I intend to read the Clarke list because as it happens, I’ve only read one of the nominees, and unless you read at least two thirds I don’t think you get to argue with the judges.
Nod by Adrian Barnes (Bluemoose)
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (William Heinemann)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Headline)
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
But given the arguments I thought I’d take a look at the submissions by women. I’ve been through the submission list, including those writers whose sex I didn’t know. I labelled them sf/f; sf; or fantasy. I won’t be reading the fantasy. If I put a book in this category it really is fantasy, I have given the benefit of the doubt where I could (at the bottom of this post you’ll see descriptions from Amazon).
That gives me fourteen titles:
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Hot Key Books) ? sf
The Glimpse by Claire Merle (Faber & Faber) ? sf
LiGa by Sanem Ozdural (Elsewhen Press) f sf
vN by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot) f sf
Pure by Juliana Baggott (Headline) f sf
Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (HarperVoyager) f sf
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit) f sf
The Killables by Gemma Malley (Hodder & Stoughton) f sf
The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz) f sf
The Method by Juli Zeh (Harvill Secker) f sf
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor UK) f sf/f
Crandolin by Anna Tambour (Chomu Press) f sf/f
Alif the Unseen by f g. Willow Wilson f sf/f
I already know I can’t stand Malley and think Grant over-rated. I can’t bear YA sf dystopic fiction and I think it’s holding the genre back and is why YA sf can’t hold a candle to YA fantasy as a body of work (despite wonderful exceptions like Phillip Reeve). But I will still read them all because that’s what judges do.
Of the books by men, I would have expected the following to be in with a chance, based either on my own reading, or the buzz::
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks (Orbit) – not read
Existence by David Brin (Orbit) – not read
Empty Space by M. John Harrison (Gollancz) (my own favourite for the list)
Railsea by China Miéville (Macmillan)(note this is YA)
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz) – half read
So that is what I’ll be reading this month.
I want to be clear: I am not trying to join a clamour that The Judges Were Wrong! But I am interested. My own sense even looking at that list is that there are only a couple I might have included with that list of “expected books”. But we will see.
Report just before the Clarke Award.
The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian (Grant) ? fantasy A hospital is preserved, afloat, after the Earth is flooded beneath seven miles of water. Inside, assailed by mysterious forces, doctors and patients are left to remember the world they've lost and to imagine one to come. At the center, a young medical student finds herself gifted with strange powers and a frightening destiny. Simultaneously epic and intimate, wildly imaginative and unexpectedly relevant, The Children's Hospital is a work of stunning scope, mesmerizing detail, and wrenching emotion.
Turbulence by Samit Basu (Titan Books) ? fantasy Aman Sen is smart, young, ambitious and going nowhere. He thinks this is because he doesn t have the right connections but then he gets off a plane from London to Delhi and discovers that he has turned into a communications demigod. Indeed, everyone on Aman s flight now has extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires. Vir, an Air Force pilot, can now fly. Uzma, an aspiring Bollywood actress, now possesses infinite charisma. And then there's Jai, an indestructible one-man army with a good old-fashioned goal to rule the world! Aman wants to ensure that their new powers aren't wasted on costumed crime-fighting, celebrity endorsements, or reality television. He wants to heal the planet but with each step he takes, he finds helping some means harming others. Will it all end, as 80 years of superhero fiction suggest, in a meaningless, explosive slugfest? Turbulence features the 21st-century Indian subcontinent in all its insane glory: F-16s, Bollywood, radical religious parties, nuclear plants, cricket, terrorists, luxury resorts, crazy TV shows, but it is essentially about two very human questions. How would you feel if you actually got what you wanted? And what would you do if you could really change the world?
The Dream Killer of Paris by Fabrice Bourland (Gallic Fiction) ? fantasy Enter the world of supernatural crime investigation - In the autumn of 1934 a channel crossing to France takes a paranormal turn for private detective, Andrew Singleton, when he sees an extraordinary mirage and has an encounter with a lady in white. On arrival in Paris he is quickly drawn into a very unusual murder investigation in which the victim appears to have died of fright in his sleep. Who caused this death and how? And could there be some connection to Singleton's experience on the channel? In a city alive with surrealism and metaphysical research, Singleton and his partner James Trelawney set off on the trail of a criminal mastermind, whose evil methods and motives will prove bizarre beyond their wildest imaginings.
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Hot Key Books) ? sf YA: Sf but part one of a trilogy; What if playing computer games could save the world... And the Government's secret weapon was you? Tom Raines is suddenly recruited into the US Army to train as a virtual reality Combatant to see if he is good enough to help fight World War Three. Equipped with a new computer chip in his brain, it looks like Tom might actually become somebody. But what happens when you start to question the rules? In this first book in this fast-paced trilogy, Kincaid asks significant questions concerning the use of technology and the value of human life. Perfect for fans of Anthony Horowitz and Eoin Colfer.
The Glimpse by Claire Merle (Faber & Faber) ? sf YA; dystopia: Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick.
But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana's defects, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a conditional reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana's joining ceremony looms closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a 'normal' life. But then Jasper disappears.
Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.
LiGa by Sanem Ozdural (Elsewhen Press) f Literary science fiction, LiGa™ tells of a game in which the players are, literally, gambling with their lives. Sanem Ozdural’s debut novel is set in a near-future where a secretive organisation has developed technology to transfer the regenerative power of a body’s cells from one person to another, conferring extended or even indefinite life expectancy. As a means of controlling who benefits from the technology, access is obtained by winning a tournament of chess or bridge to which only a select few are invited. At its core, the game is a test of a person’s integrity, ability and resilience.
