Cats, Dogs, Robots & Rockets: Hugo 2019 novels where they stand

I’ve reviewed and ranked the Hugo finalists for best novel by my subjective impressions but how about some more objective criteria. Specifically, how does each one feature in the key metrics of:

  • Does it have cats in it?
  • Does it have dogs in it?
  • Does it have robots in it?
  • Does it have rockets (or spacecraft) in it?

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal: Cats? No. Dogs? No. Robots? No. Rockets? Yes, lots. Some missed opportunities here. Elma could have saved a in her airplane. Another astronaut could have had a faithful dog anxiously waiting for them to return.

Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers: Cats? No. Dogs? No. Robots? No. Spaceships? Yes, lots. Another missed opportunity with a clear opportunity for one whole deck of the Exodan fleet having nothing but puppies on it. The Wayfarers series in general has had some quality robot moments but this one is robot free (a brief mention of AIs).

Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee: Cats? No. Dogs? No. Robots? Yes, lots. Spaceships? Yes, lots. There are multiple robot factions and lots of spaceships. No cats though even though several characters (good and bad) strike me as cat people. I guess the universe of the Hexarchate is not a safe place for pets. [ETA see comments: Shuos Zehun names their cats after assassins]

Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente: Cats? Yes, as a viewpoint character. Dogs? Not quite. Wile E Coyote is a recurring theme. Robots? Sort of. Spaceships? Only really one. A very high cat quotient here but could be higher on robots (AIs are a key species but not robots per-se). The genere of sci-fi space comedy has historically, since its roots in comedia-dell’arte, required at least one sarcastic robot.

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik: No cats, dogs, robots or rockets. Elves (sort of) and demons. Could the Tsarina not have had a beloved dog? Could Wanda not owned a cat? Could the Staryk have not been building a giant ice-rocket? OK, probably not the last one. [ETA see comments, there’s a dog near the end]

Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse. No cats, robots or rockets. Coyote as the trickster god is a key character though (which makes our coyote index for this years finalist surprisingly high) and he covers some cat and dog characteristics. [ETA see comments, I’d forgotten the cat spirit/being person who runs the nightclub]

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13 thoughts on “Cats, Dogs, Robots & Rockets: Hugo 2019 novels where they stand

  1. Trail of Lightning has a cat running the club where Maggie and Neizhgani fight. Well, a cat-like supernatural being, at any rate. She’s as much a cat as Coyote is a coyote.

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