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Shortlists for the 2008 Sunburst Awards



by Michelle Butler Hallett

Killick Press

ISBN: 1897174217

From the book jacket: "It's the 1970s, the final icy winter of the Cold War. American psychiatrist Josh Bozeman finds himself in St. John's as part of covert research group SHIP, the Society for Human Improvement and Potential. But SHIP defines 'improvement' and 'potential' as anything that can be forged into a weapon.... Twenty-five years later, Bozeman is drawn into an even darker paranormal agenda that sends him back to Newfoundland as the principal player in an endgame [with] mortal consequences...."

The Sunburst jury says: "Sanity, madness, torture in the name of science—Double-blind is wonderfully original while chillingly based in history. It really shook us up. Through the chronically self-deceived mind of the narrator, the novel delves into profound questions of ethics in a morally ambiguous world, and omes up with tragically ironic answers. The writing is incredibly layered, with metaphor and symbol perfectly balanced against the hard neutrality of scientific language."

Double-blind is Michelle Butler Hallett's first novel. She holds an Honours BA and MA in English from Ottawa's Carleton University. Among her prizes are a 2004 David Adams Richards award for fiction and two Arts and Letters awards for dramatic scripts. The Shadow Side of Grace, a story collection, was published in 2006. Her second novel, Sky Waves, is forthcoming in September 2008. She lives in St. John's, Newfoundland and works full-time for the Association of Cultural Industries of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Darkness of the God

by Amber Hayward


ISBN: 1894063449

From the book jacket: "Six orphaned children from Brazil flee across the Mexican desert, where they ally with a Gypsy family that has strange psychic talents. Keja, the Gypsy girl, against the advice of her family, remains steadfastly loyal to her new friend, even if it is at a tremendous personal cost. Through crisis after crisis, the group manages to narrowly elude their pursuers but inevitably she falls into Caldos' hands. Against the idyllic backdrop of Caldos' Caribbean island retreat, a spectacular battle ensues, but who will emerge victorious?"

The Sunburst jury says: "With Darkness of the God, the second book in the Children of the Panther series, Hayward really finds her footing. Melding old mythology with contemporary society, she creates a different kind of urban fantasy for readers tired of the old supernatural tropes."

Amber Hayward manages the Black Cat Guest Ranch in the foothills of Alberta, where she writes fiction and poetry and presents murder mystery weekends. Her first novel, The Healer, was published in 2002.


The New Moon's Arms

by Nalo Hopkinson

Warner Books

ISBN: 0446576913

From the book jacket: "Calamity, originally christened Chastity, is confronting two of life's biggest dramas. First is the death of her father, a rigid, principled man who rejected a pregnant Calamity when she was sixteen years old. Contrary as the tides around her Caribbean island home and still angry about the indignities of the past, Calamity tended the old man in his last years, only to finally become the orphan she'd always felt like. The second drama: she's starting menopause. And with this change of life comes the return of a special gift she has not felt since her childhood—she can find lost things. Now after a little tingling in the hands and a hot flash, objects suddenly appear out of nowhere.

"Then one morning a missing item washes up on the shore that is not her old toy truck or her hairbrush, but a bruised yet cheerful four-year-old boy, his ropy hair matted with shells. When Calamity decides to take the orphaned child into her care, she not only brings greater strain to her her relationship with her now-adult daughter, but creates new unexpected upheaval in her life. For fostering this child will force Calamity to confront all the memories and mysteries of her own childhood and the disappearance of her mother so many years before."

The Sunburst jury says: "Nalo Hopkinson crafts an engrossing story featuring an unforgettable character. With generous doses of mystery, humour, magical fantasy and insight, The New Moon's Arms is a entrancing read."

Nalo Hopkinson's award-winning novels include Brown Girl in the Ring (1999), Midnight Robber (2000), Skin Folk (2001) and The Salt Roads (2003). Among her edited work are the anthologies Mojo: Conjure Stories (2003); Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction (2003); So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy (2004), co-edited with Uppinder Mehan; and Tesseracts Nine (2005), co-edited with Geoff Ryman. She lives in Toronto.


by William Neil Scott

NeWest Press

ISBN: 1897126190

From the book jacket: "When Emma Brodie, local prophet and mother of three, steals a boat and exiles herself to the middle of the bay for seven days and seven nights, she sets about a chain of strange and wonderful events in the sleepy village of Garfax—a village no longer listed on any official government document. Radios begin to speak secrets and unintended confessions, a rainstorm occurs that lasts for months, a young boy dies mysteriously in the surrounding woods after following the dictates of his heart, and Caleb Anson, the village's prodigal son, returns after a long absence with a grand design to bring Garfax into the future.'

