Three days to go, and the Clarke Award reviews are popping up all over. I’ll update the master list this evening, but in the meantime there’s the first half of Abigail Nussbaum’s shortlist review at Strange Horizons (second half on Wednesday):
If the resulting shortlist is not exactly good, neither is it particularly bad. It is a far worse thing—unexciting. There are no howlingly awful nominees like last year’s Streaking, and at least two of the nominated novels are very fine—each, in their own way, worthy of the award—but for the most part this year’s shortlisted novels are characterized by being uninteresting. Or perhaps I should say by focusing on things which this reader was not particularly interested in. Reading through the shortlisted novels, one can’t escape the impression that the award’s judges’ definition of science fiction is a depressingly narrow one—science fiction as a Mirror for Our Times, working to combat the evils in our society and shed a light on its failings. This is certainly one aspect of the genre, but there are so many others, so many other things that science fiction can do that the books on the Clarke shortlist don’t even try to accomplish. In a backhanded way, this year’s shortlist is a perfect demonstration of just why the Clarke needs to be the award that Tom Hunter described, one that pushes the envelope and seeks to redefine the genre. Here’s hoping future juries do a better job of adhering to this mandate.
There are Nic Clarke’s reviews at Eve’s Alexandria:
- The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
- Black Man by Richard Morgan
- The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
- The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
There was an article by Lisa Tuttle in the Times on Saturday which gives a general overview of the Award’s history before her thoughts on this year’s shortlist:
The decisions of judges, who must reread and argue over their selections, only occasionally coincide with the popular vote. In 20 years, four Clarke winners have also won the British Science Fiction Association Award, but that won’t happen this year – the BSFA Award for Best Novel has already been won by Ian McDonald’s Brasyl, the most glaring omission from this year’s shortlist, which is otherwise a very good, and, for only the second time, completely British, selection:
Matthew De Abaitua’s The Red Men (Snow Books) is an accomplished, quirky first novel, set in London and the North, about the creation of artificial life, mingling science with the occult. A strong contender.
Stephen Baxter’s The H-Bomb Girl (Faber), set in Liverpool at the time of the Cuban Crisis in 1962, combines alternate histories, time travel and nuclear war with teen rebels and the Beatles. Fun, but written for kids.
Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army (Faber) is a raw, compelling, beautifully written vision of female rebellion against an oppressive near-future society, and has more in common with Orwell’s 1984 – or The Handmaid’s Tale – than genre SF.
Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts (Canongate), a first novel tipped for cult status, is an exhilarating, original excursion into story via meta-fiction, philosophy and intellectual games.
Ken MacLeod’s The Execution Channel (Orbit) is a gripping, astonishing techno-thriller that tackles big ideas with style and conviction. This is the fourth time that MacLeod has been up for the award, and he would be a popular choice.
Richard Morgan’s Black Man (Gollancz) is yang to Sarah Hall’s yin, being a big, action-packed adventure all about masculinity and violence. It is Morgan’s second nomination.
Finally, although it’s not up yet, rumour has it that Adam Roberts’ full shortlist review will appear at Futurismic before the day is done.
EDIT: Adam Roberts’ review, Bloglines assures me, is here, although from where I am at the moment I can’t read it myself.
FURTHER EDIT: And see Tony Keen’s roundup here.