The Book of the Week is the first edition of Shikasta (officially, Re: Colonized Planet 5, Shikasta) by Doris Lessing. This is to honor Ms. Lessing, who last week was declared this year's Nobel Prize winner for Literature. Shikasta is the first in Lessing's five-volume science fiction series Canopus in Argos: Archives, published between 1979 and 1983.
It is refreshing that, unlike many mainstream authors who dabble in science fiction, Doris Lessing makes no attempt to deny she has done so. When asked in a recent interview which of her novels she would like people to read more, she answered, "My science fiction books." She has contrasted the SF genre favorably with literary fiction, much of which she says is "parochial" and "suffocating. " Lessing describes SF as now "the most original branch of literature," declaring that "in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time." Best of all, Doris Lessing is the first Nobel Prize winner for Literature to have been a Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention, at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, England -- yet another excuse for me to remind you that next year's Worldcon will be here in Denver.
Shikasta is social science fiction set in the far future, dressed up in the form of reports from envoys to another world, a format Lessing may have borrowed from next week's Book of the Week, by an author long overdue for her own Nobel Prize.