Do You Know Jack?

So the other day my friend Jack Skillingstead got a fantastic review of his first novel, Harbinger, that appeared in the latest issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction. It’s one of those reviews that you want to put under glass and hang in front of your computer for those times when the sentences aren’t coming and you feel like drinking Robitussin from a five gallon drum. Or maybe that’s just me.

This is Jack

This is Jack

One thing I really liked about the review (besides the fact that it demonstrated how great the novel is, an opinion I agree with), was that the reviewer, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, had read Jack’s short stories and found common themes and techniques, down to the sentence level. Comments like that give writers hope, because so often nobody mentions the sentences, even though they’re what stories are made of, and writers like Jack spend enormous amounts of time crafting those suckers.

Then–and this is the sweet part– Zinos-Amaro starts drawing comparisons between Jack’s prose and a certain iconic writer of the 20th century:

It’s only slightly slightly hyperbolic to claim that what Hemingway did for bull-fighting, Skillingstead is doing for sf tropes. He makes them truer than they have been by showing that they were false. … Skillingstead’s protagonists… seem to spend most of their lives in the tercio de muerte of a corrida, entering the ring of their experiences alone save for a muleta of disarming, almost lunatic charm and a sword of honesty that cuts inwards as often as it swings out.

The last sentence of the review is “Skillingstead is the matador of our field.” If I were Jack, I’d print that on a T-shirt and wear it under my clothes at all times. Or maybe just get it tattooed over my heart.

So take NYRSF’s word for it, and order the book.


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