For the Bolaño devotee, reading The Spirit of Science Fiction is a little like glimpsing the graceful form hiding within the block of marble. The book’s loose, associative style, wounded idealism, and tender carnality anticipate many of his later novelistic preoccupations. The book’s very premise—two young poets drift around the literary underworld of Mexico City—reads like a dress rehearsal for The Savage Detectives, similarly soaked in poetry, disillusion, and longing. The novel is dappled with recognizably Bolañan pleasures, though they are mostly incidental. What The Spirit of Science Fiction offers most is the tingle of the nascent. It allows us to perceive the avalanche in the snowball before it rolls downhill ... In The Spirit of Science Fiction he is already...testing the narrative pliability of poetic delirium and oracular grimness ... The Spirit of Science Fiction functions as a kind of key to the jeweled box of Bolaño’s fictions, an index of the images that would come to obsess him. While new readers may wish to start with the famous works on which his legacy rests, longtime Bolaño fans will doubtless enjoy this familiar cocktail of sorrow and ecstasy.
... Natasha Wimmer’s [translation is] superb ... With words alone, Bolaño summons a visual world, creating in this book, as in his others, what Mario Vargas Llosa has called 'images and fantasies for posterity' ... The Spirit of Science Fiction serves as a key to Bolaño’s later work, unlocking clues to his abiding obsessions ... [The book] is not unripe juvenilia; it is a hardy forerunner that stands on its own.
... the book can be seen as a template for The Savage Detectives ... Plotwise, there’s not a lot of linear velocity. It’s a picaresque by a poet more concerned with notating startling moments than crafting a multibraided saga ... The Spirit of Science Fiction never attains the full dimensions of heartbreaking tragedy of which Bolaño is capable ... Bolaño’s lusty, laughing passion for art and literature, for women and Mexico City, is tangible here, but would find its richest expression only with the author’s maturity.