... 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.
The Spirit of Science Fiction lacks the gemlike precision of Bolaño's other short novels, and replaces the latent doom that fills his later work with a sense of possibility ... The Spirit of Science Fiction is not the right place to start reading Bolaño. It doesn't have the astonishing force of 2666 and Distant Star, the momentum and humor of The Savage Detectives, or the formal perfection of By Night in Chile and Last Evenings on Earth. But once you've read those books, come back to this one. It's a joy to watch such a brilliant stylist practice his moves, and to see such a brilliant mind expand on the page.