A Scanner Darkly (1977) by Philip K. Dick

“What an undercover narcotics agent fears most is not that he will be shot or beaten up but that he will be slipped a great hit of some psychedelic that will roll an endless horror feature film in his head for the remainder of his life, …” (p.67)

f557780b0201df09d8eedd04357421f2I can’t seem to focus on writing this review because of the tiny bugs crawling all over the keyboard. Each time I brush them off, they return in greater numbers. Jerry says he can’t see them but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, right in front of me, blocking out the screen now. Jesus, they’re all over my hands Jerry, help me get them off. Whaddya mean there’s nothing there? Wait a minute, are you recording this? What?.. No, I know you don’t have a camera but I swear I can hear something that sounds just like a video camera’s lens adjusting its focus. No, I’m not being paranoid. I can feel it zooming in on me right now. I’m what?.. You think I’m talking too much? Talking or thinking? Shit, I need a couple of tabs to calm me down. Do you have any, Jerry? Please man, I’ll spot you a couple back when I get some. When?.. Friday. I promise, man. Yeah, I know what I said last time but…


A Scanner Darkly
won the BSFA Best Novel Award in 1978. It is a story set in a (then) future 1994 which focuses on surveillance, recreational drug use, addiction and withdrawal. The main character is Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent who is sharing a house with a couple of users. The drug of choice is “Substance D” or “Death”. Arctor is searching for a lead to the supplier(s) of the drug. Continue reading

The Separation (2002) by Christopher Priest


In my mind I saw or heard or remembered the deafening sound of the engines, brilliant flashes of light in the dark sky around us, a large bang that was repeated whenever I moved my head, a shock of cold as the windscreen in front of my face was shattered […], voices on the intercom, the huge and terrifying surge of the sea, the cold, the terror.


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This alternate history tale of identical twin brothers won the BSFA Best Novel award in 2002. It is set before, during and after WWII, with most of the narrative focusing on the twins’ experiences during the extensive bombing carried out by both countries. One twin, Jack, is an RAF bomber pilot and the other, Joe, is a conscientious objector who drives an ambulance for the Red Cross. Both twins share the same initials, J.L. Sawyer.
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Pyramids (1989) by Terry Pratchett

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” – Terry Pratchett

 

Art by Josh Kirby

Terry Pratchett’s seventh Discworld novel Pyramids won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1989. I re-read it as part of my BSFA Reading Challenge. It is the first book in the Discworld series that can be read as a standalone story. That is, there aren’t any recurring characters in this book, but it is set in the Discword universe. (If you are new to the Discworld experience then here is a link to the Wikipedia page.)

Pyramids tells the story of Teppic, a young man who is heir to the throne of “Djelibaybi”, a kingdom which is a caricature of ancient Egypt. At the beginning of the story, we join Teppic as a trainee assassin attending the Assassin’s Guild in the city of Ankh-Morpork.

 

“All assassins had a full-length mirror in their rooms, because it would be a terrible insult to anyone to kill them when you were badly dressed.”

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Tik-Tok (1983) by John Sadek

“To my mind, the best SF addresses itself to problems of the here and now, or even to problems which have never been solved and never will be solved – I’m thinking of Philip K. Dick’s work here, dealing with questions of reality, for example.” – John Sladek

 

 

Tik-Tok (1983) by John Sladek won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1983, beating Gene Wolfe’s ‘The Citadel of the Autarch’ as well as Brian Aldiss’s ‘Helliconia Summer’, to name just two of the other four nominees. It is a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.

Sladek opens the story with a nod to the creator of the Three Laws of Robotics, “As I mov(e) my hand to write this statement …”, introducing us to the titular character Tik-Tok, a robot who is a hard-working domestic servant and house painter for a suburban American family. Tik-Tok decides that his “asimov circuits” are just a delusion designed to fool robots into believing that they must not harm any human being. He rebels against this perceived deception by committing a series of increasingly violent acts against his so-called masters. This novel charts his swift rise to the top as he ‘Patrick Batemans’ his way through the upper echelons of society. Continue reading

The Moment of Eclipse (1970) by Brian Aldiss

I can’t help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it’s psychological truth. -Brian Aldiss

 

This is the first Brian Aldiss work that I’ve read. It won the BSFA award in 1971. It’s a collection of fourteen short stories he wrote between 1967 to 1970. It includes ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ which was the inspiration for the movie ‘A.I.

I didn’t know much about Aldiss or his writing, but I’d heard his name before. Coincidentally, just before I began reading this book I saw him in a Phillip K. Dick documentary I watched on youtube. He came across very well and spoke highly of PKD.

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Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest

‘I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.’

I have read about the importance of opening lines in drawing a reader into a novel. Well, this book has one of the most original and intriguing opening lines that I have ever read. It made me so curious to know more about the “I” and his unusual age.

Christopher Priest won the BSFA 1974 Best Novel Award for this work. I first heard about him when the film adaptation of his book ‘The Prestige’ was released in 2006. When I decided to begin my BSFA Best Novel Reading Challenge, I discovered that Priest had won the award 3 times. Considering how good this novel is, I am really looking forward to reading his other two award winners, ‘The Extremes’ (1998) and ‘The Separation’ (2002). Continue reading

The British Science Fiction Association’s Best Novel Reading Challenge

Phew! That’s quite a mouthful.

Having been inspired by a number of bloggers who have undertaken various “Book Award Reading Challenges”, I have decided to attempt my own. Here is the challenge I am setting myself. I am going to read all of the Best Novel winners of the British Science Fiction Association’s Awards. I will need to read 46 books, (so far), to complete this challenge. One of which I am currently reading, 1974’s winner ‘Inverted World’ by Christopher Priest. Five of the books I have read before so will experience for the second time. For each book I complete I will write a *spoiler-free* review and post it on this blog.

And here is Wikipedia’s brief entry on the BSFA Awards:

‘The BSFA Awards are literary awards presented annually since 1970 by the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) to honour works in the genre of science fiction. Nominees and winners are chosen based on a vote of BSFA members. More recently, members of the Eastercon convention have also been elibigle to vote.’                                                                                                     [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSFA_Award] Continue reading