Via SF Signal, the finalists for the 2013 Kitschies have been announced. The UK-based awards categories include the Golden Tentacle for best debut, the Red Tentacle for best novel, and the Inky Tentacle for best cover art, with the addition of some special mentions. The awards offer a fantastic and unique perspective on books, carving out a highly-curated sensibility of intelligent speculative fiction: “The Kitschies, presented by The Kraken Rum, reward the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic. The prize is now entering its fifth year. This year’s finalists are selected from a record 234 submissions, from over fifty publishers and imprints.”
Below, I’ll link to the US audiobook editions if they exist and offer a bit of commentary:
The Red Tentacle (Novel), selected by Kate Griffin, Nick Harkaway, Will Hill, Anab Jain and Annabel Wright:
- Red Doc> by Anne Carson (Jonathan Cape) — I don’t recall having even heard of this book, a novel in verse, but it was indeed apparently published in the US in print by Knopf; an inventively/experimentally structured book in parts broken verse, in parts strange dialogue, in parts fragment and then parts striking imagery. If I had to pick anything remotely like it, not having read it in full yet obviously, I might go with Marly Youmans’ Thaliad or Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Fifty Year Sword. Here, from the author: “Some years ago I wrote a book about a boy named Geryon who was red and had wings and fell in love with Herakles. Recently I began to wonder what happened to them in later life. Red Doc> continues their adventures in a very different style and with changed names. To live past the end of your myth is a perilous thing.” The book she mentions is Autobiography of Red, another novel in verse, published in 1999 and both a NY Times Notable Book and a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate) — Published in print/ebook in the US by Viking Adult, and available in audio as well, narrated for Penguin Audio by the author. Of this one I have heard only a little, but the more I read about it now the more I am intrigued: “‘A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.’ In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.”
- Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Jonathan Cape) — Published in print/ebook in the US by Penguin and available in audio read by Jeannie Berlin for Penguin Audio, Pynchon’s latest novel is a NY Times notable book of 2013. “With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.”
- More Than This by Patrick Ness (Walker) — published in print/ebook in the US by Candlewick Press and available in audio from Candlewick on Brilliance Audio. This is a YA title about which I haven’t heard much; a previous Ness book, A Monster Calls, was a powerful and moving story of a mother’s illness.
- The Machine by James Smythe (HarperCollins / Blue Door) — while his ongoing trilogy (The Explorer and The Echo) are published in the US by Harper Voyager, none of Smythe’s work is yet available in audio, and there’s no US publisher yet for The Machine. I’m hearing more and more and better and better things about Smythe, but almost entirely from my UK-based friends. Here: “Haunting memories defined him. The machine took them away. She vowed to rebuild him. From the author of The Testimony comes a Frankenstein for the twenty-first century.”
The Golden Tentacle (Debut), selected by the above panel:
- Stray by Monica Hesse (Hot Key) — I’ve never heard of this one, but wow, it looks pretty interesting: “Lona Sixteen Always is not herself – quite literally. She lives her life virtually through the experiences of Julian, a boy who was chosen as a role model for the Pathers of Quadrant 1 – troubled children who have been ‘rescued’ by the government and put ‘on-Path’. But one day Lona finds she can think for herself. And on top of that, the face of a familiar boy appears on her screen – Fenn, who she thought had moved on to a different stage of the Path last year. But he didn’t. Fenn and other rebels like him have strayed from the Path, and now Lona must stray too. But life off-Path is strange and difficult, and Lona uncovers a secret that will threaten all their lives. Can there really be life after the Path”
- A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock (47 North) — Published in print/ebook in the US by Amazon.com’s 47North, A Calculated Life is also available in audio, narrated by Susan Duerden for Amazon.com’s Brilliance Audio. I’ve heard very good things about this one, including that it may soon be Whispersync for Voice enabled. I mentioned this book two weeks ago when it was named as one of the nominees for the Philip K. Dick Award, and the more I hear about it, the more it looks to be one of the 2013 titles that I go back and pick up. “Nominated for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award Late in the twenty-first century, big business is booming and state institutions are thriving thanks to advances in genetic engineering, which have produced a compliant population free of addictions. Violent crime is a rarity. Hyper-intelligent Jayna is a star performer at top predictive agency Mayhew McCline, where she forecasts economic and social trends. A brilliant mathematical modeler, she far outshines her co-workers, often correcting their work on the quiet. Her latest coup: finding a link between northeasterly winds and violent crime.”
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit) — Speaking of those Philip K. Dick Awards, Leckie’s breakthrough sf debut made that list as well as the just-announced BSFA Awards shortlist — more on those later if I get a chance. Published in print/ebook in the US by Orbit, it’s available in audio from Recorded Books, narrated by Celeste Ciulla. I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook and look forward to the second book in the series, tentatively set for later this year. “On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.”
- Nexus by Ramez Naam (Angry Robot) — Out in print/ebook in the US, it’s also recently in audio, read by Luke Daniels for Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio. “In the near future, the experimental nanodrug Nexus can link humans together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it. When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage—for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.”
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan — published in print/ebook in the US in 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and in audio performed wonderfully by Ari Fliakos for Macmillan Audio, this one’s a reminder that The Kitschies look at first UK publication, US publication be damned. It’s also an absolutely fantastic book and audiobook, filled with dataviz, mechanical turks, bookstores, secret societies, cryptography, typography, Google, and San Francisco, and! an audiobook-within-the-audiobook, read by the author.
The 2013 winners will be announced on 12 February, at a ceremony at London’s Seven Dials Club.