I’m pleased to share two great book reviews of Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain’s America that came out recently. Both do a fantastic job of covering the book’s focus on how dime-novel science fiction factored into the 19th century’s “science vs. religion” arguments
(As many of you know, academic publishing often rolls out reviews in terms of months and years instead of days, and the reviews in scholarly publications are often behind subscription paywalls. So, I’m linking to both of them; you should be able to read the first page preview, even if the whole thing doesn’t display.)
The first one comes from Martin Zehr in American Literary Realism’s Winter 2020 issue. I really appreciate the review’s understanding of how I’m trying to approach dime novels:
Williams’ book includes extensive notes, bibliography, and index, more than sufficient for the reader who desires a thorough grounding in what the reader will undoubtedly conclude is a vibrant form of American literature whose neglect is, putting it mildly, undeserved. Williams has certainly succeeded in blurring the distinction between serious and recreational literature in Gears and God.
Also, Jennifer Lieberman’s review in The Mark Twain Annual contains one of my favorite compliments in any reviews I’ve seen:
Williams is a master contextualizer whose deep knowledge of his subject matter renders his thematic close reading all the more convincing.
That’s always been part of the challenge: writing to an audience of literary scholars who may not have read these texts and may not be sold on their cultural importance. I’m glad it worked for one reviewer.