Because you’ve forgotten, here were the nominees (with handy links to my reviews):
- Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Peripheral, William Gibson (Putnam; Viking UK)
- The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
- Lock In, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
- Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)
The winner was Ancillary Sword. I think it will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that it’s not the novel I would have chosen or voted for. That would be Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Yes, we could split hairs as to whether all the books in the trilogy can be classed as science fiction, but I think there are enough familiar markers in Acceptance to deem the series as SF.* Whatever the case, if I’m judging based on what’s in the category, then the Southern Reach outclasses the other four books nominated.
Having said that, this is a pretty decent set of nominees. Yes, I had major issues with Ancillary Sword and The Peripheral but even those two books have something interesting to say – whether it’s a passionate critique of colonialism and empires in spaaaace or a wicked look at financial institutions, PR companies and two futures that never will be. And then there’s a book like The Three Body Problem which would have been my second pick and which bombards you with ideas, set pieces and the Chinese revolution. I’ve read nothing like it, which is why I think you should be reading it. I recently reviewed Lock In so I’m not going to repeat myself other than to note that there will always be an important place for good entry-level science fiction.**
If I do have a concern about this particular list of nominees, it’s that it only features one female author. I know, I know, another blogger talking about gender. But when we have books like Nnedi Okorafor’s amazing Lagoon or Claire North’s wonderful The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August it’s a shame that this years set of nominees is so male-centric. Having said that, hurrah and huzzah that a translated book, from China, made the cut.
* You could also argue the fairness of pitting three books against single volumes. I would counter by saying that Annihilation / Authority / Acceptance clearly combine to form one large 250,000 word novel that happens to have been split into three volumes.
** I also think I’m wrong when I said in my review that the book doesn’t feature far-flung concepts as post-humanism. The case could be made that the Hadens and their relationship with technology is verging on a posthuman state.
*** I know the UK publication of both these books didn’t help matters.