Category Archives: Reader’s Shelf

The Man Booker Prize – Reader’s Shelf

Last week I wrote about The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. This winner of the Man Booker Prize (Carey’s second) was a joy to read and makes me want to share some of the other winners of the prize.

1988 saw Carey win his first Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda, a story of an Anglican priest struggling to reconcile his fear of damnation with his addiction to gambling, and a rich heiress, owner of a glass factory in Sydney, Australia. The two meet on the boat from London to Sydney, and when Lucinda bets Oscar he cannot transport a glass church up the coast their lives are changed forever.

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker, 1995’s prize winner, is the third in a trilogy following the tale of a group of shell-shocked World War I British officers. This tale focuses on a working-class man who has made officer, Billy Prior, and his relationship to real life psychoanalyst William Rivers, allowing Barker to explore World War I through eyes both fictional and actual.

No Booker Prize overview would be complete without Salman Rushdie, one of the English speaking world’s greatest authors. Longlisted multiple times Rushdie won the prize for Midnight’s Children in 1981, and the Best of the Booker in 2008. Combining magical realism with historical fiction, Midnight’s Children is a postcolonial work examining India’s independence through the biography of a telepathic “midnight child” – a child born at midnight on the eve of India’s independence.

Last year saw author Richard Flanagan win for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The title is taken from one of the most famous works by Japanese poet Basho and is centers around the tale of one of the darkest incidents in Japanese history, the building of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway during World War II. Epic in scope it encompasses a century of Australian history, following wartime love affairs and the post-war lives of Japanese prison guards and Australian Far East Prisoners of War.

Judges and dates for this year’s prize have been set. The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 is chaired by Michael Wood, with judges Ellah Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The longlist will be announced on Wednesday July 29, 2015, with the shortlist following on Tuesday September 15, 2015. The winner will be announced on Tuesday October 13, 2015. I’ll write more here about the nominees when they are announced.

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Reader’s Shelf – The Hugo Award

Awarded every year since 1955, the Hugo Awards represent one of the top awards for science fiction and fantasy. Winners include such big names as Neil Gaiman (American Gods 2002), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2001), Neal Stephenson (The Diamond Age 1996), and William Gibson (Neuromancer 1985). We all know most, if not all, of these winners. But what about the runners-up? Here we’ll take a look at some of the Hugo Award Nominees from years past.

Most know Cory Doctorow for his somewhat controversial stance on copyright and his blog BoingBoing. However, he is also a prolific writer of science fiction. Despite being targeted at young adults, Little Brother garnered a nomination in 2009. It follows the story of a teenage hacker combating the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist attack and the ensuing crackdown.

Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer, previous winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, was nominated in 2008 for his work Rollback. In order to help her translate an alien message, Sarah Halifax and her husband Don are both given a treatment called “rollback” to rejuvenate their octogenarian bodies and give them a new lease on life. Unfortunately, Sarah’s treatment is unsuccessful and the couple are left to negotiate Don’s new 25-year-old body and the complications to their relationship that result.

In 2005, China Miéville received his third Hugo nomination for Iron Council, the third in the trilogy started by 2002 Hugo Award nominee Perdido Street Station and continued in 2003 nominee The Scar. The novels are both set in Miéville’s unique steam-punk-meets-magic world, Perdido in the city of New Crobuzon (a city built around the remains of some ancient, unknown beast), The Scar on the forbidding ocean, and Iron Council on the wider continent. All three mix Miéville’s political views and potent imagination with a compelling story that will keep you turning the page.

Jumping back in time a bit to 1990 we have Grass by Sheri S. Tepper. In a distant future where humans have spread across the galaxy, the planet Grass (so named because that is practically all that grows there) is the only planet immune to a mysterious plague that is destroying humanity.

Last but not least, we’ll visit 1970, the year when Ursula Le Guin won her first Hugo for The Left Hand of Darkness. Also up that year were Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Up the Line by Robert Silverberg (not currently in our inventory – please use our offline search feature, although we do have a selection of his other works). Up the Line features Judson Daniel Elliott III, a Time Courier who takes tourists on trips to the past, while Slaughterhouse Five follows a World War II vet who has become “unstuck in time” from his time in the war to his future in an alien “zoo”.



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