My Favourite on the Arthur C Clarke Shortlist

Well, I’ve slept on it… and I’ve re-read my reviews. There are two novels that, for me, stand out from the six on the 2013 shortlist:

Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden and

Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.

Each of the remaining four novels obviously have great merits in terms of subject matter, plot, writing quality or experimental daring in genre cross-over. But I’ve taken into account particular issues that rankle with me. For example, I’m a tad averse to meandering tales and loose writing styles. Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #6: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

I have to admit that I haven’t read Kim Stanley Robinson’s fiction before and on the strength of 2312 I’ll read his Mars Trilogy, which established him as a big hitter, with a literary bent, in the realm of hard SF.

Truth is, I don’t really gravitate to other-world science fiction. I suppose because I’m mainly interested in social science fiction I’ve tended towards Earth-based scenarios. I’m now thinking I should reconsider this bias.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 is the sixth, and final, novel I’ve read on the shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award. The winner will be announced tomorrow evening (1 May) at the Royal Society in London. And I’ll be there! Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #5: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A global flu pandemic has decimated the human population and, if that’s not bad enough, the worst effects of global warming are taking their toll. The Dog Stars is set in Colorado nine years after the flu pandemic. Hig, a pilot, has made a life for himself at a remote airfield and he’s coping with his emotional trauma – ‘being at the end of all loss’ – thanks to the companionship of his dog Jasper.

This is the fifth novel I’ve read on the Arthur C Clarke Award 2013 shortlist. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 1st May. Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #4: ‘Intrusion’ by Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod presents a vision of a near-future world in which many of our freedoms are rolled back in the cause of child protection, specifically the protection of the unborn foetus. For starters, smoking and drinking are illegal in pregnancy. Employers must prove their workplaces pose zero risk to pregnant women and as a result many women (pregnant or otherwise) operate from home where the legal restrictions are looser. And then there’s ‘the fix’ – single-dose medication (produced by SynBioTech) that women are obliged to take during pregnancy to mend any dodgy sections of DNA. Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #3: ‘Angelmaker’ by Nick Harkaway

Nick Harkaway’s sprawling yarn Angelmaker starts out in present-day London and brings together two characters who are an unlikely SF duo. Joe is the son of a gangster and Edie is an octogenarian female spook. She’s ever vigilant with her bags packed, waiting for her past to pay a visit. Which it does.

Joe Spork leads an impecunious life having shunned a life of crime despite his first-class underworld connections. Instead he follows his grandfather’s trade – fixing clocks and Victorian automata. The relationship between the three generations of Sporks, is explored by jumping back and forth in time, providing some of the best writing in the novel. Harkaway also writes well about Joe’s relationship with technology: Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #2: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden is the story of lone-voice John Redlantern who, with his extended family, is stranded on a distant planet. This is a planet with no Sun; the only light sources are the forests with their shining treelanterns. All 532 people in the Family are descendants of Angela and Tommy. Unable to leave Eden, as they named it, they created a new human colony in Circle Valley that stretches ‘all the way from Peckham Hills to Blue Mountains and from Rockies to Alps.’

Once a year (roughly speaking, as it’s difficult for the oldest members to keep track of time), they gather for an ‘Any Virsry’ to recount the oral history of the settlement and to revere the few mementoes of Angela, Tommy and Earth – the plastic kee board, the sky-boat models, the boot, the backpack… Read more

Arthur C Clarke Award #1: ‘Nod’ by Adrian Barnes

I’m planning to read all the  Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist this month and I’m kicking off with Nod by Adrian Barnes. In case you haven’t checked them out, here are the six contenders:

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)

Before I begin – Congratulations to all the authors!

‘Nod’ by Adrian Barnes

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Kate Atkinson – Life After Life

When were you happiest? This is one of those questions that pop up in celebrity questionnaires in weekend colour supplements. The answers are fairly predictable or, at least, the variation in the replies is quite limited. (An alternative question – when were you unhappiest? – would elicit, I reckon, a far greater range of responses. But who would dare ask it?)

We can all look back and pinpoint our happiest times. In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Clarissa could identify ‘the most exquisite moment of her whole life.’ And that moment was fleeting.

Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist

Kate Atkinson plies her craft in Life After Life, to show how lives can swing between misery and happiness almost on a whim, on a chance event, on a minor decision, say, to set our earlier, rather than later, to meet someone at a train station. Her story is forever retracing itself as her characters ‘revisit’ the same events, responding differently each time and thus precipitating vastly different outcomes. It’s no surprise that the novel is on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Read more

Women’s Prize for Fiction Contender: Elif Shafak

Elif ShafakStill two weeks to go before the shortlist is announced for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction) and I’ve just finished Honour by Elif Shafak, in contention as one of 20 longlisted novels. I’m rather ambitiously planning to read the shortlisted novels as part of Anne’s April Reading Challenge – a challenge that also encompasses a bunch of books vying for the Arthur C Clarke Prize.

‘Honour’ by Elif Shafak

This is the first novel I’ve read by Elif Shafak, who writes in both English and Turkish. Her novel The Bastard of Istanbul was longlisted for The Orange Prize and she is also well known for The Forty Rules of Love. Shafak has written eight novels to date. Read more