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

Read more

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

Well Done God. Revisiting Cult Novelist B S Johnson


I’ve set aside time this week to plug the gaps in my knowledge of B S Johnson, thanks to a splendid new compendium of his plays, short prose and journalism (including On Football). Three of the plays have never been published before including One Sodding Thing After Another. Such is the lot of an experimentalist.This year is already shaping up to be a Big Year for the late-B S Johnson. This month sees the 80th anniversary of his birth and so far there’s been: Read more

Flashlight Worthy: 10 Novels on Art, Artists and Art World Shenanigans

Art_list_flwI’m wearing my artist’s hat this morning and I’m chuffed that Flashlight Worthy Books has published my list of recommended art-related novels: Novels on Art, Artists and Art World Shenanigans.

FLW operates from the US and brings together ‘Handpicked Book Recommendations on Hundreds of Topics.’

Here’s the full list, not exhaustive, but it covers a broad range from historically based novels to others with a contemporary setting. This list first appeared on The Huffington Post. Read more

Did the First SF Magazine Appear in Russia in 1894?


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:

Read more

Nassim N Taleb on the Source of All Blunders


photo: Marcos Takamatsu

I’m so excited. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s follow-up to The Black Swan is now available in the UK – entitled Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand. My hardback copy is winging its way to me. Hardback? Yes, I simply can’t wait for the paperback release. And I don’t want an eBook because I want to underline all the good bits (and the eBook costs more).

As I’ve mentioned before, The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable was a goldmine resource when I wrote A Calculated Life. In a nutshell, if I dare, Taleb argues that people, corporations, financial institutions make serious blunders because they disregard highly improbable events. They concern themselves with the likely range of possibilities and make no allowance for so-called black swans – events they have not encountered before. Read more