"This magic realist tale, where dead relatives play dominoes in the houses of their loved ones, is told by Emma's youngest son, Oswald, a shy, observant boy living in the shadow of his charismatic family. Wonderfull tells the story of Garfax—which has become the stuff of legends to outsiders—and reveals how this village's unlikely past catches up to its inevitable future."

The Sunburst jury says: "Scott follows the tradition of Canadian magic realism in a first novel brimming with quirky writing that would seem forced in less capable hands. The novel has huge scope—bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside and covering the entire lifecycle of a magical town—without ever sacrificing intimacy or detail. Scott has said he was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the ghosts conjured by his own family's stories."

William Neil Scott was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but lived most of his life in Calgary, where he went to the University of Calgary for a BA in English with a concentration on Creative Writing. Wonderfull won Trade Fiction Title of 2008 at the Alberta Book Publishers Awards.


by Robert Charles Wilson

Tor Books

ISBN: 0765309394

From the book jacket: "Wildly praised by readers and critics alike, Robert Charles Wilson's Spin won science fiction's highest honor, the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

"Now, in Spin’s direct sequel, Wilson takes us to the 'world next door'—the planet engineered by the mysterious Hypotheticals to support human life, and connected to Earth by way of the Arch that towers hundreds of miles over the Indian Ocean. Humans are colonizing this new world—and, predictably, fiercely exploiting its resources, chiefly large deposits of oil in the western deserts of the continent of Equatoria. "Lise Adams is a young woman attempting to uncover the mystery of her father's disappearance ten years earlier. Turk Findley is an ex-sailor and sometimes-drifter. They come together when an infall of cometary dust seeds the planet with tiny remnant Hypothetical machines. Soon, this seemingly hospitable world will become very alien indeed—as the nature of time is once again twisted, by entities unknown."

The Sunburst jury says: "Original and creative, with strikingly lyrical prose, Wilson shows insight into the human need to dominate every landscape he or she sets foot upon, be it the West in 'olden' times or a new planet in the future—and the mistakes and pitfalls that occur while rushing to do so. He also shows the determination and fortitude our ancestors possessed and passed on, and the ability to learn from our errors and go forward."

Robert Charles Wilson was born in California and lives in Toronto. He is the author of Mysterium (winner Philip K. Dick Award), Darwinia (winner Aurora Award; Hugo Award finalist), The Chronoliths (winner John W. Campbell Memorial Award; Hugo Award finalist), Blind Lake (a new York Times Notable Book; Hugo and Sunburst Award finalist) and Spin (winner Hugo Award; Sunburst Award finalist).

Jury's Recommended Reading

The jury felt that the following merited Honourable Mention:

  • The Book of Stanley by Todd Babiak
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Spook Country by William Gibson
  • Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Ha'Penny by Jo Walton




by Deborah Lynn Jacobs

Roaring Brook

ISBN: 1596432179

From the book jacket: "Consumed by guilt over her brother's death, Kathleen shifts among alternate universes in an attempt to find one in which he is alive.... The only stability, in each reality, is another shifter, Luke. But Luke is a stranger, with his own past, his own secrets. Can he be trusted? Or is he a predator, as her best friend, Jen, claims?"

Deborah Lynn Jacobs says, "What if there were multiple copies of you, living out permutations of your life in an infinite number of realities? Call it what you like: multiple universes, the multiverse, parallel universes—quantum theory suggests they could exist. But we humans are locked into knowing only one reality at a time. We can only imagine where our lives would lead us, had we made different choices along the way."

The Sunburst jury says: "Jacobs' second novel is original and fast-paced, with characters we’d love to know. Kathleen, Kay, Kate, Kathy—Jacobs juggles realities with dazzling confidence. The resolution satisfies but keeps you thinking—about love and loss, and the choices we make."

Deborah Lynn Jacobs' choices have taken her down many roads. Her jobs have included library page, theatre usher, lab assistant, cleaning lady, telemarketer, waitress, receptionist, college counsellor, college instructor, life skills coach, freelance writer, novelist and mom. The author of Powers, she now lives in Wisconsin.



by Carrie Mac

Puffin Canada

ISBN: 067006601X

From the book jacket: "With thousands of Triskelians dead at the hands of the Keyland Guard, Eli and Sabine flee with the survivors to the safety of Cascadia.... Seth finds his way to the wretched city of Triban. There, he begins amassing an army of orphan children from the street. When the time is right, he and his child soldiers will fight the war that will topple the Keys once and for all...."

The Sunburst jury says: "A timely novel, given the current rise of child armies in parts of the world. Strong writing pulls the reader through this sequel to The Droughtlanders. The sibling characters Eli, Sabine and Seth continue to grow as an exciting, action-packed yet thoughtful story unwinds."

