Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 Hugo Awards: Best Novel and Best New Writer

Tomorrow is the Hugo Awards Ceremony, so I have just about run out of time for putting up thoughts on the novel nominees!  Here’s a quick rundown of my opinions on the nominees for both the Hugo and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  I’ll have an update congratulating the winners after Loncon3 is over!

Hugo Award

For the Hugo Award, my first choice for the winner would be Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. As you’ll see in my next review, I really loved this novel. It may not have brought all that much new to space opera, but it served up a story with all of my favorite ingredients.  I also really liked some of the themes—loyalty, anti-classism, and responsibility people have to act on their convictions.  Of course, I have to mention the default-female language quirk, where everyone in the story referred to as “she”, regardless of their gender.  It highlighted how irrelevant gender was to the story, and I found the complete lack of gender roles and gender-based characterization refreshing.   

I would also be happy to see Charles Stross win the Hugo Award for Neptune’s Brood. I read this one without reading the first book of the series, Saturn’s Children, but I get the impression that the book stands well on its own.  Neptune’s Brood is an intelligent, far-future heist story, but one that was also delightfully humorous.  I was not a fan of the long future-economics infodumps, but I’m not sure how well the heist would have come across without them.

The other three contenders also have their strong and weak points.  I’ve read roughly 80% of the Wheel of Time series, mostly back when I was in high school.  I remember enjoying the adventures, but I also remember thinking that the characterization was a bit weak.  Mira Grant’s Parasite was a neat (if gross!) idea, but I noticed a lot of similarities to the Newsflesh books.  Larry Correia’s Warbound reminded me a bit of X-Men, and it was a lot of fun in a supernatural action-movie way.  

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

I was really excited by this year’s nominees for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award, because I have heard good things about all of them. My first choice for the Best New Writer award would be Max Gladstone, who now has three novels in his Craft series (Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, and Full Fathom Five).  I have currently only read his first novel, but the rest are on my (very long) to-read list.  My review of his debut novel, Three Parts Dead, can be found here.

As for the other entries, I have to give the disclaimer that I have not quite finished A Stranger in Olondria and The Lives of Tao, though I am over halfway through reading both of them. 

Ramez Naam’s Nexus is a fast-paced near-future techno-thriller. I have some philosophical disagreements with the main character, but I really enjoyed the exploration of the consequences of the existence of mind-altering/linking technology. Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria has some lovely writing, though the story moves at a very slow pace.  I’m not sure I yet understand the reasoning behind some of the decisions of the main character.  Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao is a funny and exciting secret-society/spy story so far, though I’m not a huge fan of the whole ‘everything important that happened in human history was because of aliens’ idea. Benjanun Sriduangkaew is also nominated for her unusual short fiction, of which a lot is available for free online.  I was most interested by “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” (which can be read here).

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