Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts on Nebula Award Nominees: Novels

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket)
The City & The City, China MiƩville (Del Rey)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press)

With the Nebula Awards to be presented this coming weekend, it is time to start discussing the nominees. We’ll start with the novels because there is no chance I will get to the two I haven’t yet read: Flesh and Fire, and The City & The City. Given that China Mieville’s novel is working on sweeping every genre award it is eligible for, this is the one novel from 2009 which I need to read this year. It is also nominated for the Hugo. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if it picks up a World Fantasy Award nomination as well. I don’t know anything about Laura Anne Gilman’s novel. I had it out from the library and I ended up returning it unread.

Otherwise, this will be in reverse order of my esteem.

The Love We Share Without Knowing: Stylistically, Christopher Barzak’s novel has more in common with the Lit Fic genre (and Lit Fic can be considered a genre) than it does with the other novels in this category. Barzak touches on feelings of loneliness and isolation in Japan with the cast of characters including both native Japanese and various expatriates. The focus is on the inner life of the characters and quiet interactions. The action is internal.

For whatever reason, and it may have to do with when I read the book, The Love We Share Without Knowing left me empty and not at all interested in the lives and problems of the characters. At no point did I want to know more or care to find out what happened next. This may say more about me than the book, but that’s the reaction.

The Windup Girl: This novel has garnered nominations for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Paolo Bacigalupi has been praised as being one of the most important new writers working today. I can see why his work is admired and praised, but that is a very different thing than something I like, something I would recommend. The Windup Girl is an impressive work of imagination, but it fails to satisfy.

Boneshaker: (my review) I am just a little bit sad to not select Boneshaker as my choice for the Nebula because I absolutely adore Cherie Priest’s fiction. Boneshaker is one of the standout novels of last year and this spin through a zombie-infested Seattle that-never-was is a superior adventure. Boneshaker is highly recommended and would be my choice for the Nebula if not for…

Finch: (my review) The more distance I get from reading Finch, the more I like it, and I liked it plenty at first blush. VanderMeer’s Ambergris is a nasty place and anytime I talk about the book I want to talk about how VanderMeer is able to convey the fungal rot of the city so perfectly that the reader can almost taste it in the back of her mouth. Finch is a fantastic novel about a detective in the dying city and it demands to be read.

So there we have it. In all honestly, I can see the winner being Boneshaker, The City & The City, or The Windup Girl. I’d love to see Finch pick up the Nebula, but I just haven’t seen as much online conversation about Finch.


Chad Hull said...

I wish you had done a review of The Windup Girl at the time you read it. I would've enjoyed hearing what you found impressive and why it was an ultimate let down. It's a book I may or may not read.

I'd call it an upset if anything beats out MiƩville.

Joe said...

Yeah, my problem was that I was staring at the book for more than a week and I just had no idea what to say about it. Still don't, really.