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Jan 19

An Analysis of 2015’s Literary and Genre Awards: Part 3 – Subjectivity

What you’re all dying to know in this the third and final part of my analysis of Literary and Genre Awards is what were the best and worst shortlists for 2015.  Of course the subjectivity here is all mine and the mileage of other’s will vary.

What I’m going to do is list the top 3 and bottom 3 shortlists.  But before I do it’s worth noting that of the 108 unique shortlisted books I read, the average mark I gave out of 10 was 7.2.  At first I though this was a bit high.  Anything over 7 would be considered as me liking the book and as a 40 something white guy who finds cynicism and irony in the nicest of things, that average should be closer to 5 or 6.  Additionally, if science fiction and literature are suffering from a dearth of fresh ideas, new voices and different ways of telling story, then how can I be liking the majority of books.  Maybe I’m a traditionalists.  Or maybe the fact that I’m reading award shortlists means I’m exposed to the cream of the crop and in fact 7.2 all things considered is actually pretty low, that your average award shortlists should be hitting more 8’s and 9’s then 6’s and 7’s, especially if they’re meant to represent the best in a given field in a given year.

It’s something to ponder as I keep reading.

Anyway – let’s get down to it –

THE BEST SHORTLIST FOR 2015 AS JUDGED BY IAN MOND WAS…

*DRUM ROLL*

THE FOLIO PRIZE with an average of 8.1 per nominated book.

Here is the Folio Prize shortlist for 2015:

  • 10:04 by Ben Lerner (Granta)
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Faber)
  • Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta)
  • Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta)
  • Family Life by Akhil Sharma (Faber)
  • How to Be Both by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber)

There are some seriously good books here.  The Smith I’ve gone about for the last 12 months, but also fantastic are the Toews, the Offill, the Cusk, the Sharma and the Adhiambo-Owuor.  The Lerner and the Tolbin aren’t awful, each has merit, but they don’t compare to the other six novels.  Seriously, if you want to read the best Lit for 2015, then read this shortlist.

IN SECOND PLACE IS…

THE KITSCHIES – BEST NOVEL (RED TENTACLE) with an average of 8.0 per book so just behind the Folio Prize.  Here is the shortlist:

  • Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith (Egmont)
  • The Peripheral, by William Gibson (Viking)
  • The Way Inn, by Will Wiles (4th Estate)
  • The Race, by Nina Allan (NewCon Press)

Lagoon and The Race are outstanding novels.  The Way Inn by Will Wiles is also very good though it falls apart a little at the end.  I liked the Smith because it’s a bit crazy and was disappointed by the Gibson because it’s a bit too expository, but this is a very consistent shortlist of novels.  Nothing that’s truly terrible and Lagoon and The Race are must reads.

IN THIRD PLACE IS…

THE CLARKE AWARD with an average of 7.8 per book.  (It just pipped the BSFA which came fourth).  Here is the shortlist:

  • The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit)
  • The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Canongate)
  • Europe In Autumn – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • Memory Of Water – Emmi Itäranta (Harper Voyager)
  • The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August – Claire North (Orbit)
  • Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel (Picador)

If not for The Girl With All The Gifts – a book I seriously didn’t like – this shortlist would have won the chocolates this year.  Take out the Carey and the average goes from 7.8 to 8.6.  The best genre novel for the year is on this shortlist – the Hutchinson – and it keeps company with some fine novels, especially the Mandel and the Itaranta.  Combine this list with the Kitschies above and you’ll be reading the best genre for 2015.

So there you go, the top three shortlists.

So what were the bottom three?  Well here they are:

  • The Hugo Award with an average of 5.5 per book
  • The Nebula Award with an average of 5.8 per book
  • Locus Award Young Adult category with 6.1 per book

Sad Puppies can be blamed for the top one.  Yes, the shortlist was better than what it might have been because of authors not accepting a nomination or pulling out, but given I didn’t finish the Kevin J Anderson – which means it automatically gets a 1 – and didn’t think much of the Butcher or the Leckie, the last place ranking is no shock.  With the Nebulas the blame can be laid at the feet of Charles E. Gannon (didn’t finish the book) and Jack McDevitt (finished the book but it wasn’t very good).  As for the Locus Award Young Adult category, I didn’t finish the Carriger which was the main reason it only scored a 6.1.  Without the Carriger the average shoots up to 7.0.  As a by the by and not to draw any long bows or jump to conclusions but it might say something that the three weakest shortlists were those not voted on by judges but rather the reading populace at large.  Clearly we need our gatekeepers!  Clearly!

So there you go.  My top three awards provide you with a pretty decent reading list.  So go out and enjoy them books!

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