So the Arthur C Clarke Award once again has a winner, and this year the novel in question is Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, thus confounding me, Dan Hartland, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and David Hebblethwaite, plus the Not The Clarke Award panel at the Eastercon just gone. All of which should not be taken to imply that Zoo City is not a good, interesting winner; it is, evidently enough, not the winner I would have picked, but it's got smarts and speed and other virtues ably delineated in the reviews rounded up by Abigail. And for the judges' take we turn to The Guardian:
According to judge and author Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Zoo City was the "clear winner".
"Zoo City filters brutal social honesty through a stunning imagination to produce a world recognisably ours and obviously different," he said. "The plotting is tight, the characterisation strong and the writing superb."
Chair of judges Paul Billinger agreed, describing the novel as a book that "realises the enormous potential of SF literature, and as a piece of social commentary it is unsurpassed in the field".
So congratulations to Lauren Beukes! That said, and I hope this does not seem dismissive of the specific merits of the novel, in the context of the round-table discussion about awards going on at the Locus Roundtable blog, Zoo City's win seems to me at least as important for what it says about the identity of the Clarke Award as it is for highlighting the book itself. That is, it's good to have the Award reassert its unpredictability, after what might be seen as a run of fairly safe winners; good to see it go to a non-British author for the first time in five years, to an author early in their career for the first time in the best part of a decade, to to an author who lives in the Southern hemisphere for only the second time ever, and to a novel with significant fantasy elements that isn't by China Mieville for the first time in a while; and of course, six months after Tricia Sullivan pointed out that the award hasn't been given to a book written by a woman since 2002, it's good to see that run broken. And I hope this helps to set Beukes up for the Campbell Award. I don't believe that Zoo City is the best we're going to see from her, or that this is the last time she'll be on a Clarke Award shortlist.