Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Adding to the Hugo noise

Here I go again, complaining about lists on the internet...

So you may or may not have heard that this year's Hugo nominees have been announced. A couple of years back, I decided to read all of the nominated novels, to see if I agreed with the eventual winner (short answer: I did). Last year, I was lucky enough to attend Worldcon, so I made a point of reading all of the nominated fiction so I could make an informed vote on the Hugos. This year, I'm intending to do the same.

I can't really comment yet about the nominees in the Best Novella, Novelette or Short Story categories. To the best of my knowledge, I have only read one of them: Ted Chiang's novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects. I liked it well enough, but I don't think it was his best work. There are five nominees in various categories from Asimov's, so I'll have to go digging through my pile of (sadly) unread back-issues to find those ones.

I do want to say a few words about the Best Novel category, despite also having read none of them. First, it's pleasing to see that four of the five nominated books were written by women. The gender balance typically isn't great in that category. Only fifteen of sixty-two Best Novel nominees in the last decade were written by women (and a bit of foreshadowing here: four of them were Lois McMaster Bujold novels, and two Connie Willis novels). A nominee list dominated by women can only mean good things for the genre.

I have to admit, though, that the list isn't particularly exciting me. I'm unsurprised to see The Dervish House by Ian McDonald there, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I had also planned to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin, so I'm happy to see it on the list. I haven't heard anything about Feed by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire), but I'm very willing to approach it with an open mind.

The last two nominations are the ones that leave me a little dismayed. Blackout/All Clear is actually two books by Connie Willis, adding up to a combined total of something like 1200 pages in the US hardcover editions. The books are set in the same universe as her earlier Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, both of which also won Best Novel Hugos. I'm a little confused how two books got nominated as one entry. Maybe they're both very worthy, but even given how much I enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog, the thought of reading a further 1200 pages in the same setting doesn't fill me with excitement.

And then there is Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold. A quick skim of her Wikipedia page suggests this is the thirteenth Miles Vorkosigan novel. I think it is the eighth in the series to be nominated for a Hugo (four of them won). Perhaps it's just my own ugly prejudices in action again, but I find it hard to believe that the thirteenth book (or nineteenth, or twenty-fifth, depending how you count it) in a series can really be that good.

I guess it feels like the last two entries -- Blackout/All Clear and Cryoburn -- are obvious nominations, given to beloved authors because they put out another book. Of course, I shouldn't judge before I've actually read them, so here is my promise to you: I'll report back as I work my way through each of the novels. Except possibly Blackout/All Clear. I just don't know if I can hack it.

1 comment:

  1. Thinking on it now, maybe it'll be good to read Cryoburn -- I've never read a Miles Vorkosigan novel, so I'll be approaching it completely fresh, without back history.