Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Novella and Best Novel
I’ll have to ask you all to forgive my relative incoherence today: I think I’m still vibrating after my naturalization ceremony today.
Best Novella (2416 nominating ballots compared 1083 last year)
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com) – This is the height of the year’s prose? It’s dull, the protagonist is all “different outside” but nothing remotely unusual inside. To those with the voter packet, I strongly recommend against reading the PDF version – something’s gone badly wrong with whatever conversion was used, with the result that almost every Th ends up rendered as a not-quite-bold T.
- The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com) – This offering nearly broke me in the first sentence. Note to authors: you will not go far when you give a character with no discernable Spanish or Portuguese traits the name “Reconquista”. Especially when someone with more than zero historical literacy reads your work. The second-rate knockoff of the Brian Jacques Redwall-style stories does not help the cause.
- Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum) – This work got off to a reasonable start. I could sympathize with the protagonist and his problem, although I can’t say I went beyond moderate interest. I may go back and read the whole thing at some point when time permits.
- Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment) – There’s potential here, but it’s not being realized in this work, that I could tell. It’s well-written and an interesting concept, but I had zero interest in the narrator, which is rather a fatal flaw in a first person piece.
- Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon) – For me this was the pick of this character: not only did it have an intriguing premise and an interesting protagonist, it was the only story in this category that I simply could not stop reading.
Best Novel (3695 nominating ballots compared to 1827 last year)
- Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit) – Sadly, it would seem that Ms Leckie has not improved. I found the part of the excerpt I read clunky, if competent, and quite boring, honestly.
- The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc) – This work started well, and has an interesting premise. I’ll probably return to it when this much-sought-after creature known as free time makes itself known. It wasn’t an immediate grab – as in I wasn’t hooked by the end of the first chapter – but I’ve read works that grow on me, and this has the potential to do that.
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit) – The best thing I can say about the sample of this work is that the prose shown makes Ancillary Mercy look like a polished gem. This is not praise.
- Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow) – Some people may gain enjoyment from novels that start with a lengthy lecture. I don’t, and I wasn’t going to read on to be lectured further. Give me something I can care about, not a dry recitation, especially at the start of the flipping book.
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey) – The start was a little – okay, very – obvious, in that there was no question that this was setup to lead to a screamingly obvious conclusion. It was still done sufficiently well that I kept reading, and sometime after that I couldn’t stop reading. The fantasy elements here are truly fantastical, and there’s an equally strong set of undercurrents touching on such things as what makes us human, and when is someone worth saving, as well as a slow burn secondary romance-ish plot.
Next week – the final post before voting closes – I’ll be looking at the Campbell Award and the Retro Hugo pieces. You’re on your own for Best Dramatic Presentation (long and short form): I don’t watch TV or movies, so I haven’t watched any of the finalists. Honestly, the last time I sat down and watched anything was several years ago, and I doubt that’s going to change any time soon.
As always, read the finalists yourself and make your own decisions about them. What I think reeks may be something you think is magnificent, and vice versa.