David Mitchell Wins 2015 World Fantasy Award

At long last, the 2015 awards season is over! Here are the World Fantasy Award winners.

The World Fantasy Award is the final award of 2014 . They certainly stretch it out long enough! The World Fantasy is probably the most “literary” of the SFF awards, having gone to books like Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, for instance. This year seems no different, as David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is a very literary take on the SFF genre.

Here are the other nominees:
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway; Jo Fletcher)
Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Jeff VanderMeer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
My Real Children, Jo Walton (Tor; Corsair)

The World Fantasy has a habit of going to a book that hasn’t already won an award. That’s the advantage of being the-last-to-move award; you can see what the rest of the field has done and fill in the gaps.

David Mitchell’s hybrid realistic/fantasy/horror novel was highly acclaimed by literary critics last year. While there is some significant fantasy—and even near-future content—in the novel, it’s only briefly touched on in the first 400-500 pages of into the book. Until then, it reads as literary fiction with light surreal/horror touches. This might make it hard for some SFF fans to read, as well as the fact that Mitchell has taken to writing his books as series of linked novellas, changing characters every 75-100 pages (he did this in Cloud Atlas as well).

I thought The Bone Clocks was an exceptional novel, and my second favorite of last year (after The Three-Body Problem). I also really like Slade House, which just came out and is basically Bone Clocks in miniature. If you haven’t read any Mitchell, I’d suggested checking that book out as a low risk sampler.

With the World Fantasy Award finally given, I can update and finalize my Award Meta-List. Then we can put a bow on 2014 (the most controversial in awards history?) and move on to 2015!

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5 responses to “David Mitchell Wins 2015 World Fantasy Award”

  1. MadProfessah says :

    I’m very happy about The Bone Clocks win! It was one of the best reading experiences I had in 2014. I definitely think it is literary SFF (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and enjoyed it immensely. I also have Slade House but haven;t read it yet.

    The fantastical elements come in the first 100 pages of Bone Clocks, not the first 400. They are very LIGHT until deep in the book, it’s true.

    Isn’t it curious how the central idea(s) of Bone Clocks is reminiscent of Claire North’s Harry August and Touch. (I’m talking about travelling through time by switching bodies and the notion that a consciousness is something that exists outside of one specific physical body are themes in all three of these books.)Is there something in the London water?

    Was Mitchell’s work even in the Top 20 for the 2015 Hugo?

    • chaoshorizon says :

      I cleaned up the grammar to make the point about the fantasy elements clearer.

      They only gave us the top 17 for 2015, and Bone Clocks didn’t make that, but 6 of those were Puppy picks. In a normal year, maybe it’d have been 13-15? It’d have been nice to see where Bone Clocks and Station Eleven wound up. Since Chabon won for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, literary SFF has been having a hard time. Look at how far down Annihilation was, at Spot #17, and we know Mitchell and Mandel had to be below that. Needless to say, I’m not going to predict any literary SFF novels to make the 2016 Hugo!

      And since we’re discussing literary SF, let’s enjoy one of the more famous literary SF poems:

      A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1979)

      Craig Raine

      Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
      and some are treasured for their markings –

      they cause the eyes to melt
      or the body to shriek without pain.

      I have never seen one fly, but
      sometimes they perch on the hand.

      Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
      and rests its soft machine on ground:

      then the world is dim and bookish
      like engravings under tissue paper.

      Rain is when the earth is television.
      It has the property of making colours darker.

      Model T is a room with the lock inside –
      a key is turned to free the world

      for movement, so quick there is a film
      to watch for anything missed.

      But time is tied to the wrist
      or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

      In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
      that snores when you pick it up.

      If the ghost cries, they carry it
      to their lips and soothe it to sleep

      with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
      deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

      Only the young are allowed to suffer
      openly. Adults go to a punishment room

      with water but nothing to eat.
      They lock the door and suffer the noises

      alone. No one is exempt
      and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

      At night, when all the colours die,
      they hide in pairs

      and read about themselves –
      in colour, with their eyelids shut.

  2. airboy says :

    I read the Amazon reviews and looked at the page count. The book runs almost 700 pages and the reviews are decidedly mixed. Primary criticism is that the work could have benefited from a tougher editor who cut the length.

    I have not read the book, and am reluctant to do so seeing the Amazon review.

    Do the two of you think these criticisms by others are warranted?

    • chaoshorizon says :

      It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a rousing SF or Fantasy adventure, this is not the book for you and the length will be taxing. If you like the idea of slowly developing characters punctuated by brief intense moments of fantasy, the length is enjoyable.

      Have you read Murakami? I think of Kafka on the Shore or 1Q84 as being similar in feel to The Bone Clocks, although better. If you want to try this kind of literary postmodern SFF, I’d recommend Kafka on the Shore, or, if you’re pushed for time, The Slade House by David Mitchell. It’s shorter, deals with the same themes as The Bone Clocks, and you’ll know whether or not you like this style right away. The Bone Clocks is a big risk if you don’t know you like this kind of novel.

  3. airboy says :

    Appreciate the insight,
    Airboy

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