July 19, 2015

The Hugo Project: Best Novel

(Note: This is the latest, and the last, in an ongoing series of posts discussing the 2015 Hugo nominees, and explaining why I will or will not vote for them.)

And now we come down to the wire, and the Big One, as George R.R. Martin calls it. Best Novel. If you've read this series of posts, you pretty much know which book I'm going to vote for, but I wanted to make it official, and also explain why I have ranked the books in the order which they will appear on my ballot.

Not on ballot and did not finish: The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson

I just couldn't with this one. I've never been fond of ten-pound doorstoppers with endless viewpoint characters anyway, and this book did not even have the charm of good writing or an engaging plot to recommend it. Add to this the fact that a great many of those viewpoint characters came across as downright stupid, and my response is: Nope.

5) Skin Game, Jim Butcher

This book is frothy and fun, and ultimately forgettable. It's a very good Harry Dresden/urban fantasy book (and urban fantasy, as a genre, is sadly underrepresented at the Hugos, as well as other major awards), but in comparison to the other books on the ballot it simply falls short.

4) The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

It's notable that a translated novel originally published in China in 2008 even got on the ballot to begin with (no thanks to the Impacted Canines--its being there at all is solely due to Marko Kloos' withdrawal). This book is stuffed full of physics and hard science ideas, and I admire the ambition of its author. Unfortunately, his characters are not well developed, and I need a balance of good characterization and good ideas to vote any book as Best Novel of the year.

3) No Award

2) The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison

Talk about an 180-degree turn--this book is all about characterization. It's the story of an unprepared kid who becomes Emperor and has to navigate his way though bloody, shark-infested waters. It's the ultimate triumph of brains over brawn, of intellect and kindness winning over cruelty and ambition. Maia starts out as passive and confused, and just along for the ride; but at the end of the book  he becomes, as the title of Part Five proclaims, "Edrehasivar the Bridge-Builder." That's not a bad sort of person to be, and how he gets there is fascinating.

1) Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie

I said a long time ago it would take one helluva book to knock Leckie out of my top spot. Katherine Addison came damned close, but in the end I have to go with Ann Leckie. I know some people were disappointed with this, the quieter middle book in the Ancillary trilogy, but to me this is a tighter, more focused, and ultimately better book than Ancillary Justice. Leckie takes a deep dive into the character of Breq, and also reveals more of the fascinating and horrifying Radchaai society. I've preordered the third book, and I can't wait.

So this is the end of my Hugo recaps. I started these reviews because the ongoing Canine clusterfuck moved me to buy a supporting membership for Sasquan. I'm also planning to buy a membership for next year's Worldcon so I can nominate. With that in mind, as I get back to more normal blogging, I will mention stories, books, movies and TV shows that I think are worthy of consideration for next year's Hugos.

It's been fun, people. Now, anyone who cares about science fiction and the future of the Hugos needs to get out and vote.

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