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.