Here is a chilling reminder of the finalists (and a link to my frightening reviews):
- M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts (Orbit)
- Nick Cutter, The Troop (Headline)
- Frances Hardinge, Cuckoo Song (Macmillan)
- Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (Tartarus Press)
- Josh Malerman, Bird Box (Harper Voyager)
- Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (Titan Books)
So what can you conclude from an award where two of the books are outstanding, where three of the novels are not very good and where one is middling? Maybe that horror fiction, as a genre, has always been a bit hit and miss and that the James Herbert Award is simply reflective of that. Or maybe that my tastes have changed and the novels I would have loved as a twenty year old – especially the gore and violence of The Girl With All The Gifts and The Troop – no longer sizzle my synapses. Whatever the reason, what I can say is that in spite of the duds any award that introduces me to a novel as complex and textured and mature as The Loney and one as imaginative and daring and engaging as Cuckoo Song gets my tick of approval.
Obviously I believe one of those two books should win the inaugural James Herbert Award. There’s bugger all between them but if you put a knife to my throat and whispered sweet, sweet horrors into my half chewed and bloody ear, I would probably go with The Loney. But I’d be happy with either one. And if I had to predict the eventual winner my money would be on Cuckoo Song.
We will find out sometime… soon.