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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Odds and Ends - Aurealis 2009, PK Dick shortlist 2009 and Lovereading Top 50 novels of the 00's

Our co-editor Fabio Fernandes' regular blog Post-Weird Thoughts has some technical difficulties, so for now he is blogging at Eterno Provisorio both in English and Portuguese. Go visit him there if you miss his PWT interesting
and insightful posts.


The 2009 Aurealis winners for various sff categories from Australian writers have been announced. Fabio has the list on his blog HERE. Perusing the list I was very intrigued by the Best SF novel winner "Wonders of a Godless World" by Andrew McGahan.

The blurb sounded extremely interesting:

On an unnamed island, in a Gothic hospital sitting in the shadow of a volcano, a wordless orphan girl works on the wards housing the insane and the incapable. When a silent, unmoving and unnerving new patient - a foreigner - arrives at the hospital, strange phenomena occur, bizarre murders take place, and the lives of the patients and the island's inhabitants are thrown into turmoil. What happens between them is an extraordinary exploration of consciousness, reality and madness. Wonders of a Godless World, the new novel from Miles Franklin-winner Andrew McGahan, is a huge and dramatic beast of a book. It is a thought-provoking investigation into character and consciousness, a powerful cautionary tale, and a head-stretching fable about the earth, nature and the power of the mind. It is utterly unlike anything you've read before - it will take you by the shoulders and hold you in its grip to its nerve-tingling finale."

The above blurb makes me want the book *now* and though the novel so far is available in print only in Australia as far as I know, with an UK edition sometime in May if the listing is accurate and with an unknown date for an US edition, the wonder of the Internet is such that an ebook edition of it is available from It is in the unwieldy pdf format and drm'ed to boot, though it's the famous inept drm, as well as quite expensive at 22.99$ but with a 20% off promotional code got with the help of Google and valid at least until February 1st, it was worth for me and from what I browsed, the novel reads extremely well, so look for a review this coming week alongside the delayed by circumstances review of Spirit Lens/Carol Berg.


The 2009 Philip K. Dick Award nominees have been announced

  • Bitter Angels, C. L. Anderson (Ballantine Spectra)
  • The Prisoner, Carlos J. Cortes (Ballantine Spectra
  • The Repossession Mambo, Eric Garcia (Harper)
  • The Devil’s Alphabet, Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
  • Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald (Pyr)
  • Centuries Ago and Very Fast, Rebecca Ore (Aqueduct Press
  • Prophets, S. Andrew Swann (DAW)
Leaving aside the two collections (McDonald and Ore), I either read or took a look at all the five novels on the list.

The only one I would recommend is Prophets (Goodreads impressions, A) by SA Swann which is a great mil-sf/space opera with a libertarian "who has the biggest guns and shoots first" ethos set in the author's wonderful Moreau/Race universe of his previous two series, as well as being the start of a new trilogy that can be read independently with all the back-story filled in.

The sequel
Heretics is due soon in February and I plan to read it as soon as I get a copy, most likely on its publication day, and hopefully the timing will work out to write a full review of both here since last year while I wanted to review Prophets, my review schedule did not work out for it, so I did only a short FBC capsule review based on the Goodreads impressions linked above.

I read The Repossession Mambo (Goodreads impressions, C) fast in a bookstore cafe only because of a rave review on sfsignal since otherwise the book is not something that tempts me; while it was ok'ish, it was nothing special; if you like satire sf that takes itself seriously, you may like it better but for me the concept of the book was way too preposterous to really suspend disbelief. An hour and the price of a coffee was worth for me, but no more.

Bitter Angels (Goodreads impressions, C) was a book that I was really looking forward too and when I found out in the copyright page that the author is actually Sarah Zettel who has written two excellent sf novels in the 90's though I did not care for her later fantasy, I was even more excited. Sad to say, after a very promising beginning the book devolved into a morass and while I read it reasonably carefully and gave it a C, I have no intention of reading more in the series. While the Garcia book above was sort of better than I expected, this one was a minor disappointment:

"There are two major problems - after a tight beginning the novel starts scattering, while the more I learned about its universe the less I could suspend disbelief; also the moons on which the action mostly happens never feel truly real, while the little that happens on ships and in space is just great and shows how good the novel could have been."

I got an arc of The Prisoner by Carlos Cortes though it's another kind of book that holds very little interest for me; I browsed it just to do my duty but the writing style had very little appeal - at least Eric Garcia's style was very energetic and I would be very excited to read a book by him with a subject that interests me - so off it went into the "library donation box" since none of my co-editors here was interested either.

For some reason Darryl Gregory's writing style is completely "so-not-for-me" though I browsed The Devil's Alphabet too since the author got some acclaim with his debut Pandemonium and I thought maybe this one will be "for me"; no luck, so another "tried but not for me" novel here. However Mihir liked this one and you can read his review HERE and get a more informed opinion.


And for fun, the venerable Lovereading UK site put 50 novels from the 00's that in their considered opinion are the "best" of the decade, whatever that means of course, and everyone can vote for any number of them if they agree with the selection. The top 10 vote getters will be announced in April. As with all such list you can quibble and argue, but the list makes good reading and it may suggest new novels which after all is the main purpose of all such lists imho.

From the list I read (at least partially and enough to have an opinion) the following:

Atonement/I.McEwan (A)
Cloud Atlas/D.Mitchell (A++ and a top novel of the 00's for me)
Fingersmith/S.Waters (A+ and in the next tier of the 00's novels after the top-top)
JS&MN/S.Clarke ("not for me", one of those "English" novels that did not work out in any way for me - I read it partially only but enough to realize that)
The Gone Away World/N. Harkaway (A, FBC review)
The Shadow of the Wind/CR Zafon (A+)
TTT's Wife/A. Niffenegger (C)
The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo/Larsson ("not for me", another one that I read enough from to realize that)
The BookThief/Zusak (tentatively a "not for me" one, but willing to retry at some point)

and I have and plan to read at some point:

Half of a Yellow Sun/CN Adichie
/GD Roberts
The Sea/J. Banville
The Master/C. Toibin
The Gathering/A. Enright
Suite Francaise/I. Nemirovsky

I voted for the three A+/++ novels only since a top 10 decade list should have only such!

Go check out the list and vote too!!


shaneo52 said...

Thanks for this Liviu,
That Shantaram looks like a great book, I believe I'm going to go hunt that down.


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