The winners of the Kitschies were announced on Friday night, which basically proved I am horrendously bad at predicting awards. I posted my predictions over at Martin’s blog, and managed a 1 in 3 success rate. The success was the Golden Tentacle category, where having read only God’s War I nonetheless felt confident in predicting it would win, and I knew I was correct even before the judges made a remark about the winner being about organ donation. Score one for me, and a well-deserved winner of a fetching and cuddly trophy.
For the Inky Tentacle I had an obvious front-runner in the form of A Monster Calls, which is full of gorgeous, unsettling illustrations, and even taking the cover alone I didn’t see how the others could compete against that. But I didn’t think the rest of the covers on the shortlist were all that brilliant – no nods for the stylish, slightly retro cover for By Light Alone, or the striking cover of The Kingdom of Gods, and even if you’re more into graphic design and layout than actual artwork, I’d still take the cover of Osama, or maybe the foreboding image from Zone One over most of the nominees. The eventual winner was the cover for Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, which just proves that it is very difficult to second-guess someone’s taste in art when you are clearly miles and miles apart.
I had a strong personal frontrunner for the Inky Tentacle, and a strong suspicion that I would be completely wrong. I thought the Red Tentacle would be much easier to predict, but I was once again totally off. I like A Monster Calls a lot – it is moving and emotional and beautifully illustrated, and the more I think about it the more I realise how beautiful the pacing is, building up to the climax which is not shocking but satisying and sad all the same. It made me cry, a wee bit, and not a lot of books do that. If I were picking the best book of the year, with no other criteria, I might be tempted to choose it.
But the Kitschies do have criteria. They are for the year’s “most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works”, and even without having read the whole shortlist, I have a hard time seeing how A Monster Calls fulfils these better than two of the other novels – Osama and Embassytown. Osama engages with violence and terrorism through the trappings of noir and pulp fiction, while Embassytown is a dissertation of language and linguistics and philosophy wrapped up in a space opera. Both reward careful reading and thinking and have sparked extensive discussion, while A Monster Calls is a book I reacted to on an entirely different, emotional level. Perhaps, as as was suggested while queueing for fish and chips shortly before the award presentation, I am looking at the criteria for awards in the wrong way – having decided all these books were progressive, entertaining, and intelligent enough to be on the shortlist, it remained only to pick the best of the five as the winner. But I’m still a little surprised by the choice.