The torture this week comes from sticking to my own personal shortlist while experiencing major shortlist envy of my fellow shadowers. Vajra and Maureen selected books I passed on for reasons of “probably not sci-fi enough” and I’m full of regret. The six book limit is torture enough.
The lists are up and it’s time for the reviews, but first, here is a look at the first incarnation of the Shadow Clarke Not-a-Shortlist: the books with the most appearances on the shadow jury shortlists. More than six books! We are such rule-breakers and we didn’t even do it on purpose!
This is a good-looking list. But is it the best list?
Is this a realistic Clarke list? Is this a realistic SF list? Do these questions even matter? More important: Will the books on this list survive the grueling review process we are about to put them through?
What’s most interesting about this selection of books– which is really just a list of momentary cumulative consensus (that will likely change as we move forward) rather than a bonafide shortlist– is that, although we did talk and discuss books as a jury, many of us kept some or all of our cards to our chests. Many of the other jurors’ shortlist picks were genuine surprises to me.
This is cruel, violent, unexplained, and almost certainly illegal. It has blighted my own life (121).
I have seen [his] new illusion, and it is good. It is devilishly good. It is the better for being simple (194).
I still do not know how [he] works that damnable illusion (205).
I am at a loss for how to review The Prestige. I have started and restarted this review a dozen times, delayed posting it, rewritten it again. It’s not that it’s difficult to describe: epistolary collage, dueling protagonists, unreliable narrators, metafictional misdirection… all that fun stuff to think about. Page magic about stage magic, the self-awareness so loud and clear, with bells on. There I go with my highlighter when he talks about intrinsic secrecy and puzzles and the Pact of Acquiescence. I smirk along with him when he splays and rotates his hands while speaking of misdirection. As if I’m on stage with him, as if I’m the volunteer, as if I’m in collusion with the master. As if I won’t get fooled. Continue reading →
Ground that slips. Warped horizons. Variable forces. The limits to which genre fiction can be stretched and altered to accommodate its own metafictional boundaries are far and wide, yet few authors dare to test their tales against those limits. Straightforward stories of unique characters in unique circumstances carry their own appeal, but some authors move beyond that. In 1974’s Inverted World, Christopher Priest manages to probe those appraising, distant boundaries, while capturing the visual imagination of his readers, and without mangling the central tale of a boy becoming a man in a city of passive incomprehension.
We see the words “mind-bending” and “mind-blowing” thrown around a lot when describing speculative fiction novels, and it’s not without good reason. Most spec fic readers seek more than just a good story—they want to alter their reality, stretch their minds. But reading spec fic is a bit like mind yoga, and while there are many styles to choose from, some of them just aren’t very challenging. Still, it is with great hesitation, yet utter sincerity, that I deliver the following pronouncement:
Christopher Priest’s Inverted World is mind-bending. No hyperbole intended. (Although there are some hyperbolas.) (sorry.) Continue reading →