Only a few things finished this past week, but I managed to read enough to do my Hugo Awards voting for the major classic categories.
There were some really good things in the Novella category this year: best of the lot were Ted Chiang's The Lifecycle of Software Objects
, Rachel Swirsky's The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window
, and Troika
by Alistair Reynolds. I had a hard time deciding which of them would get my 2nd-place vote (Ted Chiang's story obviously got 1st place).
Elizabeth Hand's The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellepheron
and Geoffrey A. Landis' The Sultan of the Clouds
were a bit easier to place, but still well worth reading and SotC has an interesting take on group marriages reminiscent of the "line-marriage" concept in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
. Actually, in retrospect it seems to be semi-homage, with some very similar themes, I think.
Novelette and Short Story offerings not so great this year, but I did enjoy Allen M. Steele's charming The Emperor of Mars
, which reminded me a bit of the turn-of-the-century Emperor Norton I of San Francisco
. And Peter Watts' The Things
and Kij Johnson's Ponies
were interestingly creepy takes on pop-culture staples. I wonder if someone will be doing a Care Bears riff next year.
Some of the nominated stories/novellas are available to read free online (Watts, Johnson, and Chiang's works at least) if anyone's interested.
Didn't manage to finish the graphic novel bundle in time to properly evaluate and vote fairly, unfortunately, but I did cram in most of the novels.
1) My 1st place vote went to N.K. Jemisin
's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
, which was an imaginative fish-out-of-water-all-is-not-what-it-seems take on a young heiress' sudden ascension to a position of apparent power. It's got an interesting premise based on "if humans are made in the gods' image, then considering how messed up humanity us, how much more messed up must the gods be if we're supposed to be reflections of them?"
Even though I actually enjoyed the next book I voted for more, this one was very entertaining and I felt rather better written and more inventive.
Highly recommended, and has a lot of nice bonuses in the back (faux cultural appendices, which I always love, and an author interview).
2) Mira Grant
got a very deserved 2nd place vote.
It's a great book about the convergence of zombies, bloggers, and politics in a semi-apocalyptic landscape as post-modern newshounds Georgia, Shaun, and Buffy follow the US presidential campaign trail in a world that's been warped by the brain-eating undead menace.
Very imaginatively thought out as to how the presence of zombies would affect societal structures and blogging/social networking would alter mass media, and strongly analoguous to the present-day situation of the "War on Terror" with fear lurking in the background of everyday life.
It's weird, but this and the previous year's also-zombie nomination by Cherie Priest were two of the most upbeat books in their respective voter packets.
Anyway, very highly recommended and I look forward to finding the sequel in the library hopefully Real Soon Now.
Didn't manage to finish before the deadline, but voted Ian McDonald
's The Dervish House
3rd place because what I read thus far seemed pretty promising and both Lois McMaster Bujold and Connie Willis had previously won Hugos for better-written books in the same series that were nominated this year, even though I did quite enjoy Cryoburn
a lot and were happy to have bought and read them last year despite their flaws. They just weren't really Hugo quality in comparison to what had gone before.