Strange Stars ... manages to look at how the idea of science fiction as a means of escape through pop music captivated the vital forces of the time: Pink Floyd, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane and Starship, David Crosby, Black Sabbath, Pete Townshend, and Michael Jackson. If there are problems with this text it's this impatience to rush through the decade and touch upon all these characters and more. Heller clearly loves and is informed by every element of the sci-fi literary form, but this is one of those surveys that could have been helped by slowing down and focusing on perhaps a half dozen of these key players. Bowie is clearly the anchor and Heller's connection with the man's canon is infectious. His style and narrative drive will compel even the most skeptical reader to investigate the music ... Though Strange Stars is filled to the brim with scores of recording artists who dabbled in sci-fi in what was for the most part nothing but a fervent passion and commitment, women are conspicuously absent ... Minor quibbles aside, Strange Stars is a wonderfully excitable look at an era when everything seemed possible.
It’s a delightful overview of a singular decade, though a study that is more broad than deep ... Heller’s encyclopedic knowledge of the period draws connections between works that you might not have been aware of, and contextualizes the musical, literary, and cinematic landscape of the 1970s ... For such a slim volume, there is a surprising amount of information packed into each chapter, and the pace can be relentless ... The best thing about Strange Stars is that you will come away from it wanting to know more about almost everything Heller writes about—and this is not meant to damn with faint praise ... it’s enlightening to see laid out all in one place just how pervasive science fiction themes and motifs were in the 1970s.
Coming at his subject, the interface between popular music and science fiction, from an unusual angle—as a practitioner of both s.f. and music, rather than rock critic or historian—gives Heller a fresh perspective ... Strange Stars provides a brisk and entertaining tour through terrain that has not been mapped at book length before. The briskness does have a downside. Strange Stars is structured as a year-per-chapter arc through the seventies, which means that the same figures keep cropping up, but often in a glancing way before we hurry on to the next example ... At other times the book can feel like a hectic and overly wide trawl.
Heller’s coverage of these peaks of achievement is interspersed with amusing asides on more minor, 'novelty' phenomena... and compelling analyses of obscure artists ... [Heller] also writes astutely about the impact of major SF films on the development of 1970s pop music ... At the same time, Heller is shrewdly alert to the historical importance of grassroots venues such as London’s UFO Club ... Finally, Heller reconstructs some fascinating, but sadly abortive, collaborations ... Heller’s erudition is astonishing, but it can also be overwhelming, drowning the reader in a welter of minutiae about one-hit wonders and the career peregrinations of minor talents ... Anyone interested in either popular music or science fiction of the 1970s will find countless nuggets of sheer delight in Strange Stars...
Jason Heller makes it difficult to guess who the intended audience is for in his latest book ... The non-fiction tome, which focuses in on the ’70s...feels like it’s aimed at satisfying two schools of pop culture obsessives (sci-fi geeks and music junkies) but also a general reader who has only a rudimentary knowledge of the artistic veins Heller is mining. Heller winds up serving no one especially well, getting stuck in spots where he needn’t linger and skimming over others that could have used a deep dive ... He trips himself up by using Bowie as the book’s through line. Heller doesn’t offer much new insight, preferring to rehash the same well-known details ... For those folks already well versed in this lore and these sounds, though, Strange Stars offers frustratingly little fresh information or wisdom to stoke our own fandom.
Jason Heller’s Strange Stars is a book that prompts contemplation about time and space, and more specifically about time and space with regard to popular music … He touches on Jimi Hendrix’s discovery of the phrase 'purple haze' in a spacey pulp novel, before moving onto stories behind the work of more prominent musical spacemen like David Bowie, Sun Ra and George Clinton … I’ve read more than a few music-related books over the years. But Heller…finds a corner of the universe about which I’d not previously read.
The mothership connection is clear: Where there’s rock ’n’ roll, science fiction isn’t far away, as Hugo Award winner Heller deftly demonstrates ... Sci-fi geeks with a penchant for rock ’n’ stomp, prog excess, and other flavors of pop will enjoy this one.