Because I’ve completely forgotten who was nominated (announced so long ago) here is a reminder of the finalists and links to my reviews:
- Ancillary Sword, Anne Leckie (Orbit)
- The Race, Nina Allan (Newcon)
- Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
- Europe in Autumn, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
- Wolves, Simon Ings (Gollancz)
- The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North (Orbit)
- Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder)
- The Moon King, Neil Williamson (Newcon)
This is going to annoy some (or most) people but I think the least interesting, ambitious and inventive novel on this ballot, Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, won the award. Let’s be crystal here, I did not hate Ancillary Sword. As I said in my review, the writing was an improvement on Ancillary Justice and I appreciated Leckie’s exploration of the effects of colonialism. But in terms of story-telling, in terms of invention, in terms of pushing the boundaries, Ancillary Sword doesn’t bat as high as the other finalists, and I include The Moon King on this list.
But while the winner may not have been to my tastes, we needs to applaud the membership of the British Science Fiction Association for choosing such an outstanding bunch of nominees. Add the Goblin Emperor, the Three Body Problem and the Southern Reach trilogy to this list and you essentially have the must read “core” science fiction and fantasy novels of 2014. The Allan, the Hardinge, the North, the Hutchinson and the Okorafor are all fantastic books, all doing something interesting with their genre of choice, all finding that balance between telling a compelling story, creating an atmosphere and delivering a message or a theme. They are books that give you hope about the SF/F moving forward. And in an environment where the moans and groans of the Rabid Puppy campaign dominate the discussion it’s heartening to know that you can cut through the crap and read a shortlist, chosen by readers, not judges, that’s actually worthy of discussion.
As for who I would have award the prize too – that would be Europe in Autumn, but seriously it’s a toss up between that and Lagoon.