Carrie Mac is the multiple-award-winning author of such novels as Crush (2006), Charmed (2004), The Beckoners (2004), and a story collection. Retribution is Book Two in her Triskelia series. Book One, The Droughtlanders, was shortlisted for a Sunburst in 2007 and nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults by the ALA. Book Three, Storm, was released in May 2008. She lives in Pemberton, BC.



by Kenneth Oppel

HarperCollins Canada

ISBN: 0002007444

From the book jacket: "Before there were bats like Shade, Marina or even Goth, there was a young chiropter—a small arboreal glider—named Dusk....

"It is 65 million years ago, during a cataclysmic moment in the earth's evolution, and Dusk ... is different from the other newborn chiropters. Not content to use his large sails to glide down from the giant sequoia tree, Dusk discovers that if he flaps quickly enough, he can fly. But this strange gift that makes him feel like an outcast from the colony will also make him its saviour.... "Against a tableau of disappearing dinosaurs and the ascent of the mammal kingdom, Oppel has created an adventure fantasy that sets the stage for the birth of the bats, the story of the forebears of Shade, the beloved hero of the Silverwing series.... A tale that can be read as a stand-alone or as a prequel, Darkwing will be a welcome new classic for the millions of Kenneth Oppel fans."

The Sunburst jury says: "Kenneth Oppel always spins wonderful fantasies about worlds hidden within our own, and in Darkwing he imagines one of those sub-worlds before our own. Darkwing takes the reader back to the earliest evolutionary form of bats and gives them a well-crafted, fast-paced adventure sure to please both grade schoolers and young teens."

Kenneth Oppel's Silverwing Saga, which includes Silverwing, Sunwing and Firewing, has won numerous awards, as have Skybreaker and Airborn (which was shortlisted for a 2005 Sunburst Award as well). He lives in Toronto.


Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet

by Joanne Proulx

Viking Canada

ISBN: 0670066680

From the book jacket: "After freakishly foretelling the death of a friend, Luke Hunter becomes big news in Stokum, his rank little pinprick of a hometown. Terrified, but pretending not to be, Luke holds everyone—the local media, his buddy Fang, the Polish widow next door—at arm's length as he lurches through a personal minefield studded with previously unconsidered existential ponderings, Christian fundamentalists, a missing teen's frantic mother, and a dream girl who isn’t his."

The Sunburst jury says: "Proulx doesn't shy away from showing the tumultuous mix of beauty and ugliness at work in the mind of a teen stoner. Her debut novel tackles ESP, drug use, teen sexuality and the mores of small-town conservative Michigan all foregrounded against the soundscape of Luke Hunter's life. There is no doubt teens will recognize many of the characters in this uncomfortable novel. The book, like the protagonist, is not without flaws; Proulx's huge accomplishment here is writing a character whose rage, frustration and love are palpable through the disaffected teen voice."

Joanne Proulx is a graduate of the creative writing mentorship program at Humber College, Toronto. An accomplished short fiction writer, she has had stories published in Exile: The Literary Quarterly and Upstairs at Duroc, and she won a summer writing session in St. Petersburg, Russia from Fence magazine. Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet is her first novel. She lives in Ottawa.

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel

by Drew Hayden Taylor

Annick Press

ISBN: 1554511003

From the book jacket: "Native legends tell of demons and unspeakable evil in the woods around Otter Lake. Tiffany Hunter has lived there all of her sixteen years and has yet to encounter anything sinister. But what's with the mysterious lodger her father has taken in? He's a little creepy, sleeping in the day and prowling at night."

The Sunburst jury says: "Taylor crafts a fast-paced tale of old magic meeting the modern world in this coming-of-age novel set in an Ontario reserve. With a spare, effective narrative style, he draws compelling portraits of teenage Tiffany, her struggling father, and a grandmother who carries the old world and the old Anishinabe language in her head. The mysterious Pierre brings a darkly gothic element to the prosaic setting, settling in the Hunters' basement room while he looks for a cure for his cravings. Taylor is an accomplished storyteller tackling themes of alienation and compromise with an accessible and engaging voice."

Drew Hayden Taylor has a long track record as a maker of documentary films on native issues, a playwright, and the author of Funny, You Don’t Look Like One: Observations of a Blue-Eyed Ojibway. He has been playwright-in-residence and then Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Currently at work on his second novel, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, and a new play, Crees in the Caribbean, he lives on a reserve in Curve Lake, central Ontario, where he grew up.

Jury's Recommended Reading

The jury felt that the following YA books merited Honourable Mention:

  • The Warrior's Daughter by Holly Bennett
  • The Twilight Box by Troon Harrison
  • Baboon by David Jones
  • Frost by Nicole Luiken
  • Cry Wolf by Edo van Belkom