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June Books 2) Orbitsville, by Bob Shaw

One of the classic Big Dumb Object novels of the 1970s, which won the BSFA Award for 1975 (other nominees not recorded; also got third place in the 1976 John W Campbell Award, Silverberg's The Stochastic Man coming second and no award made for the top spot; this was the year that The Forever War won Hugo and Nebula). It's rather of its time, which is to say that the evil ruler is all the more evil because she is a woman, and the hero's wife doesn't get to do much more than be his wife (he bravely fends off sexual advances from one of his own crew in a moment of crisis). In fairness, Shaw was good at portraying troubled marriages (always from the male partner's point of view) in his fiction, and this is another case in point. Orbitsville itself is a Dyson sphere, totally enclosing a star at earth-orbit distance, which our hero stumbles upon after fleeing the evil ruler; I felt a bit short-changed in that Shaw concentrates on the human politics of his story and devotes much less time to describing it than Niven does Ringworld or Clarke does Rama, and we end up in the climactic section of the book just doing a long aircraft trip across relatively featureless landscape. Perhaps the sequel has more stuff that I would like in it.


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Jun. 10th, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC)
...other nominees not recorded...

I'm not sure there were any other nominees. The history of the BSFA Award in the 1970s is a bit murky. I don't have access to a full set of the pubs to research it, and I haven't been able to persuade anybody who does have the resources to do the checking. The list of winners is easy enough to find but I've not been able to find any evidence of shortlists prior to 1980, and definitely not before 1973. I have wondered whether the BSFA got the idea of shortlist from seeing the Hugos at the 1979 Worldcon.

It's not even clear what was eligible. I'd assumed novels published in the UK in the previous year, although in 1972 the award seems to have gone to a collection from 1970, and the 1978 award is clearly described in Matrix as being for the best paperback of 1977. Also Clute/Nicholls says that at some point is was for British authors and all the winners pre-1979 are British albeit Michael Coney was Canada-based at the time.

-- Mark
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