Unusually, there is only one book in common between the shortlisted novels for the BSFA Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. It is Ian McDonald’s excellent River of Gods. I have previosuly found that these two awards come prety close to predicting which books I will enjoy.
The other shortlisted BSFA candidates include two that I have read and much enjoyed, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake and two that were already on my buy-on-sight-in-paperback list, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain and Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Stamping Butterflies. I was initially less inclined to look out for the last of the BSFA finalists, Alastair Reynolds’ Century Rain, because I was one of the minority who were underwhelmed by his earlier Revelation Space, but I’ve now read a good review of it in the latest Interzone.
The other shortlisted novels for the Arthur C. Clarke include one that I’ve read and much enjoyed, Audrey Niffeneger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, and three more on my buy-on-sight-in-paperback list, China Mieville’s The Iron Council, Richard Morgan’s Market Forces, and Neal Stephenson’s The System of the World. The last of the nominees, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, was on my buy-on-sight-in-paperback list until last Friday, when I saw it in paperback at the airport bookshop in Brussels, and bought it. About a third of the way through and it too is excellent.
I managed to read most of the short fiction on this year’s preliminary ballot for the Nebulas, thanks to ‘s helpful list on her other blog. I must say as usual I’m a bit unimpressed by some of the offerings. Of the novels, I have at least read Hugo-winning Paladin of Souls and Down and Out in the Magic KingdomThe Knight, unless something else wins.
Novellas: Haven’t yet read the Burstein. Most of these were also nominated for the Hugo (including Hugo-winning story by Vernor Vinge). The two I liked were both new since the Hugo nominations: “The Tangled Strings of the Marionettes”, by Adam Troy-Castro (FictionWise and original magazine), which I thought said interesting things about culture, values and pushing the frontiers of what it means to be human, and “Arabian Wine”, by Gregory Feeley (here) which though only barely sf (an alternate history starring a young Venetian who tries to invent coffee and steam power) is beautifully written.
Novelettes: As usual, the thinnest category, including one real turkey, an alternate history set in the late Roman Republic (and despite my recent rereading of Suetonius I didn’t pick up on many of the changes from OTL, apart from the fate of Julius Caesar) and written as a Platonic dialogue. The two I liked were “Dry Bones”, by William Sanders (here), which captured a moment of twentieth century America and had a nice bit of sfnality as well (though the end was a wee bit too pat), and “The Voluntary State” by Chris Rowe (here), which was entertainingly written, a story of a future quasi-Utopian Tennessee, though I wasn’t quite sure I agreed with the political point (or even entirely sure that one was being made).
Short Stories: Too many of these were about the author placing the characters in absurd positions and then expecting the reader to sympathise with them; and I could not – I mean, Santa Claus battling entropy at the end of the universe? Come on! The only one that didn’t fall into this trap for me was “Embracing-the-New” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (here), not a single human or quasi-human character in it, a fascinating portrait of a profoundly alien society.
Right, off to update my Amazon wish-list…