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Philip K. Dick Award

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.

Below you'll find an overview of the winners, with cover/title links to the SF Site reviews (where applicable) along with synopses of those titles yet to be reviewed (cover images are linked to larger images, when available).

Philip K. Dick Award
The Samuel Petrovich Trilogy by Simon Morden

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
reviewed by Greg L. Johnson
Messing with the timeline can drive a man insane. That's one of the lessons Richard Burton and several other characters learn as they are confronted with an apparition who, among his various crimes, asserts that the world they live in was never meant to be. That world is nineteenth century England, a world of coal-engine driven taxis, helicopter lounge chairs, and genetically engineered messenger pigeons that taunt and insult the message's sender and recipient.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
reviewed by Nathan Brazil
Taking inspiration from one of the most enduring mysteries of the Victorian age and weaving it into a tale of time travel and history unmade the novel includes appearances by many celebrities of the day like nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, a very young Oscar Wilde, naturalist Charles Darwin, and the poet Algernon Swinburne. In lead role is the explorer and writer Sir Richard Francis Burton. Part steampunk, part alternate history, with a liberal dollop of detective thriller, it is a melting pot that has the potential to produce something tasty, or a nauseating mess.

Bitter Angels Bitter Angels by C.L. Anderson
reviewed by Michael M Jones
Over three decades ago, Terese Drajeske retired from the Guardians, and from the business of preventing war from threatening Earth and its far-flung colonies. The last thing she ever expected or wanted was to be recalled to active duty, but the brutal murder of her old friend and mentor is something even she can't ignore. Reluctantly, she accepts her assignment: travel to the corrupt and dangerous Erasmus System, a set of worlds where slavery, smuggling, abuse of power and treachery run rampant, and find out if a true threat to humanity's peace exists.

Emissaries From The Dead Emissaries From The Dead by Adam-Troy Castro
reviewed by Michael M Jones
Somewhere in deep interstellar space, the enigmatic faction of machine intelligences known as the AISource have constructed a monumentally huge habitat designated One One One, which they've filled with a bizarre, near-uninhabitable ecosystem and a collection of engineered species. Of chief interest among these species are the Brachiators, a sentient, violent race inhabiting the topmost portion of the habitat, dwelling among the Undergrowth.

Terminal Mind Terminal Mind by David Walton
"Years in the future, the U.S. is a splintered country. The city-state of Philadelphia is ripe for revolution. Mark McGovern, the son of a rich politician, lives in a world of expensive parties and frivolous biological mods, a sharp contrast to the poor underworld of his best friend, Darin Kinsley. When the two accidentally release a sophisticated virus called a 'slicer' into the net, Mark must try to stem the tide of casualties before the charged political situation explodes. But the slicer is more than a virus. To destroy it, Mark must first sort truth from lies, not only for himself, but for the mind of the child who holds his fate."

Nova Swing Nova Swing by M. John Harrison
reviewed by David Soyka
The science fiction of the book is also heavily blended with noir, a detective story of sorts in which the question isn't "whodunit" but rather "who does it to us." Right from the opening page, the name of the bar, Black Cat White Cat, connotes both the on/off state of Schrödinger's cat as well as the cinematic tones of classic noir film. Indeed, the theme here echoes The Maltese Falcon.

Spin Control Spin Control by Chris Moriarty
reviewed by Donna McMahon
Arkady seems to be a lamb sent to slaughter. Nothing in his sheltered, heavily socialized upbringing in a deep space creche with hundreds of identical A-series Rostov Syndicate clones has prepared him for being dumped on a dying Earth as a pawn in a cynical and violent espionage game. He's never been outside Syndicate space before, never mind on the ground in war-ravaged Israel among un-engineered humans.

Spin Control Spin Control by Chris Moriarty
reviewed by Greg L. Johnson
Spin Control is the author's second venture into the universe she first crafted in Spin State. But whereas Spin State was high-tech, hard SF set in space and alien environments, Spin Control, as the title implies, is a claustrophobic, intense look at the politics of a near-future earth, and the growing split between what's left of humanity on Earth and its post-human descendants in space.

