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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Did the First SF Magazine Appear in Russia in 1894?

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As many of you know, I’m a fan of the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin and I decided on the title of my novel A Calculated Life when I read this sentence from his science fiction dystopia, We:

But a thought swarmed in me; what if he, this yellow-eyed being – in his ridiculous, dirty bundle of trees, in his uncalculated life – is happier than us?
The ‘yellow-eyed being’ was a human, one of many, excluded from the perfect world of ‘One State’.An article in io9 this week, Did the very first science fiction magazine appear in Russia in 1894?, gives fascinating insights into Zamyatin and the emergence of Scientific Fantasy, Nauchnaia Fantastika, in the years before the Russian Revolution. It includes exclusive extracts from We Modern People: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity by Cornell University Professor Anindita Banerjee (Kindle edition more expensive than the paperback!) She delves into the history of early Russian science fiction and explains the Russian obsession with all-things-modern.
Banerjee says:

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Fahrenheit 451: Midcentury Renway Bungalow

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I came across this quite by chance. My brother is visiting for Christmas and he showed me the wowhaus website for ‘interesting’ and retro properties. As I scrolled through the properties I was stunned to see Montag, hero of Fahrenheit 451. He’s shown walking out of his home – a midcentury Renway bungalow, recently for sale in Edgcumbe Park, Berkshire, UK.

This Renway bungalow must have been the last word in modernity when Francois Truffaut made his 1966 movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Montag lived in a Type 60 property!

http://bit.ly/RUn829