Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Nova Swing
May 2, 2007 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Nova Swing by M John Harrison has won the 2007 Arthur C Clarke Award. Named after the famous author and announced on the opening night of the Sci Fi London film festival the award is one of the most prestigious in science fiction. Everything you could possibly wish to know about this year's shortlist.
posted by ninebelow (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Adam Roberts provided critical disections of the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 shortlists. However he declined to do so this year because he was shortlisted for his novel Gradisil. (He was also previously shortlisted in 2001 for Salt.)
posted by ninebelow at 1:48 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is an awesome post, and I look forward to reading it in detail, especially since I've been on a crazy huge science fiction and literary fantasy kick lately, spending almost all of my spare time at used bookstores digging up Ballard and Farmer paperbacks. Still, the thing I come away from this most excited about is...

Dude! The guy who wrote Viriconium has a blog! Sweet!
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2007


I think from the reviews I have read, this is a very deserving win for Harrison. Congratulations to him. It serves as a kind of sequel to his novel Light, both of which I have yet to read.
posted by JeremyT at 2:30 PM on May 2, 2007


Haven't read Nova Swing, but Light (also M John Harrison) was one of the best SF books I've read.
posted by Luddite at 2:33 PM on May 2, 2007


I was hugely disappointed with Nova Swing. I adored Light (its one of the best books I've read, I think), but I just found Nova Swing boring, and uninvolving. It didn't help having read Roadside Picnic a few days before I read this, which Nova Swing borrows heavily from, and it was much better and much more moving

Also, at times it read like Nova Swing hadn't been proofread or edited properly, with the same descriptions repeated over and over again throughout the book. It seemed rushed, or lazy
posted by ZippityBuddha at 2:43 PM on May 2, 2007


Interesting, Luddite, 'cause I thought "Light" was a very mediocre story wrapped in pretentious pseudo-intellectual clothing.

I'm quite looking forward to Grimwood's "End of the World Blues", though. His Arabesque trilogy is brutal genius.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on May 2, 2007


After all the hype surrounding Light I was also pretty disappointed. I think Justinian nails my criticism of it.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:16 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Huh. Grimwood looks interesting. I just tore through Effinger's Budayeen trilogy last month. It was flawed, but immensely entertaining. Looks like these two series share the same kind of setting.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:25 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that Jan Morris wrote one of the finalists (Hav), and that on the eve of her 80th birthday. Am I that out of the loop, or hasn't this gotten the kind of attention that a "straight" work of hers might?
posted by rob511 at 3:25 PM on May 2, 2007


I have been trying to think of the correct adjective to best describe M.John Harrison's writing - a style that seems to pack information into the space between the words. It's like Akido....with a drop of his shoulders and flick of his wrist you find yourself staring at the ceiling wondering how you got there and why your head hurts. Like "Light" there's rewarding rereading here for those that want it....but maybe not a lot of answers.

In a world where you can be made to look like (and think like) whoever (or whatever) you want - is Vic Serotonin, as he appears, the wise cracking 'entradista' and Aschemann the quirky detective with a (neon?) heart of gold? Or are they two cyphers using these too perfect roles to mask their obsession with the 'event' site - an obsession that they (unlike the now ruined Emil) don't have the courage to follow?

I love Vic and Ed Chianese. I love the "new men" and the "Annies" and I hope that M. John Harrison tells us a few more of their tales.
posted by oh pollo! at 3:27 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hav sounds wonderful (and maybe a little like another great book i totally loved: Kalpa Imperial by Gorodischer )... Nova Swing sounds interesting too--thanks!
posted by amberglow at 3:53 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading at Serotonin.
posted by matkline at 4:29 PM on May 2, 2007


Huh. Grimwood looks interesting. I just tore through Effinger's Budayeen trilogy last month. It was flawed, but immensely entertaining. Looks like these two series share the same kind of setting.

Grimwood is criminally under-appreciated in the States (because he is not really, Really published here - that is no hardcover releases - just random trade paperbacks of his backlist occasionally).

End of the World Blues is different than his Arabesk trilogy (which is similar to Effinger's Budayeen trilogy). The Ashraf Bey novels are really quite excellent and I'd highly recommend them if you liked Effinger. Also, Grimwood announced earlier this year that he would be writing three more novels to follow the Arabesk trilogy.

I import all his new releases from the UK. But one of my favorite small presses in the US is bringing out his recent 9Tail Fox (also very very good) next month.

/fanboy
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:45 PM on May 2, 2007


Thanks i_am_a_Jedi. I think I'm gonna cruise by the bookstore after work.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:10 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grimwood is criminally under-appreciated in the States (because he is not really, Really published here - that is no hardcover releases - just random trade paperbacks of his backlist occasionally).

Ah. Like Banks.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on May 2, 2007


I clicked on the excerpt and as soon as I saw that the dude's name was "Vic Serotonin" I stopped reading.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:07 PM on May 2, 2007


There are plenty of reasons to dislike Harrison but I'm not sure the names are one of them.
posted by Justinian at 6:16 PM on May 2, 2007


I clicked on the excerpt and as soon as I saw that the dude's name was "Vic Serotonin" I stopped reading.

