Reviews of BSFA Nominees

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British SF Assocation Nominees 2002

NOVEL

Chasm City, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
American Gods, Neil Gaiman (Headline Feature)
Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz)
Lust, Geoff Ryman (Flamingo)
Pashazade: The First Arabesk, Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Earthlight)
Barely sf, and certainly barely alternate history, this book is a decent, well-paced whodunnit set in an exotic milieu that doesn't exist, but there the sfnal aspects pretty much stop. The story concerns a character variously referred to as Raf, Ashraf Bey, and ZeeZee, who arrives in an alternate Alexandria Egypt where the Germans won WWI and the Ottoman Empire never collapsed, such that the middle east has a little more clout in the world, but basically nothing else has changed. Grimwood throws in tons of pop culture references that all jibe with our reality, the primary reason for bothering to change the history at all seems to be mere wish fulfillment on the author's part, but it also sets up an arranged marriage and a web of intrigue in a society that is still very male-dominated that maybe he couldn't have done quite the same way in another culture that really exists. Raf's aunt ends up murdered, a hard-boiled detective is called in from the U.S. to sort things out, things don't go so well for him either, and it's up to Raf to prove that he himself is not the murderer and then that his aunt didn't commit suicide. The first half of the book seems padded with a number of flashbacks to Raf's formative years that don't seem to offer anything to the plot in the present, and as a result it takes a while to get in the groove of the narrative, but the murder investigation story takes on its own momentum in the second part. Grimwood paints a vivid backdrop of this society without obsessing over it, the characters are largely well-defined and there's lots of humor and gratuitous slow-motion violence. In the end it's basically a detective story with some sf trappings, and Raf lives to fight another day in two more books, but Grimwood has given me enough of a peek into this universe to make me marginally interested in wanting to read more.
The Secret of Life, Paul McAuley (HarperCollins Voyager)

SHORT STORY

"The Children of Winter", Eric Brown (Interzone #163 Jan 2001)
"First to the Moon!", Stephen Baxter & Simon Bradshaw (Spectrum SF #6 Jul 2001)
"Isabel of the Fall", Ian R. MacLeod (Interzone #169 Jul 2001)
"Myxomatosis", Simon Ings (Interzone #165 Mar 2001)
"Under the Saffron Tree", Cherith Baldry (Interzone #166 Apr 2001)
"Wind Angels", Leigh Kennedy (Interzone #171 Sep 2001)