come. It’s not a book you necessarily sit down and read cover-to-cover, it’s something you dip in and out of over an extended period, or lifetime. A really wonderful book.
Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction is available now from Aurum Press and most major book retailers with a recommended retail price of £25.