Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: The 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist, part 1

The first part of my mega-review of this year's Clarke Award-nominated novels appears today at Strange Horizons.  This is the fourth time that I've reviewed the entire shortlist, a tradition begun by Adam Roberts at Infinity Plus and carried on by Strange Horizons with rotating reviewers.  I'm sad to say that this was by far the least fun I've had reviewing the Clarke shortlist, not so much because the nominated books are bad--though a few definitely are--but because there ended up being so much less to say about them than I'm used to.

After finishing my read-through of the nominated novels, I started reading a few of the books that were submitted for consideration, and the difference is striking.  It's not so much that the books left off the Clarke shortlist are masterpieces--on the contrary, I would have had serious reservations about most of them if I'd had to review them for this project.  But that's precisely the point.  I would have had so much more to say about, for example, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, a book I struggled with but found utterly fascinating, than just about any of the choices this year's Clarke judges made.  What makes the Clarke special, to me, is that not so much that it makes consistently good choices, as that it makes consistently interesting choices.  It failed at that task this year.

The first half of my review--which discusses Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time, J.P. Smythe's Way Down Dark, and Becky Chambers's A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet--is here.  At his blog, Martin Petto has been collecting other reviews of the shortlisted novels, and thoughts on the shortlist as a whole (on the latter front, be sure to read Nina Allan's meditation on the shortlist and the Clarke as a whole).  The second half of my review will be published on Wednesday, and later that evening the Clarke winner will be announced.


Brett said...

I'd love to have a discussion on Aurora.

Lila said...

Oh, God, Aurora. So frustrating. So interesting. So frustrating.

Which is to say yeah, more to talk about there.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I have a short discussion of Aurora in an upcoming post, but yes, it's definitely a book that deserves discussion and consideration, and the Clarke shortlist review would have been a great place for that. Its absence is particularly frustrating because there are three other space operas on the ballot, and one of them in particular - Smythe's Way Down Dark - has several superficial similarities with Aurora, but falls short of it on every metric of quality and sophistication. It would have been so much more fun to talk about Aurora this year, than the dull and over-familiar Way Down Dark.

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