Less than half a day to choose your favourites for the Hugo awards! The bad news is that I had to do remarkably little reading to come to my conclusions. The good news is that my winner is a discovery on a par with N. K. Jemisin's 100,000 Kingdoms
which was a nominee in 2011.
(1) Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
The buzz around this debut novel was so strong that I confidently bought it for my brother's birthday last year before having ever read it myself. It went on to win a number of awards, including the Nebula. If there's any justice, the Hugo will be added to the list.
There's been a lot of focus on what Leckie does with gender. Namely, the citizens of the ruling empire don't distinguish genders. Leckie uses female pronouns for everyone whenever writing from the Radch point of view. But tackling assumptions around gender is hardly the book's ambition. It takes on identity and colonisation too.
It's also ambitious in structure, not just in the way that the past and present narrative threads are woven together but the way the scope of the first person viewpoint changes. She has a great eye for detail, whether for small characters or large empires. It's also surprisingly short for a space opera. Everything's very compactly written.
I'm not sure whether it's overdoing it to compare Leckie to Ursula K. LeGuin and Iain M. Banks already but...
(2)Neptune's Brood - Charlie Stross
The protagonist is an accountant! Stross probably deserves a round of applause just for that. And for being the first, as far as I know, to take on the subject of interstellar finance and economics. It's a bit above my paygrade, to be honest.
It was enjoyable but, as usual, I wish he'd take it easy on the infodumps. And step away from the thesaurus.
and what didn't make it onto my ballot and why.
(4)Parasite - Mira Grant
As a greenie, I'm supportive of recycling books. Just not so much their contents.
Basically, I haven't liked anything she's written since she first appeared on the Hugo ballot a couple of years ago with Feed
. Well, she's written another SF/horror with zombies. Except this time it's a pharmaceutical company that developed a parasite designed to live in the human gut and keep it healthy. Clearly she enjoyed doing the research. But the resulting book has the same problems as before: same smart-ass dialogue that makes all the characters sound alike, unbelievable characters, etc.
I skipped to the ending to find that had been left to the sequel. For that alone, I wouldn't want to vote it an award.Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
Well-meaning fans want Hugo recognition for the series now that Brandon Sanderson has finished Jordan's work. Sorry, but I'm not even going to start considering it. There's an argument for having a Hugo to recognise series but the Novel Ballot isn't the place to have it.Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
Some people have been playing silly games with the Hugo ballot which means I'm not going to bother to read some of the nominated works. Martin has details
, if you care. I didn't rate Correia highly when he was a nominee for Best New Writer in 2011 and I've heard nothing that will make regret having not read this.
I've just realised that everything on the ballot is part of a trilogy or a series. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the rest of the Imperial Radch trilogy.