The Orwell Prizes 2024 Finalists

The Orwell Prize shortlists were announced May 25. Four prizes are awarded each year for writing and reporting that meets the spirit of George Orwell’s own ambition “to make political writing into an art” — for Political Fiction, Political Writing, Journalism, and one for “Exposing Britain’s Social Evils”.

All four shortlists are at the link. One of the Political Fiction finalists is of genre interest:

  • Orbital by Samantha Harvey. The marketing copy says this is:  

A slender novel of epic power, Orbital deftly snapshots one day in the lives of six women and men traveling through space. Selected for one of the last space station missions of its kind before the program is dismantled, these astronauts and cosmonauts—from America, Russia, Italy, Britain, and Japan—have left their lives behind to travel at a speed of over seventeen thousand miles an hour as the earth reels below. We glimpse moments of their earthly lives through brief communications with family, their photos and talismans; we watch them whip up dehydrated meals, float in gravity-free sleep, and exercise in regimented routines to prevent atrophying muscles; we witness them form bonds that will stand between them and utter solitude. Most of all, we are with them as they behold and record their silent blue planet. Their experiences of sixteen sunrises and sunsets and the bright, blinking constellations of the galaxy are at once breathtakingly awesome and surprisingly intimate. 

Another of the Political Fiction finalists, James, is notable for telling Huckleberry Finn from Jim’s perspective.

The magisterial craft of James lies in its combination of biting humour and a page-turning plot, with ruminations on sovereignty and Voltaire along the way. Everett stays close, if not true, to the dangerous journeys of Huckleberry Finn, and draws on titans of post-Reconstruction African American writing to bring Jim to the foreground of the story. As we keep pace with our charismatic narrator, Twain’s tale of friendship on the run is converted into a larger history of collective freedom won through close encounters with the great American outdoors and its jealous, violent gatekeepers.

The winners will be announced on June 27.

[Via Locus Online.]

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