Top positive review
Interesting tales, particulary the lesser-known "Isle of Pines"
Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2009
As usual, Oxford does a good job with translations, introductions and notes.
More's "Utopia" is the longest and best of the three works presented in this book, at least as far as fleshing out the details of how a utopian civilization would really look, particularly when situated among other civilizations. But, since most people are familiar with it to some degree, I'll discuss the other two writings in more detail.
Bacon's "New Atlantis" is the least satisfying of the three utopian civilizations. First, it isn't complete, barely beginning before it ends. Second, it seems to be more about scientific specialization (i.e. how the New Atlantic culture has made great strides in various fields of science [e.g. agriculture, astronomy]) than about utopian society per se. It is interesting how Bacon relates these islanders, far from Europe, to the famed ancient Atlantean society.
Neville's "Isle of Pines" is an interesting tale of shipwreck and discovery. A ship sinks near the coast of a faraway island, killing everyone except a man with the last name "Pine" and a few women, one of whom is black. What follows is a fascinating story of old/new-world racism and debauchery. Basically, the Pine fellow starts bedding ALL the women (two of whom, if I recall, are sisters) because, you know, they're not getting rescued any time soon and they've got to keep civilization going. Eventually, they all dispense with the wearing of clothes. Then ALL the women get pregnant and turn into baby factories and everyone breeds like rabbits until there are hundreds of people within one or two generations. The interesting tack that Neville takes is that Pine only sleeps with the black woman at night, she "craftily" sneaking into his bed. In addition, her progeny happen to be the bad apples of the island, which is discussed from the perspective of some visiting sailors many years after the shipwreck. Fascinating view into the European mind from several centuries back.