War Surf War Surf by M.M Buckner
reviewed by Georges T. Dodds
Nasir Deepra, in his mid-200s—but kept young by nanotechnology and replacement parts—has seen it all. Now a semi-retired hugely wealthy and powerful executive who has survived ecological Armageddon and rebuilt the world economy with a handful of friends, he can and has done pretty much everything that can be done. He is bored silly and out of touch with the greater mass of humanity. Rather than sink into a funk, he and a group of like-bored execs, the Agonists, make an extreme sport of showing up and sauntering through armed conflicts opposing plebes (workers) and commies (giant corporations).

Life Life by Gwyneth Jones
reviewed by David Soyka
Anna Senoz is a genetics research scientist whose preliminary findings have controversial and surprising socio-biological implications for the evolution of the species and concepts of gender. Limited resources with which to further prove her theory, as well as a glass ceiling in which senior male researchers have the unquestioning power to maintain the comfortable status quo, impair not only her research, but her career.

Altered Carbon Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
reviewed by Victoria Strauss
Takeshi Kovacs is a former Envoy. Envoys' specialized training and neurochemical enhancements, designed to make them perfect long-distance warriors and flawless investigators, also place them just this side of psychopathic. Many Envoys, when discharged from the Corps, turn to crime, and Kovacs is no exception. Kovacs wakes from imprisonment to find himself in Bay City, Earth. He's been retrieved and hired by industrialist Laurens Bancroft, whose fabulous wealth allows him to maintain a clone facility that renders him and his family effectively immortal. Kovacs' assignment: to investigate Bancroft's death in a previous body, which the police have ruled a suicide.

The Mount The Mount by Carol Emshwiller
reviewed by Donna McMahon
Charley is a "mount" -- a teenage human bred and trained to carry an alien rider on his back. There is nothing that Charley wants more than to win glory for his stable by becoming the fastest runner in the world, and the best mount for his master, a young "Hoot" who is destined to be The Ruler Of Us All. These cherished dreams are crushed when a raid by wild humans forces Charley and his master to flee into the mountains.

Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories / The Mount Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories and The Mount by Carol Emshwiller
reviewed by Rich Horton
Report to the Men's Club and Other Stories includes 19 pieces, seven of them new to this book. The reprints include seven from her recent in-genre outburst, with the other stories dating as far back as 1977. Throughout the author's lovely wry voice is evident, as are her quirky imagination, her warm regard for her characters: women, men, and other creatures, and her passionate interest in the relationship between the sexes.

Ship of Fools Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo
reviewed by David Soyka
One difference between literary SF and the type of simplistic SF entertainment embraced by the major media is the depiction of the alien. While the latter revels in its ability to show the alien, the more artistic purveyors of the form know that the true alien is subversively elusive, beyond our full comprehension even as we are sucked into the whirlpool. This novel is a case in point.

Only Forward Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
"Stark is a troubleshooter. He lives in The City -- a massive conglomeration of self-governing Neighbourhoods, each with their own peculiarity. Stark lives in Colour, where computers co-ordinate the tone of the street lights to match the clothes that people wear. Close by is Sound where noise is strictly forbidden, and Ffnaph where people spend their whole lives leaping on trampolines and trying to touch the sky. At the heart of them all is the Centre -- a back-stabbing community of 'Actioneers' intent only on achieving. Fell Alkland, Actioneer extraordinaire has been kidnapped. It is up to Stark to find him. But in doing so he is forced to confront the terrible secrets of his past."

Vacuum Diagrams Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter
reviewed by Greg L. Johnson
This collection is the work of an audacious and wide-ranging imagination, resulting in vast cosmological speculation spanning the entire 20 billion year history of our universe. Only at the end does the pace slow down enough for us to get to know the characters as people, bringing cosmological wonders down to a human scale, and allowing an emotional connection with events far removed from our own time and place.

