Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summary: Hugo Award Nominees

Congratulations to Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis for winning the 2011 Hugo Award!

It took me a while this time (summer is hard), but I’ve finally finished reading the five novels nominated for this year’s Hugo Award. I’d like to give a general summary of my thoughts before the winner is chosen.  For the convenience of anyone reading this, I'll edit this to indicate which novel won, once the announcement is made.
The Hugo Award is one of the most prestigious science fiction awards.  It was named after Hugo Gernsbeck, the found of the science fiction magazine “Amazing Stories”.  The Hugo awards have been awarded annually since 1955. There are two novels that I would really like to see take the Hugo this year:
My Predicted Winner
Feed by Mira Grant (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) – I absolutely adored this book.  It featured three 20-something news bloggers in post-zombie-apocalypse America, and their journey covering a presidential campaign.  Not only did it include zombies, it also featured top-notch world-building and engaging characters.  Feed gives the most interesting and complex explanation for the ‘Rising’ that I’ve ever read, and I was impressed with how thoroughly Grant imagined a post-Rising society.  I became very invested in the main characters, bloggers George, Shaun and Buffy, and there was never a point that I felt the story dragged. I did have some issues with the simplicity of the over-arching plot and main villain, but, overall, it was intellectually and emotionally a satisfying book. 

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald – This novel rose above the rest in terms of literary style.  It featured a near-future Istanbul, full of ancient mysteries and developing nanotechnology.  The story followed many characters, all with some physical connection to a certain dervish house.  I thought it was beautifully written, and it was fun to see how the different storylines brushed by each other or intersected throughout the book.  However, having so many characters in the mix gave it something of a slow start, and their stories never really meshed to my satisfaction.
Other Nominees
Connie Willis’s Blackout/All Clear is an incredibly ambitious dual-novel about time traveling to WWII Britain.  I enjoyed reading it, but I did have some issues in the second half with repetition and weak characterization.  Cryoburn was an interesting story, but I think it works better as the 13th  addition to the Vorkosigan Saga than it does as a stand-alone novel.  N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a book that I actually read before starting this blog, but it was a solid debut novel.  I enjoyed the creative mythology of her world, but certain other aspects, such as the political power struggle, were drawn a little too simply for my taste.
Best of luck to all the Hugo nominees! 


  1. Yes! I would love to see "Feed" win. It was an outstanding read, fresh and although set in a zombie-filled world, devoid of the traditional over-reliance on gore and dread. Certainly not a horror, simply very entertaining with some solid characters.

    I also would not mind seeing "Dervish" get the nod. Not having read it, though, I can't offer an objective opinion, but reading reviews and observing its performance in basically every single sf award there is, it clearly has appeal. McDonald has consistently offered unique narratives. I thoroughly enjoyed "Brasyl" despite also taking some time to get going (that seems to be a characteristic of his writing).

    "100K Kingdoms" was a good enough read. I can appreciate its good performance in sf awards. As a debut novel it's very good. Do I note a Zelasny influence in it? The creative mythology is well crafted and the pantheon of gods and ursurpers simply stunning, although quite a lot of the narrative sat uncomfortably with me. I found it to be very dark, devoid of compassion and at times plain cruel. I'm interested to see where Jemisin takes the story, but not just yet.

    I'm a huge Miles Vorkosigan fan, but must still read "Diplomatic Immunity" before "Cryoburn." I do find reading the storyline in series rather than the order the books are published to make better sense. I'm wondering if Bujold got onto the ballot simply because of her fandom :) We are all always eager for next Vorkosigan epic.

    Same goes for Willis. Your reviews have me considering reading her :-)

  2. I agree with you on Dervish House as a runner up (or maybe even a tie?), but I placed Blackout/All-Clear at the top of my prediction list. I haven't read any of that series, but it just seems like the juggernaut to contend with this season.

    I also agree that Feed is an emotionally satisfying book, but intellectually...I love it up until one very important plot point that just reeks of oversimplification, and I believe you know which one, too. That put a pretty big damper in my enthusiasm for the book, although I did pick up a copy of Deadline and I plan to continue the series. I don't know, maybe that will be less of a problem for other readers like yourself.

    This award season is making me put Bujold and Willis on my "to read damn soon" shortlist.

  3. @emil Thanks for the comments! I've been thinking about picking up Jemisin's next. I hear it is actually not a direct sequel, but another story in the same world. I wasn't completely happy with 100 Thousand Kingdoms either, but I think Jemisin shows a lot of promise as an author.

    I'm kicking myself for reading Cryoburn out of order, now. I think it might be worth re-reading after the rest of the saga, just so I really get all the references to previous books.

  4. @mattastrophic Willis' omnibus is definitely getting a lot of attention this year, so I think it has a good chance at winning. I would not be disappointed if it won, but I don't think it is the strongest contender.

    About Feed... Yeah, I believe I know what you're referring to, and it irritated me as well. I guess for me, the other elements of the book were impressive enough that I didn't mind as much. I actually just finished Deadline recently, though, and my first reaction is that it was pretty disappointing.

  5. Ok, so Blackout/All Clear got the Hugo. Which isn't entirely unexpected. I guess I'm buying it soon. Feed came in second, which is good recognition by the fans for its freshness and premise. It's a pity the follow-up could not maintain the promise, but I guess that's typical of the middle-book-curse.

  6. I'm glad to hear "Feed" came in second! I guess Blackout/All Clear has been raking in a lot of awards this year, so I'm not too surprised. I hope you enjoy reading it!