It's true, Mr. Burrage's taste in science fiction runs to the banal and the trite. This podcast wouldn't merit a review were it not for the rather mind-boggling insults he levels at some of the genuine classics of the genre. Other reviewers have already commented on Mr. Burrage's penchant for trashing anything of substance, so I won't bother going into much detail. I do, however, want to defend (very briefly) Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz against the summary dismissal it received on this podcast. For style, Miller's book can hardly find it's match in the genre. His prose slides seemlessly in and out of poetic detail. Read the second paragraph description of the approaching hermit as he comes into focus out of the distance, if you would like a quick example of what I mean. In fact, what really sets this book apart from other works of science fiction is precisely its style; most novels in the genre lack style altogether. From the first page, you feel that Miller has made deliberate choices about his audience, and those choices are clearly expressed through the blackly comic point of view of Brother Francis (among others), through the ironic title (Saint Leibowitz was Jewish), in the wry character of the wandering hermit, and, in fact, in the somewhat cryptic use of "telling" names throughout the book. These stylistic choices not only signal us as to what sort of audience Miller intends us to be, but they also set up a rather profound--because non-tragic--story about humankind's struggle against fatalism. I don't want to venture too deeply into the "message" of the book, though no doubt it offers several. That is not the strength of A Canticle for Leibowitz. Its strength lies in its ability to be received, rather than merely "used" by the reader. It is an over-full story, and there is genuine joy awaiting the reader who can simply inhabit it without the need to engage in egoistic fantasies, i.e. readers who only read books in which they can imagine themselves as a particular character. The egoistic reader, as I believe Mr. Burrage to be based on his reviews, requires that the book be something "usable" in this regard. It is something to stoke fantasies. A great piece of literature (and a great reader) invites the reception of a work in a more disinterested way. He or she reads the way God watches the world (take me metaphorically if that comment makes you uncomfortable): with a deep interest in everything going on, and because of that pan-interestedness, the great reader reads a great piece of literature in a sense disinterestedly.
This review has wandered from the strengths of Miller's novel to the strengths of his ideal reader. I'll stop before going on too long. Closing remarks: Mr. Burrage's south of England accent can sometimes come off as nails on a chalkboard. This is prehaps the problem of an American ear, but the accent does strike me as a bit hammed up from time to time. If Mr. Burrage would like to drop insults about an American accent (as if there were only one rather than a few dozen), then perhaps he should work on his own first. He's no John Gielgud. Lastly, I would recommend Mr. Burrage read a primary text or two about the Medieval Period. As unpopular as it may be to say, the Muslims destroyed the greatest library in the Christian East, pillaged some of the books, and then conscripted Byzantine Christian monks to run the reconstituted library under Muslim rule (because Muslims had no idea what was of value and what was not from the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations). Byzantine Christian and Irish Catholic monks preserved the texts of antiquity, not Muslims. I bring this up here only because Mr. Burrage parroted this popular myth of Muslim scholarship while trashing A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Then again, a man who devotes so little attention to science fiction novels is unlikely to pick up a couple of primary texts and while away the time in a university library. Oh well.