253: The Print Remix 253: The Print Remix by Geoff Ryman
If you've been hanging out on the Web for any period of time, you know about Geoff Ryman's latest work: 253. It appeared on the Internet in installments, the tale of a seven-and-a-half-minute ride on a doomed London tube train, told in 253 separate chapters from the points of view of its 252 passengers and one driver. Each chapter is precisely 253 words. Now, in 253: The Print Remix, we find this vibrant on-line experiment in print for the first time, with footnotes, maps, and an index.

The Troika The Troika by Stepan Chapman
reviewed by Lisa DuMond
The author plays with words like trick cards. He surrounds each character with infinite layers of disguise and dares you to "find the lady." Getting too close to the truth? He simply sheds another onion skin and allows the story to twist away.

The Time Ships The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
reviewed by David Maddox
It all began over one hundred years ago with a simple inventor and his fantastic creation, a machine constructed of brass rods and tubing, chronometric dials and a riding saddle. But this strange contraption had the ability to take its passenger backwards and forwards through the fourth dimension, time itself! Such was the premise of H.G. Wells' science-fiction classic The Time Machine originally published in 1895. But what happened to the Time Traveler at the end of the tale?

Headcrash Headcrash by Bruce Bethke
"Jack Burroughs, a Junior Engineer for Monolithic Diversified Enterprises, finds himself caught in a tangled cyberweb of corporate double-dealing and virtual espionage. When he's forced to put his life on-line, it becomes apparent that his grip on (virtual) reality is by no means secure."

Mysterium Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson
The folks of Two Rivers, Michigan wake up one morning to find that the town and its top-secret government research facility have been transposted into a parallel world. They are find themselves saddled with a theocracy run by a sect of Gnostic Christianity. The town is pillaged by govenment officials for information including how to construct an atomic bomb. History teacher Dex Graham, physicist Howard Poole and researcher Linneth Stone begin to figure out how the town came to this strange universe and start organizing the resistance to the forces allied against them.

Elvissey Elvissey by Jack Womack
"It is the story of a troubled couple who voyage across time on a desperate mission -- to kidnap the young Elvis Presley and make him a demi-god in a decadent urban future."

Growing Up Weightless Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford
Matt Ronay and his hacker buddies spend their time on their lunar colony by playing VR games, making fun of Terran tourists, and dreaming about a future on starships. Speaking in a Russian/English/Japanese argot, they are their generation's self-absorbed teens. Matt's father, Albin, is a lunar bureaucrat who negotiates water rights and loves his son. But Matt hardly notices and soon finds a job that takes him away from home.

Through the Heart Through the Heart by Richard Grant
A vast ark is moving across the wasteland. It provides shelter for those needing sanctuary and dispenses treatment for a plague that has destroyed the civilization. Into its confines comes Kern, a lad traded by his family for a new wagon engine. His life there begins as a galley slave. Throughout the ark's meanderings across the land, Kern befriends its assorted denizens all the while questioning why and how his people have come to such a desolate existence. Little by little, answers come but they aren't those that he imagined.

King of Morning, Queen of Day King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald
King of Morning, Queen of Day was also a short story in Empire Dreams. In fact, it is a trilogy of linked novellas and a short interlude (the stort story forms the basis of the first novella). The link is a young Irish girl who appears throughout. The stories are set in different times and the prose is modelled on other writers of the respective periods. The first part uses early SF along with William Butler Yeats done in diary form. The second part is a mixture of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. The interlude is inspired by Molly's monologue in James Joyce's Ulysses and the third part is based on present-day media. The novel won the 1992 Philip K. Dick Award for best original SF paperback.

Points of Departure Points of Departure by Pat Murphy
It collects the following stories:
Dead Men on TV
Women in the Trees
Don't Look Back
Orange Blossom Time
In the Islands
Touch of the Bear
On a Hot Summer Night in a Place Far Away
Sweetly the Waves Call to Me
His Vegetable Wife
Good-bye, Cynthia
Clay Devils
A Falling Star Is a Rock From Outer Space
With Four Lean Hounds
On the Dark Side of the Station Where the Train Never Stops
In the Abode of the Snows
Rachel in Love
Recycling Strategies for the Inner City

Subterranean Gallery Subterranean Gallery by Richard Paul Russo
"Set in a San Francisco of the future, Rheinhart is a sculptor who did the best he could until they drafted his best friend to fight in South Africa and his artists' colony turned into a home for deadbeats."

