These ballot posts I’m doing when I’m ready. I’ve read and reviewed all of these now:
- All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
- A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
- Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
- Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
- The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
- Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)
The dilemma I have is with Too Like the Lightning – should I judge it by itself or wait until I’ve read the sequel? A lot rests on the sequel in terms of how I judge the book but the award is just for Too Like the Lightning. So, I’m going to do my list now and reserve my right to change my mind later.
As a set, this is a tougher choice than last year where The Fifth Season stood out despite the high-quality competition. This year there are four books that are vying for my number 1 votes and 2 books that will get my lower preferences.
7 – No spot for No Award. I think every one of these deserves a fraction of my vote.
6 – A Closed and Common Orbit. I know a lot of people have really connected with Becky Chamber’s humane and empathetic take on space-adventure. This one was more planet centred and despite being a sequel stands on its own well. I did enjoy a lot of it but it didn’t grab me the way the other books did.
5. – Death’s End. There are moments of genuine sparkle in this lengthy future history but also parts which just seem like a slog. Full of ideas and the refreshingly different pacing and plotting makes me glad I read it.
So that’s the ‘easy’ bit. The next four are more of a challenge. All six of the nominees pushes boundaries and took the genre to new places but I feel my top four did so with more success. They each have their flaws though. The Obelisk Gate suffers by being a middle novel strung between the intensity of The Fifth Season and the finale. All the Birds… does its own thing but sometimes gets caught between epic and whimsy. Ninefox Gambit‘s brilliance is on a slow burn and its intentionally alienating language hides a more conventional story. Finally Too Like the Lightning is half a story, its plot left hanging.
4. The Obelisk Gate. When quality is this high, small things end up making the difference. With a Hugo already on the shelf for this series, I’ll give my higher votes to the other three. Feels wrong though. Happy to see this win.
3. Too Like the Lightning. Ha! Opposite problem! I don’t know where this book is going whereas The Obelisk Gate I knew where it had been. I can see me changing my mind multiple times. Clever and a great conversation starter.
2. Ninefox Gambit. Or as my spell checker likes to say Nice fox gambit. What if our technology outpaced our capacity to conceptualise our technology? A military space adventure with weapons that manipulate reality and where how you track time can be heretical.
1. All the Birds in the Sky. A story about stories and a story about science and fantasy. Pulled me in and refused to accept any distinctions between magical realism, science fiction, fairy tales or fantasy.
Or, maybe some other order. Can I give them all a 1? Seriously, this was a fun and engaging set of books to read. Ideas you want to share and characters you glad you spent time with (except Mycroft).