“The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
“The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
“True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
This is my third post covering the 2009 Hugo Award nominees. This time, the novella. As I prefer to do, the stories will be listed in reverse order of how good I think they are / their perceived worthiness for the award.
The first story I want to talk about is the one I haven't read. Here is what I wrote about it when I covered the Nebula nominated novellas, with one quick adaptation for the Hugos.
I’ve read a previous story from Charles Coleman Finlay (“The Political Officer”) which featured Maxim Nikomedes and I don’t remember being too excited / impressed by it. Given that “The Political Prisoner” is set in the same world as that earlier story, I’d be surprised if I’d liked the new one. Unless “The Political Prisoner” wins the Hugo, I don’t plan to read it. This story gets the position of dishonor simply because I did not read it.
I have always had issues with Ian McDonald’s work and could not get into “The Tear”, but at least I tried. McDonald is just a case of author / reader failure for me. Perhaps I should attempt to explain what my major issue with this is, but I don't know if it would do much good. Me and McDonald are not a good fit. By any rights this story should be granted the position of dishonor, but the unreads have to go first.
"The Tear" is not currently available online (though if you are a member of World Con, you can e-mail McDonald for a copy - but that offer may no longer be open given that the deadline for voting has passed)
Previously stated thoughts
Here's the thing - I like Cory Doctorow's work. I haven't read quite enough Rosenbaum to have formed an opinion (nothing has really resonated), but I suspect he's good. Their novella "True Names"? It's not for me. It's overlong with little meaning (for me) and has nothing for me to connect with, to engage with. I was left lost and cold.
"The Erdmann Nexus"
I think I waited too long before writing about Nancy Kress's story because at this point I don't really have anything to say about it. It was a perfectly ordinary and reasonably satisfying story about an aging physicist attempting to work out strange visions reported from the other patients at the old folks home. It's fine, with a twist of an ending that is sort of hinted at throughout the story, but it doesn't stand out as a story one would heartily recommend to others. On the flip side, compared to the first three stories I've written about...
Here is the Torque Control wrap up / coverage of the story.
Previously stated thoughts
A story that runs as little more than extended conversation, or as two extended conversations, probably should not work so well, but damn, this is stuff I want more of! “Truth” isn’t political diatribe or rhetoric, it’s just the story of a time traveling terrorist.
It’s just a really good story that I wish was a little longer. It’s horrifying, but beautiful in the very nasty way a looming apocalypse can be.
"Truth" is the one story truly worth recommending. If I had a vote, I don't know if I would throw down the dread "No Award", but I'm fairly disappointed in this crop of nominees.