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Stop! Important news!

First: James Morrow (review of The Last Witchfinder) is going to be in the UK at the end of April, and will be interviewed at a special BSFA meeting on Wednesday 19th. This will not be at the Star Tavern, but instead in the Hogshead on Dering Street: turn up from six, interview starts at seven. There's a map here; nearest tube is either Bond Street or Oxford Circus.

Note this is an additional meeting. It does not replace the normal monthly meeting, which is Ian R. Macleod interviewed by me, in the Star, the following Tuesday. As always, members and non-members are equally welcome to either or both event. Tell your friends! Bring your friends!

Second: all the nominees for the BSFA Short Fiction Award are now online. BSFA members need to cast their ballots by April 11th; Concussion members have until 6pm on April 15th; the rest of you just might want to check out what BSFA members think are the best stories of the year. They are:
You may now go about your business.

(Remember the days when there was actual content here, rather than just links to other stuff? Yeah, me too.)
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In case anyone going to Eastercon this weekend didn't know, most of the stories nominated for the short fiction award are available online. So, no excuse for not casting an informed vote, then.
'Point of No Return' by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
'Delhi' by Vandana Singh
'The Wolfman of Alcatraz' by Howard Waldrop
'The Faery Handbag' by Kelly Link is available in The Faery Reel; and the fifth story, Stephen Baxter's 'Mayflower II', is not online, but I've written about it here (and if you ask nicely I can lend you my copy. Actually, for some of you if you don't ask nicely I might forcibly lend you my copy).
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The Separation is the latest novel by Christopher Priest. It's been sitting on my to-be-read pile for a while; inspired by its BSFA award win, yesterday I finally got around to reading it.

The Separation is an alternate history, but an atypical one. Most counterfactuals posit a point of change in world history, then show us the world that results from that change and explore how it differs to our own. Priest's novel, like many before it, explores an alternate outcome from World War II - but focuses almost exclusively on the moment of change, asking how it could arise and what effect it might have on the people involved.

In this case, the people are twin brothers: Jack and Joe Sawyer (this is a book strongly about dualism and reflection, mirrors and doubles). They row together in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, then are separated by the war. Jack becomes a pilot in the RAF, Joe a member of the Red Cross.

Priest's prose is clean and uncomplicated. which is just as well; there's enough complexity in the structure and thematics of the book as it is. This is a dense novel. It is perfectly balanced throughout, however; the level of detail is astonishing, yet you somehow never lose sight of the big picture. And whilst Jack and Joe both have a significant impact on the course of history, you are always reminded that on another level they are small men, caught up in large events. Only Kim Stanley Robinson has previously portrayed this contradiction in the nature of history with such subtlety.

It becomes hard to write much more about The Separation without spoiling it. The joy of the novel is in putting the clues together, and solving the mystery surrounding the Sawyer brothers. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best novels of the year, and it fully deserves its award-winning status.

(The other notable thing about The Separation is that it's on this year's Arthur C Clarke award shortlist. I don't think it will win, despite the BSFA result - and I don't think it should win, either, despite what I said above. It's an unfair comparison - were it not for the fact that they share a shortlist, the two novels would have nothing in common - but when it comes down to it, I find that whilst The Separation impresses, Light dazzles.)

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