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.
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.