BSFA Award: Best Novel

Advance warning: I only had time to read the Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction categories this year, so there will be no write-up here of the BSFA Award shortlist in the Best Book for Younger readers category. I simply did not have time, and I wonder about the wisdom of adding another full category of books to a fairly short window for reading the shortlist between announcement and deadline. I’m also conscious that I’m writing this and tomorrow’s post on Best Non-Fiction in a bit of a rush, which is not ideal and means I am not doing any of the nominees justice. Anyway, we shall see. (I have previously written up Best Art and Best Short Fiction.)

6) Shards of Earth, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The Vulture God erupted out of unspace, close enough to set Roshu’s traffic control systems complaining, and Idris began bootstrapping the ship’s systems and waking the others. Roshu wasn’t his favourite place in the galaxy, frankly.

Dismayed to admit that I found this very tough going, and I have generally really liked Tchaikovsky’s work before. I think I was reading it during a particularly busy week at work, and my concentration wasn’t up to it. You’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. You can get it here.

5) Skyward Inn, by Aliya Whiteley. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Despite all this, Fosse had known he would return to the farm. There was Geography on the timetable before break, and that sense in the air that he was ready for something, some change, that he wanted to find for himself. He had been told not to return, and yet he needed to understand how the man, the stranger, could have taken that farm away from him so easily.

Again I think my concentration was challenged when reading this, apparently drawing on Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, which I have not read. You can get it here.

4) Purgatory Mount, by Adam Roberts. Second paragraph of third chapter:

The drive took a real long time, and he thought: Double-uh-oh.

I don’t always get on with Roberts’ fiction (I’ve always found him very pleasant in person) but I largely enjoyed this one – except that I could not work out the link between the main story and the framing narrative until it was explained in the epilogue. You can get it here.

3) The Green Man’s Challenge, by Juliet E. McKenna. Second paragraph of third chapter:

I walked over to Fin’s Toyota as she was getting out. Her white-blonde hair was quite a lot longer than I was expecting. Other than that, she looked the same as always: average height, average build, and as far as I’m concerned, absolutely gorgeous in jeans and a cream sweater. We stood looking at each other for an awkward moment. I wanted to kiss her, but that probably wasn’t sensible these days. She was making no move to get closer to me.

Here on the other hand I felt a lot more comfortable with the story, a solid intrusive fantasy with a bit of romance on the side. You can get it here.

2) A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine. Second paragraph of third chapter:

(Three months ago, even if she’d somehow reached this exalted position in the Ministry, complete with her own tiny office with a tiny window only one floor down from the Minister herself, Three Seagrass would have been asleep in her house, and missed the message entirely. There: she’d justified clinical-grade insomnia as a meritorious action, one which would enable her to deal with a problem before anyone else awoke; that was half her work done for the day, surely.)

As previously reported, I hugely enjoyed it; horribly lethal alien incursions, grand sweeping palace politics, and a smart kid and a fish-out-of-water diplomat who separately try to save the day. You can get it here.

1) Blackthorn Winter, by Liz Williams. Second paragraph of third chapter:

Serena, fellow list-maker, had once asked her why she didn’t just put them on a tablet or her phone, but Bee preferred paper and pen. It made it easier for her to keep track. She tried not to list things that she had already done, to make the list look more accomplished, but often failed. Now, she took the pen and drew a firm line through church meeting. Because that was about to happen and soon Bee would be on her way out into the wet cold of the night and down the lane and into the meeting room which joined onto Hornmoon church. It was a meeting about the Christmas flowers because Bee, in an unguarded moment, had offered to become a church warden.

Sequel to Comet Weather, which I also really enjoyed last year. Lovely liminal contemporary fantasy, with lots of Doctor Who references as well. Get it here.