Book of Honor Nomination

The Book of Honor is The City and the City by China Mieville.

Book of Honor Nominees

The nominated books are:

  • Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (sometimes translated as The Begum’s Treasure) by Jules Verne
  • The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
  • Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
  • War With the Newts by Karel Čapek
  • Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein
  • UBIK by Philip K. Dick
  • The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
  • Star Guard by Andre Norton
  • The City and the City by China Mieville
  • Yukikaze by Chōhei Kambayashi
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

Vote for the book of honor on the Book of Honor Voting page.

To discuss a book, comment on this page. It’s free form.

The Book of Honor should be readily available, in print, or easily found used, or in the public domain. If you know a good way to obtain a nominated work, please post a comment with the details.

I would like to encourage you to read a nominated work, or re-read it if you haven’t read it recently. Post a comment with your impressions! Why would it make a good Potlatch Book of Honor? Or why not?

28 thoughts on “Book of Honor Nomination


    Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (sometimes translated as The Begum’s Treasure) by Jules Verne.
    It has dueling utopias/dystopias and other interesting things and I’ve always longed to have someone else to talk to about it.


        There are plenty of new and used copies of the book available on Amazon and ABE books websites.


      There are plenty of worthy books that deserve to be BOH. So why War with the Newts? First, I wanted a book not from the English-tradition of SF. Not because I have anything against English, mind you, but I want Potlatch to diversify itself. Also, this book is readily available in English-language translation on Amazon and ABE Books at affordable prices (mostly for less than $10.00).

      In terms of the substance of the book, it was written by the guy who also wrote the play R.U.R., which gave us the term, “robot.” This book reveals that he can tell a good tale in novel form. For those who have already read the book, you know how much this book is so much a product of its times and–I would argue–still relevant today.

      For those who have not read it (and I will try my best not to give any spoilers), the novel is a wonderful tale whose literary inspirations go back to Jonathan Swift and Voltaire. It was written in 1936 with the world on the verge of repeating WWI, but on a much larger and deadlier scale. Written in a country that was next door to the Third Reich and would soon be swallowed up by it, one can imagine what worries were going through most Czechs’ minds. In a very engaging manner Capek’s novel deals with these worries. And it does so very well.

      Well that’s it. Don’t think I can say any more without spoiling anything. For those cleverer than me who can write more in support for this novel without being a spoiler, please contribute!

  2. Gerald Nordley

    Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (The 500 Millions of the Begum) is also translated as The Begum’s Fortune.. This is one of the more prescient works of a very prescient author. It fits right in with the “steampunk” fad, but it is still one of my favorites.

    However, I was just reviewing a website devoted to an amazing number of technologies previewed in Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein, another extraordinarily prescient author, with closer cultural ties to us. It was first written before WWII, and, though updated late, is astronautically dated. But it was a book of enormous influence. It introduced Lazarus Long and Heinlein’s exploration of what it means to be a human being in the context of the universe. In its way, It was as much a challenge to the human culture of his day to grow up as Verne’s book.


    I’d like to nominate Philip K. Dick’s novel, UBIK. Like much of Dick’s work, it is mind-bending stuff and I believe that as such, there is no one right interpretation or even three or four right interpretations of his work, making for good discussion and thus a good Book of Honor.


    I would like to suggest a different type of book for your consideration. That is
    Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod
    It is a relatively recent book combining SF, crime, religion, robots and other elements. Much of the book is set in Edinburgh. I read this book several years ago. It was one of those books that is hard to put down and then months later the ideas keep popping in ones thoughts. To me one of the values of this book is the exploration of ideas and their consequences. If you want to listen to Ken discussing the book here is a link


      I second this nomination of “The Night Sessions.” Excellent book. Perhaps MacLeod’s best. Certainly my favorite of his stand-alone novels.


    I’d like to nominate “Surface Detail” by the recently departed Iain M. Banks.
    It is the next-to-last of his Culture novels, and easily one of the best. It’s space opera at its finest, featuring fantastically compelling (and polydimensional) characters, intergalactic political intrigues, philosophical dissections of religious systems, mind-contorting technological extrapolations, delightfully alien aliens, plenty of grim darkness and playful humor, and a damn good story to hold it all together. As he does in all of his Culture novels, Banks depicts, in “Surface Detail,” an (almost uniquely) optimistic version of utopian civilization–one in which humans, other biological sentients, and post-biological AIs coexist harmoniously (most of the time)–and how that civilization interacts with its less enlightened contemporaries.
    Of all of the books I have ever read, in any genre, this is the one to which my wandering mind most frequently returns.


      I’d second this – while also offering as another nomination The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks’s first published novel.

      Potlatch 23 will be held within a week of the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Wasp Factory. Of course it’s a novel that addresses power, ritual, gender and – let’s not forget – a well-adjusted attitude towards wasps; but through that and its dark and rather grisly humour, I think it also set the scene for all his subsequent work (with and without the M).


