Sunday, May 04, 2008

Black Man Wins Arthur C. Clarke Award!

Oh, wait... Don't get the wrong idea. I don't mean a black man, as in a black author or anything. I just mean the novel Black Man, by Richard Morgan (who is not a black man), which was the novel Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan (not a black man over here either) in the US. It certainly would be cool if a black man (or woman) did win the Clarke Award, but I'm getting off topic...

Here's the Clarke Website Announcement.

Now, I know Richard Morgan isn't everyone's cup of tea, and I know this novel got a mixed reaction in the UK. I can say that I enjoyed it, though, that it was one of my science fiction reading highlights from last year. It's a solid book, sharply written, plenty of action and sex but with a good deal of thought mixed in there too.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say in a Starred Review.

This stellar new stand-alone from Morgan, known for his compelling future noir thrillers (Altered Carbon, etc.), raises tantalizing questions about the nature of humanity. Future governments have used genetic manipulation to create subhumans twisted to fit specialized tasks. Normal people are intrigued as well as repulsed, but they instinctively dread variation thirteen, an aggressive, ruthless throwback to a time before civilization. When a thirteen escapes from exile on Mars and apparently goes on an insane killing spree, Carl Marsalis, a soul-weary freelance thirteen hit man, is hired to help track him down. Morgan goes beyond the SF cliché of the genetically enhanced superman to examine how personality is shaped by nature and experience. Marsalis is more empathetic than the normal people around him, but they can see him only as an untrustworthy killer. At the same time, surveying corrupt, fractured normal society, the novel questions whether the thirteens are just less successful at hiding their motives. Without slowing down the headlong rush of the action, the complex, looping plot suggests that all people may be less—or more—than they seem.

Sounds good, and it is. I'm pleased that he won. Here's his Website, if you're interested.

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Blogger Corby Kennard said...

Preface to comment - Altered Carbon is on my Top Five Novels of all time. That said --

Isn't this the plot to Blade Runner?

12:55 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


You know, I saw the movie ages ago, but never read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? You've pushed me to do so, since I really should have some Philip K Dick awareness under my belt. Just ordered Electric Sheep and A Scanner Darkly.

Clearly, there are some similarities, and I'm sure that Morgan knows that source material. But I'm not sure that's anything more than the regular overlap. There's a lot going on in this novel, and it's done with enough individual verve that I give the author credit.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Corby Kennard said...

Well, I'm a fan of PKD, and Blade Runner is on my Top Five movies list (I have the BluRay release of all five versions of the film. Awesome. I also have an original poster from the original release.).

I will say that DADOES is really nothing like the film. The main conceit, of a guy tracking down androids, is there, albeit in a very different form.

I know the old adage "There's nothing new under the sun." and try to think of that when writing, as I'm sure most creative people do. And there is nothing wrong with revisiting the well when scavenging for material. I'm sure I would love this book, and will pick it up in paperback.

I just find it interesting how often we see the same plots trotted out over and over again, but many times we don't even know we are seeing something so well-worn. That is a testament to the writer, in this cased, Mr. Morgan.

3:28 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

True enough. We've been singing poems and telling tales and writing novels and staging plays and watching movies so long humans have likely covered just about everything we're capable of, and covered it over and over again in many different guises.

In this case, I won't even argue the specifics of differences between the android idea and genetically enhanced/altered human idea that's at the heart of this. The specifics probably don't matter that much. In either case it's about asking questions about what it means to be human. Those questions can take many guises, but they're all connected at some fundamental level.

I do want to feel an author has made a story his/her own, though, infused it with variations particular to their vision and writing style and juxtaposition of themes. In that regard, Thirteen/Black Man seems plenty fresh to me.

5:41 PM  

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