My Hugo Novel Best Picks

Nominations have closed for 2017. I’m not going to list other categories because I feel less confident about my choices. Short fiction, in particular, can be hard to pick favourites. Also, I don’t like listing the awards for people rather than works.

  1. The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin; – maybe not the same punch as The Fifth Season but still a stand out work and a strong promise for the concluding volume.
  2. City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennet; I was late arriving to City of Stairs (pushed off the 2015 ballot by Puppy shenanigans). Another solid mid-trilogy fantasy that breaks fantasy conventions.
  3. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee; Didn’t blow my socks off initially but worked its way into my head and I discovered sometime later my socks were missing. Perhaps the socks were never there or maybe the reality with socks was a heresy.
  4. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; A story about genre fiction in the form of genre fiction. I suspect it won’t win because of its many marmite qualities but my favourite of 2016 I think.
  5. The Liberation by Ian Tregillis; I really like Tregillis’s books despite their tendency to go to some dark places. This alt history Franco-Dutch war of alchemical clockwork versus chemistry, plus duelling women spies, hides deep ideas about free-will. Concluding volume in the Alchemy Wars series.

Looking at that list I see:

  • they each do an SF/Fantasy crossover thing in quite different ways. Each of them have a liminal quality to them: the reality warping heresies in the Ninefox space opera; the quasi-magical Orogenes of Obelisk Gate; the post-divine world in City of Blades; the alchemic robots of the Liberation; and lastly an overt conflict/romance between two characters – one rooted in fantasy tropes and one in SF tropes.
  • One series start, one series end, two mid-series and one stand-alone. Is modern SF/F too series dominated? Maybe, the investment in world building makes trilogies a wise investment in time for both readers and authors. I don’t think a mid-series book has a won a Hugo aside from Harry Potter (may be wrong there).
  • Looking at other round-ups (http://file770.com/?p=33861 ) Ninefox Gambit is looking like a strong contender as is All the Birds in the Sky. However, both novels have strong marmite factors – nominations self-select for the people who liked (or weren’t turned off by) whatever thing it was that other people didn’t like. Final votes depend on the finalists winning over some readers new to the book – I suspect both Ninefox & ATBITS will generate some lively debate.

Speaking of round-ups, thank you to the people who have nominated me for Fanwriter. I was a bit freaked out when people began suggesting it but I’m coping – I don’t generally handle praise well.

Lastly, you might not believe this because of the number of typos and solecisms in my posts but I run Grammarly over my blog posts. It made this helpful suggestion:

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 7.35.34 am

 

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12 comments

  1. Peter J

    Mid-series Hugo winner: Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson.
    Then there are those which are more “not the first in an open-ended series of novels sharing the same setting” rather than “middle part of a continuing story” (Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, Brin’s Uplift novels). Foundation’s Edge is probably closer to the true mid-series book than these.
    Away from the Hugos, Gene Wolfe won both Nebula and Locus Awards for The Claw of the Conciliator.

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  2. greghullender

    “Blue Mars” was the final book in a trilogy, though, not a middle one. Lots of people will award book #1, if they like the way the series got started, and then they’ll award the book that wraps it all up, but they won’t vote to award the intermediate books.

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    • Peter J

      My mistake! I’m going to blame it on the fact that ‘blue’ and ‘green’ both translate to ‘glas’ in Welsh (which I vaguely recall being the basis for a joke David Langford made in Ansible years ago, which would have gone straight over most reader’s heads). Also that it’s late here, and I’ve had been short of sleep lately. Been doing a lot of reading, for some reason …

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  3. Mark

    I’m going to be really happy if Ninefox Gambit makes it. Not necessarily to win, but nominating a fresh and interesting debut novel is surely what this is all about.

    I have two overlaps with you, my list is:
    – The Obelisk Gate; N K Jemison
    – Ninefox Gambit; Yoon Ha Lee
    – The Invisible Library; Genevieve Cogman
    – Lovecraft Country; Matt Ruff
    – Underground Railroad; Colson Whitehead

    City of Blades and AtBitS were just outside my five, and I’ve not got to the Tregellis yet.

    There are a fair number of mid-series winners (Speaker for the Dead, Uplift War, Green Mars to name a few), but they are looser series with fairly standalone installments. In that regard you could argue that City of Blades is a better candidate than Obelisk Gate.

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  4. Matt Y

    I really enjoyed all of those novels aside from Ninefox Gambit which I got on an eBook sale and haven’t read yet but the praise for it certainly moves it up in my to read list. City of Blades was great but I felt it suffered a little from being the middle book. Then again I also really enjoyed A Gathering of Shadows which was also a middle book. Might have a point about series there. I’m sure there’s a draw to building a world and playing with it, but I sometimes go to the library like I go into my Netflix queue, I stopped adding series but I’ve already got a bunch going on and just wanted to kill some time not get invested in a very lengthy feature.

    Glad to see love for Tregillis’s series. I don’t expect it to be a Finalist as I haven’t seen a lot of talk about it, but I really loved the whole clockwork vs chemistry between the Dutch and French, and just the whole series really. Was a good year.

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    • JJ

      I really enjoyed The Mechanical and The Rising — and I’ve got The Liberation sitting here ready to be read.

      I think that the series suffered from an unfortunate release schedule. The first book was released in March — and I saw it getting a considerable amount of buzz that year. But the second book was released that December, and the third book the following December, and I think those year-end releases seriously damaged its potential for awards buzz.

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      • Matt Y

        True it does get kind of swallowed up by end of year stuff. I didn’t even realize Liberation was out until late January and I was anticipating it! I can see how they’d get lost by those who might not have been looking out for them.

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