Using that criteria, you'd read any of Philip K. Dick's books.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:41 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


...you'd never read any of Philip K. Dick's books.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:41 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Interesting, Luddite, 'cause I thought "Light" was a very mediocre story wrapped in pretentious pseudo-intellectual clothing.
That was my feeling, too. I enjoyed the act of reading most of the first half or so. The rhythm of the writing, his ability to use words etc definitely puts him a few levels above most of the schlock writers in the scifi world. But yeah. Light tried to be daring and turned out to be a tremendous disappointment.
posted by verb at 7:14 PM on May 2, 2007


If you stopped reading at Serotonin you really aren't going to like the fact Light features characters called Billy Anker and Tig Vesticle...

Iain Banks and Jeff VanderMeer gave the novel rave reviews for The Guardian and SF Site and personally I think it is amazing piece of work. But then I think that about pretty much everything Harrison has written.
posted by ninebelow at 4:29 AM on May 3, 2007


Interesting, Luddite, 'cause I thought "Light" was a very mediocre story wrapped in pretentious pseudo-intellectual clothing.

Me too, but I am a philistine.

It reminded me of Clute's Appleseed -- too much attention on trying to be clever, not enough on having an underlying story or framework to be clever about.

Using that criteria, you'd read any of Philip K. Dick's books.

Yeahbut, it's not like Dick (or anyone else) is some unqualified good. I find him difficult to read and not really worth it. If I want a dose of "I am SO high... what is reality, really, man?" I can just watch one of the shitty movies made from his works instead of slogging through one of his books.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:49 AM on May 3, 2007


"Interesting, Luddite, 'cause I thought "Light" was a very mediocre story wrapped in pretentious pseudo-intellectual clothing."

On reflection, the story is mediocre as sci-fi goes. As for the writing style, I liked it, but that's one of those value-judgement things. I also really liked "Falling out of cars" by Jeff Noon, if that helps calibrate my pseudo-intellectualism.
posted by Luddite at 11:59 AM on May 3, 2007


oooh... the Jeff Noon career gradient (Awesome! Still Awesome! Huh? Aiiie! Splat!) is still a bit of a sorepoint for me...

That said, though I hated* Falling Out Of Cars I actually really liked his odd poetry book thing he did before it.

Oh, and he's one of those "I don't really do Science Fiction" types.

* Possibily a bit of a strong term,more like "was disapointed it wasn't nearly as good as Vurt".
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2007


Ah, yes, "I don't do science fiction, I'm just writing a novel set in the future". Bleh.
posted by Justinian at 12:33 PM on May 3, 2007


Anyone who does that immediately goes on my shit list. Handily Ansible tends to report on these in it's "as others see us"section. Apparently Margeret Atwood has recanted, so she's off the list.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2007


Interstingkly I've read nothing on the Clarke awards shortlist and 3 books on the Hugo shortlist... is that significant in some way?
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on May 3, 2007


Artw - Yes. It means you're probably American. The Clarke awards are for British SF and the works nominated are often not published in the USA until much later, if at all.

That said, if you're an SF reader and not familiar with the current crop of British writers, you're living in a very small and mediocre world. BritSF is currently where it's at; Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Iain Banks, Adam Roberts, Richard Morgan, Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Charlie Stross, China Mieville, Alastair Reynolds, Neal Asher, and so on.

If you don't know those names, you don't know SF. Or you're a Baen fan, which amounts to pretty much the same thing. (ooooooh, zing)
posted by Justinian at 3:01 PM on May 3, 2007


Heh. Nope, not suffering from being American, though i've not been in a UK bookstore for a while (and I feel compelled to point out that of those Hugo books I have read the authors are a Brit, a Canadian and a single Yank)
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on May 3, 2007


(oh and the Brit ison your list :-S )
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on May 3, 2007


Oh, sorry, your profile said you were in Seattle, Artw. I guess I should have said "in America" rather than "an American". Unless your profile (gasp) lied!

I take it you've read Glasshouse, Blindsight, and Rainbow's End. Those are the ones I've read, too, although Eifelheim is on my TBR pile.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on May 3, 2007


:-)
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on May 3, 2007


There's a long tradition in SF of retro-fitting short stories into novels. "Dune" is an obvious example, as are the "Foundation" books.

"Light" was a really extreme example - Harrison took some of his short stories, welded them into a novel and made them worse.

He's such a good writer he actually got away with it, but the loss of ambiguity damaged the book a lot from my perspective.

It's pretty clear from how the book works that he still dislikes SF (see his previous SF novel The Centauri Device to see how much - it's an all out attack on SF written as an SF novel) .

He's an incredibly good writer when he's not playing genre games - "The Course of the Heart" is a harrowing and beautiful urban fantasy; "Climbers" is a semi-autobiographical novel about rock-climbing. Both astonishing and tough-minded books.

The man simply hates the idea of escapism and yet his writing talents are in that very area. The result is that we get, when he's on form, the cascades of decay in the Viriconium books or the working, but useless, magic of "The Course of the Heart".

At worst, we get SF written by someone who wants SF to be as good as he thinks it could be given his own talent. Sadly there are very few people as talented as MJH.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:37 PM on May 6, 2007


« Older Game, Game, Game, and Again Game...  |  Agents... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments