Tuesday 2 May 2017

A Clarke shortlist 2017

   So it's that time of year again, the Clarke shortlist is due tomorrow and I haven't as yet posted my shortlist - you know, the one that has NO chance of resembling the actual shortlist in any way! 
   In truth it’s taken me quite a while to get excited about this year’s Clarke – despite the brilliant Shadow Clarke project - and a while to ease myself away from dichotomies and debates between realism v structural complexity, linear v non-linear, genre v literary fiction. It’s a year when, apart from Occupy Me, I’ve found most of the new books I’ve tried strangely unsatisfying – not terrible or anything, not at all (at least not most of them), but just not as profound as Whitehead and Tidhar, as haunting as Priest and Miéville, or as original as Whiteley and Swainston. The exceptions are where the expertise and experience of McAuley, Macleod and Reynolds produced such pleasure, where Ninefox Gambit joined The Fifth Season as a great book to enjoy AND argue with (Victoria’s review of Yoon Ha Lee’s novel is fab btw) and where DeLillo (I’m half way through) may join the haunting duo above. Nina’s review has induced me to revisit MacInnes and work out my reaction more thoroughly – it's a book I thought I would love, but didn’t! My only regret with the shortlist announcement looming is that I haven't got around to Valente's Radiance.
   Even with the recommendations of Megan and Jonathan I just can't bring myself to trawl through a 1000 pages of Hunters and Collectors and The Lost Time Accidents. The Three Body Problem was fun though hardly revelatory so I'm not sure I'll bother with the other two. Matt Hill's Graft and de Abaitua's The Destructives didn't quite live up to my expectations - though I don't want to sound at all dismissive - they are definitely worth reading. Then there is Europe in Winter too. As with all of the Europe books I want to argue with it, but always in a constructive way I hope. I admire the project, can't wait to read the fourth one and he really deserves that BSFA award. The Power is not for me as I have already made clear. My head will explode if it wins. Beyond that there are still a handful of books I'd happily read. Well done to the judges - they have to read them all. That's a hell of a commitment.
So how do I construct a shortlist this year?
   Part of it is easy: Central Station and Occupy Me are the outstanding novels for me. At this stage if one of them doesn't win I'll be disappointed, grumpy and unbearable. No change there then! Then I include Fair Rebel - Swainston's project fascinates me and she writes SO beautifully.  Now, after doing some rereading and thinking I'm actually considering leaving out The Underground Railway. WTAF you might be thinking - I know. And it will be to include two white dudes who have already won it. Can I? Should l? Can't I just have a shortlist of 7 or 8? After all we've got AGES to read them? Actually, I'm sure I can remember someone last year making a pretty good argument for why a longer shortlist was a bad idea. Damn it! It's just that Mieville and Priest are full of things that I don't understand and I want the discussion! Moreover, weirdly, I don't want one without the other - what's that about? Then there's the third slot for a woman. Do I go with The Arrival of Missives, a book I recommended to just about everyone I knew last year, or with Jemisin. Though I would btw, happily reread A Field Guide to Reality.

  So this year I have two shortlists. Yep - cop out!! Boooooo! Though actually I''m obviously (?) going with the top one because it is full of diversity, great arguments (!!) and retains the Whitehead - a glorious, important novel and potential winner. But somehow the second one has my melancholy heart for the moment. 
1. Central Station, Occupy Me, Fair Rebel, The Underground Railroad, Ninefox Gambit, The Fifth Season.
2. Central Station, Occupy Me, Fair Rebel, This Census Taker, The Gradual, The Arrival of Missives.
[Not mentioning longlists, oh no, not me] 
Anyway, make of that what you will. 
If Version Control, Radiomen or Rosewater had been eligible I don't know what I would have done!
More thoughts on the whole shebang sometime soon....
Off to finally read the new novels by KSR and Anne Charnock. Whoop!
Just in!
The Shadow Clarke have announced their shortlist! Though of course its not as good as either of mine (tee hee!) Have a look here for a great account of their deliberations. So glad they included The Arrival of Missives! Well done to them all for such a brilliant project.

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