- Among Others, Jo Walton
- A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin
- Deadline, Mira Grant
- Embassytown, China Mieville
- Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey
I'm just going to get this out of the way: I won't be reading A Dance With Dragons. I stopped reading the series at the third book, A Storm of Swords , and that's a decision I'm quite comfortable with.
Two of my picks made the list: Embassytown and Among Others (my thoughts on them here and here). I'm pleased about that. They're both great books, and I think they deserve to be there. I've also read Leviathan Wakes, and although I did not nominate it, I enjoyed it very much (my thoughts here). I haven't read Deadline, but its prequel Feed was part of last year's Hugo ballot and I liked it fine.
Actually, that's kind of how I feel about this year's Best Novel nominees: they're fine. Plenty of variety -- literary fantasy, epic fantasy, zombies, literary science fiction and space opera. That's good.
But they're not exciting. Every time an awards ballot is announced, I'm hoping for surprises, for things I've never heard of, for books I feel passionately about. I would have guessed four out of the five books on this year's ballot, and the fifth (Deadline) is a sequel to a previous nominee. To be fair, I do feel pretty strongly about Embassytown, but given China Mieville's (well-deserved) standing in the field, its inclusion isn't particularly surprising.
I think I'm being naive, hoping for surprises from the Best Novel Hugo. It's a popularity contest, and this year's ballot has probably done a great job of summing up what's currently popular in the field. But I think I'd rather be voting on what's interesting in the field.
Which is why I'm going to read the nominees in the shorter categories -- short story, novelette, novella -- with interest. And next year, I think I'll look to the Nebulas for novels, rather than the Hugos.