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2015 Philip K. Dick Award Winners Announced

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife-small Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett-small

I’ve always liked the Philip K. Dick Award. Unlike the Hugos and the Nebulas, which frequently go to blockbuster hardcovers with big advertising budgets, the Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published as a paperback original in the United States. It’s named after Philip K. Dick, who published virtually every one of his most important and groundbreaking SF novels as a midlist paperback.

The 2015 Philip K. Dick Award winner is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (Sybaritic). Special citation was given to Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct). The awards were announced on Friday, April 3, at Norwescon 38, in SeaTac, Washington.

I’m not familiar with either book, but a little digging shows me I should have been. Both have been widely praised.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife tells the tale of a street smart survivor in a post-plague apocalypse who starts dressing as a man to avoid the roving bands of men that are capturing women. Bitter Empire calls it a “dark and intimate post-apocalyptic story.” Here’s the book description:

The apocalypse will be asymmetrical. In the aftermath of a plague that has decimated the world population, the unnamed midwife confronts a new reality in which there may be no place for her. Indeed, there may be no place for any woman except at the end of a chain. A radical rearrangement is underway. With one woman left for every ten men, the landscape that the midwife travels is fraught with danger. She must reach safety — but is it safer to go it alone or take a chance on humanity? The friends she makes along the way will force her to choose what’s more important. Civilization stirs from the ruins, taking new and experimental forms. The midwife must help a new world come into being, but birth is always dangerous… and what comes of it is beyond anyone’s control.

James Patrick Kelly calls Elysium “An audacious first novel that pushes against the limits of the form… you will puzzle about the story behind the stories as you read this novel, only to discover a profound and moving answer at its conclusion.” And Jeffery Ford calls it:

A knockout… I’m amazed this is a first novel… It’s a science fiction, post-apocalyptic, tale, a love story, but not your dumb old man’s love story. A love story for a new age. The structure of the novel was the most startling thing to me — a complex construction that never comes across as complicated. The effect is like a magic trick. Great characters that make the adventure worth the journey. I hope reviewers don’t miss this one.’

Here’s the book blurb:

A computer program etched into the atmosphere has a story to tell, the story of two people, of a city lost to chaos, of survival and love. The program’s data, however, has been corrupted. As the novel’s characters struggle to survive apocalypse, they are sustained and challenged by the demands of love in a shattered world both haunted and dangerous.

The Dick is a juried award; the judges this year were Eric James Fullilove, James Glass, David Higgins, Lisa Mason, and Jack Skillingstead. It is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, and the Philip K. Dick Trust. The award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.

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