I’m back with the second installment of my reviews of the Hugo nominations for this year.
The Butcher of Khardov – Dan Wells
When I first pulled this out, I admit I was judging a book by its cover. I was afraid it was some pulpy tie-in novel, but it is anything but. Wells has created an incredibly moving and heart-wrenching love story, dislocated in time, with a main character who has gone rather mad, in a world that is a steam-punk fantasy blend (Warcaster’s world, for those of you who game.) I’m going to vote this one best of category because of its subtlety and nuance, which I did not expect to find in a tie-in novel.
Six-Gun Snow White – Catherynne M. Valente
This was a very unusual take on the Snow White story, very dark, very gritty, and set in the Wild West. I would vote this best in category except I felt like she was trying a little too hard to shoe-horn in Native American mythology to the Snow White story and it just didn’t work for me. If I ignored that aspect, it was a fantastic and troubling retelling, just the way it should be.
The Chaplain’s Legacy – Brad R. Torgersen
At least this one didn’t suffer the same fate as his Novelette that’s up for consideration; this story kept me engaged and interested from start to finish. It explores themes of religion and belief and the interference of technology with our connection to the spiritual. It would have ranked higher in my list except that I felt like the main character didn’t really experience any growth. He’s still pretty wishy washy about his own faith by the end of the story and I wanted him to come down solidly on one side or the other by the time the story wrapped.
Equoid – Charles Stross
This was a unique piece of fiction blending the dry british humor of Pratchett’s ilk with the horror of HP Lovecraft. I normally do not care for horror myself, but I was actually able to enjoy this story, even with all the gory bits. However, I felt like it just wasn’t quite polished yet, almost like I was reading a draft, and not a published work.
Wakulla Springs – Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages
The only reason this story is not my absolute number one pick is because I don’t think it belongs in the category for a Hugo. No matter what the authors say, I don’t classify this story as speculative fiction. Yes, the characters talk about all the myths surrounding the springs, yes there are a couple moments that are unreal, but those moments could be the result of hallucinations on the part of the characters, or projection, and, to be honest, don’t lend much at all to the story. If you took them out, the story could function just as well without them. In my mind, this firmly removes the story from the realm of speculative fiction. That being said, it is an absolutely beautiful story spanning three generations of a family and their connection to Wakulla Springs, so you should definitely go read it. Just don’t expect a speculative fiction story.
I missed two of these as they weren’t included in the downloadable judging packet, so I had to go track them down.
Time – Randall Munroe
I am definitely voting this one best in category as it was a new and unique form of graphic novel, a time lapsed experience on the internet that was absolutely beautiful. And what should the Hugo go to, but something new, unique, and exciting? Munroe has been creating fantastic art with a fabulous scientific bent for years now, and its about time something of his was up for nomination. You can travel through Time here.
Saga Volume 2 – Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
I got volumes one and two from the library and worked my way through them quite quickly. The art is gorgeous and the story line is unique, but I’m still going to put this in second place to Time, simply because Time’s concept is so unique. I also felt that Saga is a bit abrupt in its presentation and could use a little more nuance in its pacing, and there are a few panels in it that are simply there for shock value, which I really don’t care for. But Saga is definitely more engaging, and better written, than the other three graphic novels up for consideration.
Next week, will be the start of Novels! And definitely the art categories. We’ll see how many of the different award categories I can actually make it through, and give them a thorough enough consideration to actually make a judgement call…
As many of you know, I’ve started reading for the Hugo Award this year, and I wanted to keep you all apprised of the work that’s up for consideration and what I think of it, mainly so that when voting comes up in a few weeks, I can remember why I liked, or didn’t like, certain stories…
That being said, I’ve made it through a few categories already, so here they are, in the order in which I liked them, favorite, to least favorite:
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” – John Chu
Chu has created a new world where, if you lie, water falls on you from nowhere. Literally, if you tell a whopper, you’re absolutely drenched in cold water. He takes this unusual setting and juxtaposes it with a problem that many people are actually facing today: the struggle of coming out to your family. It is a beautifully written piece, the struggle with the main character’s cultural and personal identities is well balanced and the whole thing makes your heart ache. Definitely voting for this one to be best in category.