        The Wasp Factory is one of my favorite novels, and I agree that it would be an excellent BOH choice, for all of the reasons that Claire mentioned… and also because it is quite a bit shorter than Surface Detail and most of Banks’ others.
        However, it is one of his (nominally) mainstream novels, which might (or might not) be disappointing to some of the Potlatch community. It could be argued that it’s Horror, but it would be hard to make a case for it being Science Fiction or Fantasy.
        Also, more importantly, although The Wasp Factory would, no doubt, inspire all sorts of fascinating discussion, it would fail to introduce readers to Banks’ refreshingly optimistic utopian “Culture,” which (in my admittedly limited reading experience) provides a unique and much-needed response to the dark dystopias so pervasive in today’s futuristic Science Fiction, and which I would love to hear discussed and dissected by the Potlatch Illuminati.

        1. Tom Becker Post author

          Is there any chance you could make it to Loncon 3? We should have some Banks book discussions there. The first Culture novel I read was Player of Games and that was a great introduction, as far as I was concerned. I’d also like to discuss The Wasp Factory and especially The Bridge which is an amazing book and the one that Banks described as his favorite.

      1. Tom Becker Post author

        I remember reading Star Guard when I was in Junior High School and liking it. Sadly, upon re-reading I was visited by the suck fairy. No female characters. None at all. Pretty astounding for a book by a woman author.

    1. Chris Duval

      I nominated this book, not because it is among my all time favorites, but because it is very worth reading, deserving of more attention, an odd combination of sub-genres and (arguably) just flawed enough to get some stimulating discussions going. The novel is translated from Japanese. Here’s what I wrote about it on July 29 after reading it:
      “Don’t read this if you’re looking for character introspection or dialog. The theme is of the contrast between un-degraded humans (‘analog,’ verbose, emotionally expressive, with a primary loyalty bond to another human) and humans degraded by contact with machines (‘digital,’ laconic, stoic, with a primary loyalty bond to a sentient fighter jet). Essentially, a retelling of the Tin Man’s tale [as traditionally midrashed]: the industrial worker’s occupation renders him into a mechanical man, heartless. The main character’s adherence to author-articulated safety and start-up protocols both supports the portrayal of his lesser existential state, and is one of the two supports for the tale’s aspirations to be hard SF. The other support for belonging to this sub-genre is its use of statistics about the plane’s propulsion, gunnery, dimensions and so forth that are reminiscent of an entry in Jane’s “All the World’s Aircraft.” It quite incontestably also belongs to the sub-genre of military SF. Glad it was translated after a couple of decades.”

  6. Tom Becker Post author

    Nominated by Kevin Roche: The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Omnibus edition of Bridge of Birds, The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen.


    I would be interested in rereading the Heinlein, since it’s been decades since I read it. Also some of the SF I haven’t read sounds promising. (I picked up the MacLeod at the library.)

    I would definitely not want to discuss the Adams – light humor, especially British light humor, doesn’t really work for me in print. It tries too hard, and I think it is not discussion-worthy. That would be a not-as-strongly-felt thumbs down to the Hughart as well. (Is that still available? I know we have a copy.)

    My hubby pointed out that we have already had a Dick work as book of honor in the past, so that’s a point against it.

    And I worry about the availability of the Verne in English. We can’t all discuss it if few people can find it.

    So those are my preliminary thoughts.

    — Berni


    I think that Berni sonsidering if a work is “discussion-worthy” is one of the kind of questions we should be asking ourselves. What do we want in a Book of Honor? I suspect different people will have different answers but I would also expect that there ia a minimum expectation of competence in language. But great style is in my opinion not enough; to me for a book to be really worthy of being the Book of Honor it needs to deal with ideas and themes sufficiently to stimulate great panels and discussions for the course of the con and beyond. There are some books which are great as first time reads or rereads but either have not aged well or do not have the range of ideas to fulfill the role of Book of Honor.

    This is why I nominated Night Sessions. It is a book which covers a range of topics many of which are already with us today with the rest looming on the time horizon. The Podcast I linked to in my previous comment lets us hear the author describe the background and some of the ideas in the book.


  9. Spike

    What makes a good Book of Honor candidate? That’s a discussion I’ve been having in my own head since I was on the committee planning Potlatch 2.

    First, it’s a book we are honoring. It’s not an author, exactly, it’s not a body of work. It’s a book. Also, for me, it must have some years on it. It could be considered a “classic,” but it’s probably “one of a kind.” It’s a book that has a reputation for quality, for something ground-breaking about it, and so people still talk about. Perhaps it’s just alluded to, and it’s expected that we all have read it, know the story and the importance. It could very well be a book that people have heard about, know something about, maybe they own a copy, but they haven’t read it. And it seems important to discuss why people still talk about it.

    I’m still pondering what book or books I will choose. But certainly a top contender, for me, is The Wasp Factory. Thirty years ago this book became Iain Banks’ first published work. It won acclaim, for it’s excellent writing and it’s daring. It was gender-bending, before we had the James Tiptree Award to honor it. It wasn’t sf, but there were fantasy elements. I read it and I couldn’t look away. Back then, the critics called Banks the “great white of hope of British literature.” I can just barely imagine what the literati thought in 1987, when Iain M Banks delivered Consider Phlebas.

  10. Rich Coad

    I have to go with UBIK. It has been one of my favorite SF novels for so long that, intriguing as the other nominees sound, I just can’t vote for anything else.

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