It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

Thoughts on the 2014 Clarke Award shortlist

3 Comments

Last night, they announced this year’s Clarke Award shortlist, and it looks like:

My first thought was that it’s a surprisingly safe shortlist. But then it struck me that with three debuts, “safe” is probably not the right word to use. And yet, in genre terms, in regards to the definition of science fiction with which this year’s jury were apparently working… it is sort of safe. Thankfully, there’s no talking horses (just perambulatory trees), but neither is there the usual left-field literary-fiction-dabbling-in-sf pick.

Unusually, I’ve read four of the books already – and one of them, the Priest, I’d planned to read. Nexus I’d ignored after seeing two negative reviews of it – in Vector and Strange Horizons. But of the books I have read… I thought both the Leckie and the Hurley good, and have written about them – see here and here. It’s also hard not to see Ancillary Justice as the sf book of 2013, given the buzz that’s surrounded it and its appearance so far on the BSFA and Nebula shortlists (and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t make the Hugo shortlist as well). Smythe’s The Machine is also very good. And as a literary fiction pick is hardly a contentious choice – while Blue Door describes itself as a publisher of “commercial literary fiction” (an oxymoron, surely?), Smythe has also been published by Harper Voyager, a sf imprint. And The Machine is pleasingly Ballardian.

Then there’s the Mann… I’m a fan of Mann’s sf and I have copies of all his books (see here). But The Disestablishment of Paradise is his first novel since 1996, and a lot has changed since then. Which, sadly, means that The Disestablishment of Paradise feels very old-fashioned. The writing is assured, the structure is handled well, the world-building is clever… but the pace drags, the dialogue is stilted, and the interactions between the characters read like they come from a book written fifty years ago. I’ve not read The Adjacent, although I was planning to as part of my Hugo reading. But Priest is pretty much the Grand Old Man of British literary sf (from the inside, that is), a previous Clarke winner, and a four-time BSFA novel winner (the last in 2012). While The Adjacent‘s presence was by no means a certainty, the odds must have been good it would be there. Finally, all I know about Nexus is what I’ve read in a pair of not-very-complimentary reviews. Which makes its appearance on the list a surprise – but we’ll see what’s said about it now that it’s a finalist.

The Clarke Award has a history of generating odd shortlists. This year’s is perhaps the least contentious for a number of years. But it’s also quite a strong list, with some excellent books on it. Three speak to the future of the genre, two are by old hands, and one updates a 20th Century mode of sf for the 21st Century. That’s a pretty good spread. Who the eventual winner will be, however, is anybody’s guess…

About these ads

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the 2014 Clarke Award shortlist

  1. I think Priest might convince me to SHED my pre-70s shell. I really want a copy of The Adjacent.

  2. Pingback: The Arthur C Clarke Award Shortlist 2014 | @Number 71

  3. I’ll be interested in your thoughts on The Adjacent if/when you read it. As far as On the Steel Breeze and The Shining Girls are concerned (a couple of posts ago) they corresponded largely with mine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,841 other followers