June 28, 2019
Hugos 2019: Campbell Award for Best New Writer
6) Rivers Solomon (my review of their novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts, here).
This book didn't impress me last year, and it still doesn't. The ideas are admirable, but the execution is lacking, and the science is bad. To me, for an SF novel, that's a deal-breaker.
5) Jeannette Ng
This author included the same excerpt from her book in the Hugo packet this year as last year, and it still didn't win me over. This is sort of a religious fantasy Gothic with an interesting premise--missionaries traveling to Faerie to spread the gospel to the Fae--but its slow, ponderous style didn't work for me.
4) Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Including this writer may be a bit unfair, as she's only written short stories to date, as opposed to novels. (One of my favorite stories of hers is here.) I like her, but I couldn't rate her higher because the other three nominees are simply stronger.
3) S.A. Chakraborty (my review of her novel here).
This is an Arabic-inspired fantasy, set in the secret magical land of the daeva, or djinn. This world is well built, with a great weight of history and backstory conveyed without infodumping. There's also some meaty themes of discrimination and oppression.
2) Katherine Arden (my review of her novel here).
This is the lovely final volume of the Winternight Trilogy and a fine book in its own right. Arden has matured beautifully as a writer, and her heady stew of Russian myths, legends and folktales, as well as a bit of history, comes to a most satisfying conclusion.
1) R.F. Kuang (my review of her novel here).
This book is brutal, and beautiful, and needs (and deserves) all the content warnings there are...and I couldn't put it down. The world and story are based on Chinese myth and history, with the latter drawn from the Nanjing Massacre and the Second Sino-Japanese War. It's a dark and compelling character study, and the author writes hauntingly of the true cost of war, and dehumanization, and the desire for revenge. The characters are flawed, terrible people that you nevertheless understand, even as you flinch at what they're doing. I salute the author for taking such a grimdark story and turning it into something the reader will never forget.