Congratulations to Lauren Beukes's Zoo City for winning the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award!
I've finished reading the six shortlisted novels for the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke award, and I wanted to give a general summary of my thoughts before the winner is announced tomorrow. For the convenience of anyone reading this, I'll edit this to indicate which novel won, once the announcement is made.
The Arthur C. Clarke Award is presented to the best science fiction novel published in the UK in the previous year, as decided by a panel of judges. Based on the current selections, it seems that they're allowing the definition of SF to lean towards fantasy a little. I certainly don't mind, since the shortlisted novels this year were all fantastic books worthy of the recognition. Rather than listing them from most favorite to least, I will tell which I think is most deserving of the prize, give the two that I would pick as runners-up, and then give general thoughts on the other three.
My Predicted Winner
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - This was an amazing novel. The style was refreshingly original, and the characters and locations were vividly painted. It drew me in on the first page, and the fast-paced, exciting plot kept me enthralled through the end. If I were on the panel of judges, Zoo City would get my vote.
Declare by Tim Powers - I thoroughly enjoyed this alternate history WWII/Cold War spy and dark fantasy novel. The period detail was meticulous, and the supernatural elements were incredibly eerie. I also thought the method was really intriguing; Powers kept all real, recorded history constant, and created his story in the 'gaps', crafting it to explain odd historic facts. I'm not really a connoisseur of spy novels, so I was surprised at how entertaining I found Declare.
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald - This novel envisioned a future Istanbul full of mysteries and nanotechnology. It ambitiously followed many different characters with many different stories over a crucial five day period in all of their lives. The main connection between them was their association to the eponymous dervish house. It was fun watching the different stories affect each other in direct and indirect ways, though they did not quite mesh as much as I would have preferred in the end.
Richard Powers' Generosity took a lot of impressive narrative risks, but it's meta-fictional narration made me feel distanced and detached from the story. Tricia Sullivan's Lightborn contained some very interesting uses of language, and the story ended up being creative and surprising. However, it did take a while to really get going. Patrick Ness's Monsters of Men, is the final book of a YA trilogy, and I don't think one could appreciate it without reading the first two. It was a fast-paced, action-packed story, with loads of moral ambiguity. Somehow, though, I tended to side with the alien Spackle over the humans.