Song of Time concerns an acclaimed concert violinist who, despite years of life-extending medications, realizes the inevitable approaches and she will soon die. Waiting out her last days in her mansion on the coast of Cornwall, she one day discovers a man washed ashore on the beach.
Dragging him back to her house, the old woman cares for the mysterious stranger, who has no idea who he is or how he got there. The woman, glad of the company, passes the time with her new acquaintance by telling him the story of her life, which provides MacLeod an outlet to explore his dense, complex vision of the 21st century history in the context of the woman's own highly eventful life.
Chair of judges Paul Billinger praised the high quality of all six of this year's shortlisted books, saying it was one of the most difficult decisions to make in the history of the award:
"This was a very strong shortlist and it was a particularly intense and long shortlist meeting this year....What swung it in the end [for Song of Time] was the emotion, the feeling from it – and the characterisation."
First presented in 1987, the Arthur C. Clarke Award is chosen by a panel of judges drawn from the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and a rotating third organization, a spot currently held by SF Crowsnest. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver.
Stephenson's Anathem, which explores religious orders of scientists and philosophers on the far-future planet Abre, was one of the other five nominees for this year's Clarke Award. Other shortlisted books included The Quiet War by Paul McAuley, House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, The Margarets by Sherri S. Tepper, and Martin Martin's On the Other Side by Mark Wernham.
Meanwhile, the nominations for the Locus Awards have been announced. Unlike the Nebula and Hugo Awards, the Locus Awards are determined by online polls of science fiction readers. Once the most democratic of these awards (now, not so much), Locus claims the largest voting body of any of the science fiction book awards.