“Ink Readers” – Thomas Olde Heuvelt
This fantasy involves a town who is responsible for making sure the wishes wished during a certain festival are fulfilled by their rituals. There is a lot of twists in this one, so I don’t want to say too much more, but it is a passably fun story. The only reason this one falls to second place for me is I felt like it was trying a little too hard to be foreign in the way the prose is presented and its ends up just being a bit convoluted.
“Selkie Stories” – Sofia Samatar
“Selkie Stories” was a total ‘meh’ for me. Its well written, but, as it even says at the beinning, “I’m tired of selkie stories.” This one really didn’t feel like it touched any new ground in the genre, and, in fact, it summarized a lot of older selkie stories within it. If someone was less familiar with that genre than I am, it may have been more enjoyable, but to me it just felt like the same old, same old.
“If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” – Rachel Swirsky
If I could downvote for the Hugo, I would for this one. It is overwrought drivel of the kind I would expect a middle schooler who was pining over the popular boy to write. Just don’t even go there…
“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” – by Ted Chiang
I have long been a fan of Ted Chiang, particularly of Lifecycles of Software Objects. I think that novella is absolutely stunning, in both story and design, and so when I saw he had another short story up for consideration, I was stoked. Happily, he does not disappoint with this Novelette. “…Truth…” is a wonderful piece exploring what it means to tell the truth and how we deal with language and memory and how that affects said truth. It juxtaposes a futuristic society debating the pros and cons of a new technology that allows for perfect recall and search-ability of memories to an older story during colonization of a missionary teaching a tribesman how to write and keep records. Definitely try and find a copy of this, if you can, because it is amazing, particularly if you like your speculative fiction to have a bit of meaning behind it.
“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” – Mary Robinette Kowal
This is a heartbreaking story about the first woman who went to Mars and the latter days of her life on said planet with her husband. It is powerful, and moving, but I felt like the end didn’t quite deliver on its potential, hence it drops to my number two spot for this category. It deals a lot with the question of failing health in old age, responsibilities of the generations to each other, and similar topics.
“The Waiting Stars” – Aliette de Bodard
An interesting read, with a fascinating premise, about genetically/cybernetically enhanced humans as the core AI/computer system for ships. The precise details are left purposefully vague, but it sets up a tidy little conflict with a race that believes that this sort of thing is utterly immoral. Again, this dropped in my esteem because I felt like the end didn’t quite deliver, plus the beginning was a little hard to get into and understand what, exactly, was going on.
“Opera Vita Aeterna” – Vox Day
“Opera…” is an interesting fantasy story, featuring an elf studying human religion as though it were a separate magic system from what the elves know of. I rather enjoyed that part of it, the theological and cultural discussion of what religion is and can be, but then the author throws in what I felt was utterly unnecessary carnage, leaving me feeling ‘meh’ about the whole story. There was a lot of potential to create a powerful message about belief, but in the end it just ended up another story about revenge.
“The Exchange Officers” – Brad R. Torgersen
I actually got bored and stopped reading this one. Its space-opera-y but didn’t feel like it was covering any new ground. I skimmed the latter half of the story and, even knowing how the story came out in the end, had absolutely no desire to go back and finish it, so we’ll just leave it at that.
The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who – Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton
I felt like this was a fun twist on the ‘character visits our world where he is just a character’ trope. Good art, fun story, all around enjoyable.
Girl Genius – Kaja & Phil Foglio
I felt like this one was just trying too hard, with everything. I liked the art the best out of all three, but the writing itself felt stilted and awkward.
Meathouse Man – George R.R. Martin adapted by Raya Golden
I opened this, and closed it again. I have the same problem with this as I have with Game of Thrones: utter gratuity. There is no point to all the nakedness and blood other than to be nakedness and blood and I just don’t feel it adds to the story. I’m all for a good sex scene, or a rousing massacre, but they really need to serve a definite purpose to the plot, and I just don’t feel this does. Sorry Martin fans…
Next up, Novellas! I’ll eventually make it to the novels, I promise…