Saraband of Lost Time (Avon, March 1985). Cover by Jim Burns
Richard Grant has had a fine career as an American fantasy writer, with works such as Rumors of Spring (1986), Views from the Oldest House (1989) and the Philip K. Dick Award winner Through the Heart (1991). But his career began with his 1985 debut Saraband of Lost Time, a science fiction novel that was a Locus Award nominee for Best First Novel and received an Honorable Mention from the Philip K. Dick Award jury.
Saraband received a lot of attention at the time. In his Books column in F&SF Algis Budrys called “one of the most engaging first novels in years… a piece of cultured prose which by its nature confers importance on its cast of characters and on their activities.”
But what do modern readers make of it? It has generally positive reviews at Goodreads; Tom Britz calls it “a far reaching future tale of environmental changes [that] jumped around to different characters as it tried to make sense of this future world.” And in a 4-star review, Avis Black sums up by saying,
Grant is one bizarre writer, and Saraband is his best and most (relatively speaking) accessible novel.
But Geoff Clarke found it took a second reading to really appreciate it.
I didn’t care for this book the first time I read it in the 90s… But I was too quick to blow through the book and dismiss it. Rereading has shown me [its] more subtle charms…
It’s an allegory, and a clear one at that… all of the characters are archetypes. The plot isn’t always the most active, but it is still an interesting journey.
Grant hasn’t had much luck with modern readers — virtually all of his work has been out of print for over two decades — so I’m pleased to see this book is still read and appreciated. Of Grant’s early novels, this is the one I remain most interested in. I found a copy in a collection I bought over the summer, and it has a place of honor in my Christmas TBR pile.
Saraband of Lost Time was published by Avon Books in March 1985. It is 327 pages, priced at $2.95. The cover is by Jim Burns. It has never been reprinted in the US, and there is no digital edition.
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