Four Hundred Billion Stars Four Hundred Billion Stars by Paul J. McAuley
The novel follows Dorothy Yoshida, a telepath and an astronomer. She is sent to investigate the mystery of a small planet orbiting a red dwarf star. It appears to have been terraformed, yet its only advanced life-forms are creatures called herders. They seem to possess primitive intelligence, while the slug-like herbivores they shepherd have only a rudimentary nervous system. It seems unlikely that these life-forms might really be connected with The Enemy which fights a savage war with mankind in deep space? When Dorothy lands, her mind immediately detects a dazzling intellect, the intensity of which she had never before felt.

Wetware Wetware by Rudy Rucker
"In 2030, bopper robots in their lunar refuge have founds a way to infuse DNA wetware with their own software code. The result is a new lifeform -- the "meatbop." Turnabout is fair play. After all, humans built the boppers, now bops are building near-humans. It's all part of an insidious plot that is about to ensnare Della Taze -- who doesn't think she killed her lover while in drug-induced ecstasy. But she isn't sure. And it's certainly catastrophic enough to call Cobb Anderson -- the pheezer who started it all -- out of cold-storage heaven."

Strange Toys Strange Toys by Patricia Geary
"The story follows Pet throughout her life, starting at age nine and then jumping to thirty -- as she struggles to counteract the supernatural troubles of her older sister. How can you be sure what is real and unreal -- power, love, everyday trivia, or even the monsters you glimpse from the corner of your eye? And does it really matter after all?"

Homunculus Homunculus by James P. Blaylock
"In 1870s London, a city of contradictions and improbabilities, a dead man pilots an airship and living men are willing to risk everything to steal a carp. Here, a night of bangers and ale at the local pub can result in an eternity at the Blood Pudding with the rest of the reanimated dead."

Dinner at Deviant's Palace Dinner at Deviant's Palace by Tim Powers
"Gregorio Rivas is retired from the Redemptionist trade. At thirty-one, he's no longer willing to risk his life rescuing new recruits from the savage religion of the Messiah Norton Jaybush, no longer eager to track the caravans of the faithful through the mutated wildernesses of Los Angeles. Once he was the best Redemptionist for hire -- once he even tracked a victim right up to the walls of the Messiah's perilous Holy City in Irvine -- but that's all over now. Or it was, until he's approached to perform one last Redemption."

Neuromancer Neuromancer by William Gibson
Rampant poverty and excessive affluence, unparalleled leisure and sophisticated crime -- it is a world that Case, a burnt-out, nerve-damaged computer geek, inhabits. Once he was at the top of his game, able to plug into the world of cyberspace where programs take on a visible form and can invade any system, no matter how well-protected. Now, unable to work, Case is living in Japan, on the slide to self-destruction. He is picked up by Molly, a street samurai and combat artist and her mysterious employer, Armitage. They give him a comeback chance but maybe even he can't cut it despite his restored abilities.

The Anubis Gates The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
We are introduced to a motley crew of characters including an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, a body-witching werewolf who kills his victims to keep his identity a secret, a girl disguised as a boy who hunts her lover's killer, a brainwashed Lord Byron who has been programmed to kill King George, a sinister modern-day millionaire who travels back to early 1800s England, and Professor Brendan Doyle, an innocent, who agrees to give a lecture on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They set the stage for a cabal of black magicians who plot a ritual through the ages to open the gates into the next world. Plans are disrupted in the early 1800s by a series of strange events. Meanwhile, back in our day, our millionaire is creating a way to move through time and a literary expert is whisked back to the 1800s. Now, things get really complicated...

Software Software by Rudy Rucker
"Life was quiet for the septuagenarian hippies who lived in the Gray Area. But one of them, Cobb Anderson, had more exciting memories than most. Years before, he had built the first robots with free will, and these had evolved into boppers -- giant artificial intelligences who ran the moon."

Copyright © 2005 by Rodger Turner

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