The shortlist for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award, for the best science fiction novel published in the UK in 2009, has been announced:
Spirit, Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
The City and The City, China Mieville (Macmillan)
Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Galileo’s Dream, Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperVoyager)
Far North, Marcel Theroux (Faber)
Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding (Gollancz)
I’ll be appearing on the “Not the Clarke Award” panel at Odyssey, the UK Eastercon this weekend, and so I’ll save my thoughts about the specific books for then. But some general comments:
1) This is not one of the Clarke shortlists that occasionally emerges and prompts everyone to question the sanity of the judges. Though there are books I’d personally have argued should go on the list – most obviously Paul McAuley’s Gardens of the Sun – there’s no question that this is a pretty good representation of the best sf published in the UK.
2) The list does, however, underline the degree to which the sf published in the UK and the US has diverged. Unless I’m missing a trick, only three of these books (the Mieville, Robinson, and Theroux) are seeing US publication. And hardly any of the US-written books perceived as being the best of 2009 (eg Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, Priest’s Boneshaker, Marusek’s Mind Over Ship – just for a start) are getting UK editions.
3) This was a year when a lot of good UK-published books were either too clearly fantasy (Le Guin’s Lavinia, Holdstock’s Avilion) or not submitted for the award (top of the list: Patrick Ness’s The Ask and the Answer).
4) There will inevitably be discussions about definitional stuff – most obviously, “Is The City and The City sf?”
5) The surprising item on the list, for once, is not something from literary left-field, but Chris Wooding’s Retribution Falls – probably more of a straightforward sf romp than any of the others.
6) And a winner…? I’m not sure. At the very least, though, The City and the City is the book that seems most talked about, as it was when I did a discussion last week on the novel most likely to win the BSFA Award.