The Arthur C. Clarke shortlist has been unveiled and it is quite a good list even though I've only read three out of the six and haven't even heard of one of the picks. Those I have partaken of are definitely deserving of being there for one reason or another. The clear winner for me is The City & The City by China Mieville. There is a glaring error of a book missing from this list, which is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It is no small travesty that Paolo didn't get the nomination as he is doing some amazing work different from nearly everyone else in Sci-Fi right now. Below is the full list with a snippet from my review or commentary followed by the description. UPDATE: Looking through the longlist again I noticed The Windup Girl didn't even make it. This is most likely because the award focus on work published in the UK and while Nightshade titles such as The Windup Girl are distributed there they aren't officially published and therefore ineligible. Still it is a shame.
The City & The City by China Miéville (Macmillan/Del Rey) - China is also a past winner for Iron Council and Perdido Street Station. The City & The City is a detective murder mystery a la Raymond Chandler with a little fantasy mixed in narrated by Inspector Tyador Borlu of Beszel Extreme Crime Squad. The City & The City twists and turns into something I was never expecting, but is all the more satisfying for doing so. 9.5 out of 10 Hats.
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.
What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities. Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts (Gollancz) - I've yet to read any of Roberts books, but have heard generally good things about his work. People seem very divided over Yellow Blue Tibia with an either love it or hate it attitude.
Russia, 1946, the Nazis recently defeated. Stalin gathers half a dozen of the top Soviet science fiction authors in a dacha in the countryside somewhere. Convinced that the defeat of America is only a few years away, and equally convinced that the Soviet Union needs a massive external threat to hold it together, to give it purpose and direction, he tells the writers: 'I want you to concoct a story about aliens poised to invade earth ... I want it to be massively detailed, and completely believable. If you need props and evidence to back it up, then we can create them. But when America is defeated, your story must be so convincing that the whole population of Soviet Russia believes in it--the population of the whole world!' The little group of writers gets down to the task and spends months working on it. But then new orders come from Moscow: they are told to drop the project; Stalin has changed his mind; forget everything about it. So they do. They get on with their lives in their various ways; some of them survive the remainder of Stalin's rule, the changes of the 50s and 60s. And then, in the aftermath of Chernobyl, the survivors gather again, because something strange has started to happen. The story they invented in 1946 is starting to come true ... A typically mind-blowing SF novel from one of the genre's literary stars.
Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins/Spectra) -Galileo's Dream reads more like a biography of the legend that has become Galileo, but gives the reader a deep appreciation of the long and painful life full of triumph and devastation he went through on his way to becoming a Scientific revolutionary. Galileo's Dream is a challenging, but rewarding reading experience. Galileo comes alive as he earns his moniker of The World's First Scientist. 7.5 out of 10 Hats
At the heart of a brilliant narrative that stretches from Renaissance Italy to the moons of Jupiter is one man, the father of modern science: Galileo Galilei.
To the inhabitants of the Jovian moons, Galileo is a revered figure whose actions will influence the subsequent history of the human race. From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. And if that means Galileo must be burned at the stake, so be it.
Yet between his brief and jarring visitations to this future, Galileo must struggle against the ignorance and superstition of his own time. And it is here that Robinson is at his most brilliant, showing Galileo in all his contradictions and complexity. Robinson's Galileo is a tour de force of imaginative and historical empathy: the shining center around which the novel revolves.
From Galileo's heresy trial to the politics of far-future Jupiter, from the canals of Venice to frozen, mysterious Europa, Robinson illuminates the parallels between a distant past and an even more remote future—in the process celebrating the human spirit and calling into question the convenient truths of our own moment in time.
Far North by Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber) - I've never even heard of Far North, but the description does sound interesting.
Every day I buckle on my guns and go out to patrol this dingy city. Out on the far northern border of a failed state, Makepeace patrols the ruins of a dying city and tries to keep its unruly inhabitants in check. Into this cold, isolated world comes evidence that life is flourishing elsewhere - a refugee from the vast emptiness of forest, whose existence inspires Makepeace to take to the road to reconnect with human society. What Makepeace finds is a world unravelling, stockaded villages enforcing a rough and uncertain justice, mysterious slave camps labouring to harness the little understood technologies of a vanished civilization.But Makepeace's journey also leads to unexpected human contact, tenderness, and the dark secrets behind this frozen world. "Far North" leads the reader on a quest through an unforgettable arctic landscape, from humanity's origins to its likely end. Bleak, haunting, spare - and yet ultimately hopeful, the novel is suffused with an ecstatic awareness of the world's fragility and beauty, and its unexpected ability to recover from our worst trespasses.
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz/Spectra) - I was a little surprised to see Retribution Falls on the list. Don't get me wrong I absolutely love it, but it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the picks, which for the most part have a more literary bent. My full review will be going up next week, but here is a little to whet your appetite. Comparisons to Firefly are quite apt, but Wooding has created an amazing crew and equal amazing world for the setting. The fast and furious Retribution Falls is staggeringly entertaining and a ridiculously good page turner. The quality of the writing is close to that of Scott Lynch and has left room for so many more immersive stories for the crew of the Ketty Jay. 9.5 out of 10 hats.
Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is ...
Spirit by Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz) - Jones is a past winner for Bold as Love along with four total books making the shortlist. Somehow the description has never interested me. Am I missing out?
Bibi (it means princess) is the sole survivor of a massacre. Lady Nef, the General's wife, stops the General taking her as a concubine, winning Bibi's eternal and passionate devotion. Years later, a diplomatic mission to a supposedly friendly planet ends in disaster. Bibi, now a junior officer in Lady Nef's household, is incarcerated with her mistress in the notorious high-security prison on Fenmu. Lady Nef, 150 years old when arrested, dies in prison; she bequeaths to Bibi her rank, her level of access to the AI systems that permeate the Diaspora of inhabited planets, and a highly secret set of 4-space co-ordinates. Bibi uses Lady Nef's death to escape from Fenmu, finds Spirit, an instantaneous-transit space pod, and follows Lady Nef's co-ordinates to a treasure beyond price: a virgin, perfect, uninhabited planet. Soon after this, the mysterious, fantastically wealthy Princess of Bois Dormant makes her debut in the high society of Speranza, the Diaspora's capital city. Thus disguised, Bibi sets out to discover why she and her mistress were condemned to a living hell; and to punish the guilty. Twenty years have passed: Lady Nef's enemies now rule Speranza. As she uncovers a forgotten, ruthless and far-reaching conspiracy, Bibi's vengeance is transformed into a project of world-changing reparation.
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REVIEW | The City & The City by China Mieville
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REVIEW | The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi