2020 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist: Thoughts, Predictions & Reading Project

If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, you probably know I love the Arthur C. Clarke Award. It’s my favorite science fiction award, I read and reviewed all the shortlisted books in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and each time, I had a lot of fun trying to guess the winner. Sadly, because of poor time management and a long reading/blogging slump, I wasn’t able to do it in 2019… However, I missed it so much that I knew I would have to start my little project again this year! ๐Ÿ˜€

The shortlist was revealed back in June (during my finals…) and July was a bit busier than expected so, I’m only posting the introduction post now but, better late than sorry, am I right?

In case you missed it, the shortlist is as follows:

  • The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell
  • Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

My thoughts

Out of the six shortlisted works, I was already planning on reading four of them: A Memory Called Empire, Cage of Souls, The City in the Middle of the Night and The Light Brigade. I sort of knew about The Last Astronaut since I bought it on a whim when it was a Kindle deal a few months back. However, I had never heard of The Old Drift. That’s why I love the Clarke Award, it always allows me to discover books that completely went under my radar when they were released!

While the shortlist surprised me a bit, I am pretty pleased with it. For some reasons, I wasn’t expecting The City in the Middle of the Night to be nominated (but I wasn’t expecting it to be a Hugo finalist as well so…). I didn’t hear a lot about this book from reviewers I follow, and what I did hear was pretty mixed, a lot of people seemed to have issues connecting with the book. Because of that, I didn’t prioritize reading it and Iย  forgot about it even if I really enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky, Anders’ previous book.

I was also surprised to see Cage of Souls on the shortlist, I was expectingย  Children of Ruin, Tchaikovsky’s other 2019 release and the sequel to the Clarke Award winning Children of Time, to be nominated, I had completely forgotten about Cage of Souls (even if I also owned it, what can I say, I have a book-buying problem).

My last surprise was The Last Astronaut, I knew this book existed since I had impulsively bought it but, I didn’t hear anything about it beforehand, it was mostly a cover buy. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a first contact story with a pretty simple synopsis, hence why I was surprised it made the cut, I wasn’t expecting it to be “anything more” than a first contact story. Which is pretty dumb on my part, Children of Time is a first contact story, and it’s one of my favorite books and it won the Clarke Award in 2016. At least, The Last Astronaut won’t end up like 90% of my Kindle deals impulse buys books, I will actually read this one!

My predictions

It’s a bit late for the predictions but here are the books I was expecting/hoping to see on the shortlist:

  • Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man by Dave Hutchinson
  • The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson
  • Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh

I also thought that A Memory Called Empire and The Light Brigade would make the cut so, I wasn’t completely wrong about everything! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Out of the six shortlisted books, I’m expecting to love A Memory Called Empire and The Light Brigade. I also have a feeling I’m going to really enjoy The Old Drift, I don’t know why but, I do!

The project

My goal is to read and review the entire shortlist before the winner announcement in September (I don’t know the exact date for now). I don’t have a lot of reading plans this month so, I will attempt to read and review the entire shortlist in August. I finished reading The City of the Middle of the Night a few days ago (spoiler alert: it was a fascinating and thought-provoking read) and I’m now about halfway through A Memory Called Empire so, that should be doable! I don’t want to read the six books back to back to prevent a science fiction burnout (especially before Sci-Fi Month!) so I am not going to read more than two shortlisted books back to back.

My planned reading order is as follows:

  1. The City in the Middle of the Night
  2. A Memory Called Empire
  3. The Last Astronaut
  4. Cage of Souls
  5. The Old Drift
  6. The Light Brigade

Yes, the order has an inner logic! I am trying to alternate the titles I know almost nothing about with the books I am very excited to read. And, the first book is the book I was the least excited about (now that I’ve read it, I can safely say that I was wrong to be apprehensive about this title, it’s a very good book) while the last book is the one I was the most hyped about (but the 2nd to 5th book aren’t ranked in terms of excitement). I’m not sure any of that makes sense but, in case you were wondering about the underlying logic, there is sort of one.

Anyway, expect to be spammed with a lot of Clarke-related post this month! I’m really excited about the project!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Arthur C. Clarke Award logo


31 thoughts on “2020 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist: Thoughts, Predictions & Reading Project

  1. I’m so glad you’re doing this again! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I haven’t read any of these, I’m sad to say. And I agree with you about Terra Two, its a shame it wasn’t nominated๐Ÿ™

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far, it’s quite good, it gives me heavy Ancillary Justice vibes but it also has some Ninefox Gambit elements. I like it but it’s not blowing my socks off like I was expecting it to. It’s also surprisingly readable, I had heard that it was very dense but, I don’t think it is. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this one!


  2. I’m glad you liked The City in the Middle of the Night! I was also surprised to see it on so many awards’ shortlists, it got very mixed reviews and not a lot of hype last year, at least around people I follow. I’m so glad it got there, though, because I don’t think I would have read it otherwise. I’ve never heard of The Old Drift before either, I’m going to look it up.
    And I hope you like The Light Brigade! It was… intense and not my kind of thing at all, but I still really appreciated what it did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, The City in the Middle of the Night got a lot of mixed reviews last year. I can understand why because it’s a very slow and unusual book with characters that make a lot of questionable decisions. However, it discusses a lot of interesting ideas, the prose is gorgeous and I don’t think I read something quite like it before. It took me about a hundred pages to get into it, but then, it really worked for me!
      Was it your first Hurley work? I like her books but they are very angry and violent so that’s something to be aware off. I had mixed thoughts about The Stars are Legion but I read Meet Me in the Future, one of her short stories collection and I really liked it! I’m excited to read The Light Brigade because I heard a lot of good things about it and I read and loved the short story the book is based on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same, I wasn’t sure about TCITMOTN at the beginning but I fell in love with it as it went on.
        About Hurley’s books: My first was The Stars Are Legion (also my first adult sci-fi, a… memorable introduction to the genre let’s say) and I really liked it. I don’t mind the violence, but I found The Light Brigade more grim and depressing to read because it’s aiming for something that feels more realistically dystopian. I hope it works for you!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Iโ€˜m usually off the winner with my preferences. The winner would nearly make a counterindicator for my favorite.
        But I never targeted the ACC, only Nebula, Locus and Hugo (if at all. In most years I donโ€™t make it anyways)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too, in the years I’ve read the entire Clarke shortlist, I never picked the winner as my favorite (even if all of them were very good books, they weren’t *my* pick). But still, I don’t like to be spoiled haha.
        Maybe one day I will try to read more the Hugo, Nebula and Locust finalists but, it takes a lot of time and effort so I usually only focus on the Clarke (and sometimes the BSFA). I don’t exactly know why but I tend to prefer British awards to American ones. :O

        Liked by 1 person

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