Second-guessing the Clarke judges, v. 2011

It is always a little risky to try to call the Clarke Award, given the idiosyncratic nature of the award, but what the hell.

I would be delighted to see Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House or Richard Powers’ Generosity take the prize. To me they seem to be the front-runners this year.

I would be a little surprised if Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City took the award; it’s a very atmospheric novel but I think its plotting lets it down. I feel similarly about Tricia Sullivan’s Lightborn, though of the two I’d rather see Zoo City win.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness seems to be attracting a lot of attention and some seem to think the smart money is on this one. However, having staggered through the entire trilogy over the last few days, I am not convinced. What seems like a great idea in The Knife of Never Letting Go seems to become increasingly repetitive in the subsequent volumes, and the plot seems to have been stretched very thinly over a framework which just can’t sustain it. I keep expecting it to break any moment. I also wonder if this is a latter-day Catcher in the Rye, with an optimal moment at which to read it, which I seem to be far beyond. I have also gone from admiring the protagonists to thinking ‘Would one of you just kill the antagonist now, please’.

Declare by Tim Powers is clearly the odd novel out here; I don’t believe it’s actually quite as awful as some seem to think but it is undoubtedly ponderous and its science-fictionality seems to hinge on an issue that is problematic. I would be astonished if it won.


1 thought on “Second-guessing the Clarke judges, v. 2011

  1. David H

    I think we more or less agree on the entire shortlist — with the partial exception of Monsters of Men, which I like more than you do (though I suspect, if we ranked the shortlisted books in order, it would be in a similar place).

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