Crewel by Gennifer Albin (Faber & Faber) f fantasy Incapable. Awkward. Artless. That's what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret - she wants to fail. Gifted with the ability to weave time and matter, Adelice is exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, power and beauty, the ability to embroider the very fabric of life. It also means entering a world secrets and lethal intrigue. But unlike the others, Adelice isn't interested in controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have and will do anything to hide her talent from the Guild. But when she slips up during her final test, her gift is identified. Now she has one hour to eat her mum's overcooked dinner. One hour to listen to her sister's school gossip and laugh at her dad's stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything is OK. And one hour to escape. Because once you become a Spinster, there's no turning back . .
vN by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot) f sf Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine, a self-replicating humanoid robot.
For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of a mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive.
Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her clade's history – like the fact that the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed... Which means that everyone wants a piece of her, some to use her as a weapon, others to destroy her.
Pure by Juliana Baggott (Headline) f sf YA/Dystopia/series: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters. We will, one day, emerge from the Dome to join you in peace. For now, we watch from afar.
Pressia Belze has lived outside of the Dome ever since the detonations. Struggling for survival she dreams of life inside the safety of the Dome with the 'Pure'.
Partridge, himself a Pure, knows that life inside the Dome, under the strict control of the leaders' regime, isn't as perfect as others think.
Bound by a history that neither can clearly remember, Pressia and Partridge are destined to forge a new world.
Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (HarperVoyager) f sf 2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit) f sf YA/ Worth noting I really didn’t like the first: The year is 2041, and Shaun Mason is having a bad day. Everyone he knows is dead or in hiding. The world is doing its best to end itself for the second time. The Centre for Disease Control is out to get him. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, he must face mad scientists, zombie bears and rogue government agencies before the conspiracy that killed Georgia manages to kill the only thing he has left of her - the truth.
Worth Their Weight in Blood by Carole Jahme (Mira Books) f f/sf This extraordinary novel fuses Darwinian science fiction, Gothic horror and small-town low-life. It is a surreal, futuristic nightmare about the attempt of a young single mother to escape from the squalor of the actual into a "utopian" (but actually dystopian) world ruled by vampires. The unique and satirical use of cutting edge biological theory launches the reader into a hilarious and disturbing fantasy world.
The Killables by Gemma Malley (Hodder & Stoughton) f f/sf YA (can’t bear this author): Evil has been eradicated. The City has been established. And citizens may only enter after having the 'evil' part of their brain removed. They are labelled on the System according to how 'good' they are. If they show signs of the evil emerging, they are labelled a K . . . But no one knows quite what that means. Only that they disappear, never to be seen again . . .
The Chosen Seed by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz) f sf His nephew has been kidnapped and, as he works desperately to save Luke, Detective Inspector Cass Jones has been framed for murder. He's on the run, being hunted by former colleagues, and is unwelcome wherever he goes . . . until he gets help from a very unexpected figure from his past. Detectives Hask and Ramsey are on a different case - searching for the killer behind the lethal Strain II virus currently sweeping its way through London . . . a search which throws up an unexpected clue that suggests Cass might be innocent of murder after all. But when they're ordered not to investigate further, they realise the mystery behind the murder is far greater than they thought.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor UK) f Sf/f Blue’s father committed a crime, unleashing a deadly menace into steampowered Seattle. And his bereaved family has paid the price. Now, Ezekiel is determined to clear his father’s name, risking death and the undead in the attempt. Sixteen years ago, as the American Civil War dawned, gold brought hordes to the frozen Klondike. Fanatical in their greed, Russian prospectors commissioned Dr Leviticus Blue to create a great machine, to mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus the Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine was born
Pulse by Tricia Rayburn (Faber & Faber) f f The sirens are back, but Vanessa may be the biggest threat of all . . . Nothing has been normal since Vanessa Sands learned that her sister was murdered by sirens - femme fatales of the watery depths - and that everything she believed about herself and her family was a lie. Vanessa has always told her boyfriend Simon everything. But she worries that if he finds out who - or what - she truly is, he'll run a mile. To make things worse, when Parker, Hawthorne Prep's resident charmer, shows an interest in her, she can't resist the siren's urge to stray. And on top of all this, she's trying to be strong for her parents as they come to terms with her sister's death. But personal problems must be put aside, because the Winter Harbor sirens are back for revenge. Now Vanessa must face her past and accept that she is just like her enemies - every bit as alluring and every bit as dangerous.
Crandolin by Anna Tambour (Chomu Press) f Sf/f In a medieval cookbook in a special-collections library, near-future London, jaded food and drink authority Nick Kippax finds an alluring stain next to a recipe for the mythical crandolin. He tastes it, ravishing the page. Then he disappears... So begins an 'adwentour' that quantum-leapfrogs from Central Asia in the Middle Ages to Russia under Gorbachev, from the secrets of confectionery to the agonies of making a truly great moustache, from maidens in towers to tiffs between cosmic forces. Food, music, science, fruitloopery, superstition, railways, bladder-pipes and birth-marked Soviet statesmen; all are present in an extraordinary novel that is truly 'for the adwentoursomme
The Method by Juli Zeh (Harvill Secker) f sf This is a brilliant, disturbing and wildly imaginative picture of the nanny state run mad; how far should the State be allowed to poke its nose into a citizen's business? (Kate Saunders The Times )
Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson f fantasy He calls himself Alif - few people know his real name - a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocratic Intisar, he believes he has found love. But their relationship has no future - Intisar is promised to another man and her family's honour must be satisfied. As a remembrance, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious book. Entitled The Thousand and One Days, Alif discovers that this parting gift is a door to another world - a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked amongst us.