BSFA Review – Vector #275
In last issue’s editorial, I wondered if 2014 would be a year for award-winning women. Since then, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – one of the books I singled out – won the Golden Tentacle for best debut at the Kitschies and has been shortlisted for both the BSFA and Philip K Dick awards. Meanwhile, A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – a book that wasn’t on my radar, despite having been shortlisted for the Booker – won the Red Tentacle for best novel. I should have been paying attention but obviously others were since Ozeki takes joint first place in our poll of reviews, alongside Kate Atkinson for Life After Life.
They are a thematically fitting pair, although I think their merits are less matched. If I was being cynical, I’d say Ozeki’s novel appeals to SF readers because it consists of page after page of tedious exposition. It is the dullest sort of literary meta-fiction aligned to a self-help primer on Buddhism with a bit of pop science thrown in for good measure. Life After Life, on the other hand, is sublime. Atkinson tells a very different tale of time which encompasses the best of historical fiction, family saga and romance but amplifies these through a palimpsest fantasy narrative. A worthy winner of the Costa Award.
As you might expect, there is a lot of cross-over between our poll and the BSFA awards and the next spot goes to Christopher Priest who won the award in 2011 with his previous novel, The Islanders. In Vector #274, Paul Kincaid said of The Adjacent: “It is as complex and rewarding as any of his novels, and it repays re-reading, but above all it is a novel that is as enthralling, as mystifying and as satisfying as any other you are likely to encounter this year.”
Just outside the medal positions is Nina Allan with Spin, shortlisted for the BSFA Award for short fiction but eligible here as this beguiling novella was published in book format by TTA Press. And, of course, there is Leckie herself. (I do wonder if, despite the hype, her middling position here is an indicator of her chances for the award itself).
A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar and What Lot’s Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou were books that I’d hoped to get to before nominations closed for awards season. Alas it was not to be but their appearance here makes me even more determined to read them in 2014. In a crowded reading schedule, I will always make time for Lauren Beukes though. The Shining Girls is substantially less interesting than her previous work but nonetheless evidence of a formidably talented writer.
Finally, we have two male British science fiction writers at opposite ends of their careers. The Machine is James Smythe’s third novel since his debut in 2012 (it was also shortlisted for the Red Tentacle); Evening’s Empires marks Paul McAuley’s fourth appearance on the shortlist of the BSFA Award since 1991. (The two BSFA shortlist novels missing here are Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell and God’s War by Kameron Hurley but the later came third in the poll back when it was originally came out in 2010. Such are the vagaries of Transatlantic publishing.)
So that was 2013. My own start to 2014 has involved moving house so if you are a publisher, please check the new address for review copies at the front of the magazine. The wealth of paperwork that has accompanied this move also means that I have finally updated various accounts and pieces of identification with my married name. Which means it is time for me to do the same for Vector too.
BSFA Review Poll
=1) Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
=1) A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
3) The Adjacent by Christopher Priest
4) Spin by Nina Allan
5) Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
6) A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar
7) What Lot’s Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou
8) The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
9) The Machine by James Smythe
10) Evening’s Empires by Paul McAuley
- Silent Land (Gollancz, 2010), Some Kind Of Fairy Tale (Gollancz, 2012) and The Year Of The Ladybird (Gollancz, 2013) by Graham Joyce – Reviewed by Paul Kincaid
- Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Orbit, 2013) – Reviewed by Shaun Green
- The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Press, 2013) – Reviewed by Dan Hartland
- The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz, 2012) – Reviewed by Jim Steel
- Phoenicia’s Worlds by Ben Jeapes (Solaris, 2013) – Reviewed by Cherith Baldry
- Crash by Guy Haley (Solaris, 2013) – Reviewed by Gary Dalkin
- Close Encounters of the Invasive Kind by Sarah Seymore (LIT Verlag, 2012) – Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
- Science Fiction Hobby Games: A First Survey by Neal Tringham (Pseudonymz, 2013) – Reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
- Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco, edited by Jonathan Wright (Adventure Rocketship!, 2013) – Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller
- The Eidolon by Libby McGugan (Solaris, 2013) – Reviewed by Liz Bourke
- The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson (2000 AD Graphic Novels, 2013) – Reviewed by Tony Jones
- Terra by Mitch Benn (Gollancz, 2013) – Reviewed by Alison Page
- The Testimony by James Smythe (Blue Door, 2012) – Reviewed by Gary Dalkin
- The Lowest Heaven, edited by Jared Shurin (Jurassic London, 2013) – Reviewed by Dan Hartland
- A History Of The Future In 100 Objects by Adrian Hon (Skyhook, 2013) – Reviewed by Niall Harrison
- The Dedalus Book Of Modern Greek Fantasy, edited and translated by David Connolly (Dedalus, 2004) – Reviewed by Anthony Nanson
- Gods & Monsters: Unclean Spirits (Abaddon Books, 2013) and The Blue Blazes (Angry Robot, 2013) by Chuck Wendig – Reviewed by Graham Andrews
- Dream London by Tony Ballantyne (Solaris Books, 2013) – Reviewed by Donna Scott
- The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (Head of Zeus, 2013) – Reviewed by Martin McGrath