Jane Rogers’ novel, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, was just named the best science fiction novel of the year by the Clarke Awards. Somehow the book, published by a very small Scottish independent press after being rejected by London publishers, managed to edge out the other nominees, all sci-fi powerhouses including past winner China Miéville, Charles Stross, Greg Bear and Sheri Tepper.
What’s it about? The Guardian provides this brief synopsis:
Taking place in a world in which a deadly virus, Maternal Death Syndrome, affects all pregnant women, putting the future of the human race in jeopardy, The Testament of Jessie Lamb is the story of one 16-year-old who decides she wants to save humanity. She volunteers for a programme in which she will be injected with an immune embryo, but also put into a coma from which she will not recover. Her parents object, and imprison her.
It’s surprising that Children of Men comparisons haven’t come up yet, but it has been likened to inaugural Arthur C. Clarke Award recipient Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, albeit set closer to the present time.
The tale has garnered mixed reviews, though most agree that the premise is quite interesting. However, there have been complaints of believability, rather flat characters, and tedium.
There was also quite a bit of controversy surrounding the awards this year, as Christopher Priest, Vice-President of the international H.G. Wells Society and notable Sci-Fi author, delivered a vitriolic attack on this year’s judges and nominees. Calling for the resignations of the “incompetent” judges, he claimed that every book except the rookie Jessie Lamb, were terrible choices for the award.
Clearly, someone has a case of sour grapes. True to his prediction, and despite director Tom Hunter’s claims that the decision was completely independent of Priest’s opinions voiced online, it was Jessie Lamb that won. Whether it’s worthy of that award is, of course, up to the individual reader.