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Mesmerists, Monsters, and Machines: Science Fiction and the Cultures of Science in the Nineteenth Century, by Martin Willis; pp. viii + 272. Kent, OR Kent State University Press, 2006, $29.00.
The interrelations of literature and science have, over the last couple of decades, become one of the most productive areas of scholarship on the Victorian period. From Gillian Beer's and George Levine's groundbreaking analyses of the shared concerns of Darwinian evolution and the realist novel in the 1980s, to more recent accounts of the interplay between psychology and fiction, practitioners of Victorian studies have discerned numerous critical insights by examining the mutability of scientific and literary vocabularies in a variety of nineteenth-century contexts. It is therefore somewhat surprising that science fiction, a genre actually born in the nineteenth century and which explicitly fuses the literary with the scientific, has been largely overlooked in the burgeoning field of literature and science studies, even while other cognate genres such as the gothic novel or sensation fiction have been increasingly embraced.