The past two times I’ve found Best Series intractable but this year I was more hopeful I’d engage constructively with it. I’ve read some of all of each of the nominees, although only a small amount of two of them. Laundry Files, Centenal Cycle, Machineries of Empire and Wayfarers are each series that I’ve read all the novels and some of the shorter texts for. So I’ve done enough reading already to engage with two-thirds of the finalists.
So what’s the hold up? Of the four I can put Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers to one side. I get what people like about it but it’s just not for me. That gets me to three series that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Hoorah! But what’s next? It’s not just that they are each quite different, that is true of most Hugo finalists in most years. It’s that I really can’t find a way in to talk about them.
My gut suggests that the intended purpose of the category was too reward books that collectively do something that wouldn’t be recognised by the Hugo Awards when looked at as individual works. That would suggest to me that The Laundry Files is the obvious choice and to some extent Machineries of Empire is missing the point of the category as a finalist.
On the other side, the books of Machineries of Empire have been strong contenders for Best Novel. It seems absurd to say that a set of books that has won or been finalists for major awards, isn’t collectively Best Series.
And having said all that, I think the Centenal Cycle is much stronger as a set of stories than any one of the individual books. It set me thinking about so many issues and it’s one of those stories that just grows in my estimation the longer I think about it. No one of the novels had quite the mind-blowing impact of something like Ninefox Gambit but collectively this is a powerful series.
Final rankings are hard for any category but here it is more that I’d rank them differently depending on how I think about Best Series. I was even wondering if being a finalist for Best Novel should even be a disqualification for Best Series (i.e. subtracted from the word count) to make the award more distinct from Best Novel…and then I thought that was mean and unfair…and then I rethought that thought because otherwise series of books that had been past finalists will always have an advantage because Hugo voters are more likely to have read at least some of the series, turning Best Series into a consolation prize rather than a thing in its own right. Then Timothy slapped me, not because I was spiralling out of control but just because he’s a violent apex predator in a tiny body.
Centenal Laundry Gambit it is then.