The Clarke Award is given to the best science fiction novel published in the U.K. in the previous calendar year. Five other books were shortlisted for this year’s award: The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard; Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick; The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter; The Coral Bones by E.J. Swift; and Metronome by Tom Watson. The winner was selected by Andrew M. Butler, Dave Hutchinson, Francis Gene-Rowe, Kate Heffner, Nicholas Whyte, and Georgie Knight.
Butler, the judging chair, described Venomus Lumpsucker as a “biting satire, twisted, dark and radical, but remarkably accessible, endlessly inventive and hilarious.” In the U.S., the novel is published by Soho Press; here’s the synopsis:
The near future. Tens of thousands of species are going extinct every year. And a whole industry has sprung up around their extinctions, to help us preserve the remnants, or perhaps just assuage our guilt. For instance, the biobanks: secure archives of DNA samples, from which lost organisms might someday be resurrected . . . But then, one day, it’s all gone. A mysterious cyber-attack hits every biobank simultaneously, wiping out the last traces of the perished species. Now we’re never getting them back.
Karin Resaint and Mark Halyard are concerned with one species in particular: the venomous lumpsucker, a small, ugly bottom-feeder that happens to be the most intelligent fish on the planet. Resaint is an animal cognition scientist consumed with existential grief over what humans have done to nature. Halyard is an exec from the extinction industry, complicit in the mining operation that destroyed the lumpsucker’s last-known habitat.
Across the dystopian landscapes of the 2030s—a nature reserve full of toxic waste; a floating city on the ocean; the hinterlands of a totalitarian state—Resaint and Halyard hunt for a surviving lumpsucker. And the further they go, the deeper they’re drawn into the mystery of the attack on the biobanks. Who was really behind it? And why would anyone do such a thing?
Venomous Lumpsucker is Beauman’s fifth novel; his second, The Teleportation Accident, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The author receives £2,023 in prize money and a nifty trophy.