Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thoughts on the Nebula Award Nominees: Novels

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)

This is my final post covering the nominees of this year's Nebula Awards.  Very disappointingly, I was not able to read all of the nominees before the awards will be given this weekend, though I expect to read two of the three I missed sometime this summer. 

Though I did not get to read Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice for my Nebula reading, I will be reading it as part of my Hugo Award reading and coverage. That said, I would read this book regardless of nominations.  Likewise, I missed out on Hild, from Nicola Griffith. I am a fan of her work, and for reasons, I did not acquire the book when I thought that I might, and that threw a very large wrench into my plans. The other novel I did not get the chance to read was Linda Nagata's The Red: First Light. I am still not buying very many books right now, and because it was a self published novel, my library did not carry it. This was always the book that I was going to miss out on.

So, with those three novels not part of this conversation, what follows is some brief thoughts, with links to my reviews, of each of the nominees in reverse order of my esteem.

A Stranger in Olondria (my thoughts): I do very much recommend clicking through to my not-quite-a-review and following links there and looking at what other people, smarter than me, have to say about it. I expect that I am very much in the minority for this novel. I can see, sort of, what other readers appreciate in this, but I just can't get there myself.

Fire with Fire: I am not quite sure what to think about this book. It was intriguing enough that I wanted to keep reading and learn more about what is going on, but compared to the other nominees on this slate, it seems out of place and slight. This doesn't come across as Big Science Fiction like I think of Peter Hamilton or Alastair Reynolds, and it may be more accessible than either one of those two writers, but it also isn't nearly as good. Also, I was thrown off very early on with the protagonist's sexism towards a woman who was to be his corporate "guide" on the new world. I don't really expect or desire all characters to be upstanding citizens, but it was still jarring and offputting. Regardless of that, Fire with Fire was a fairly well crafted novel, just not one that I would put forth as one of the best of the year.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (my review): From my review: "This is a novel about memory and family, and yes about the secrets that people keep, even from themselves.  It is quietly beautiful and sad.  Fowler challenges the expectations of readers, both in what they think about the novel but also what they think about in general.  It is quite a challenge."

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (my review): This was very, very good. I think it might be one of the best things that Gaiman has written. I still haven't completely decided how to interpret the novel, whether as a recollection of events exactly as they happened, or the projection of very real fears by a child who cannot quite understand what he is struggling with. Either way, it is a wonderful novel.

The Golem and the Jinni (my review): Oh, how I love this novel. Helene Wecker cannot write her second novel fast enough, whatever it is going to be. This is a rich, vibrant novel, and I will recommend it to everyone I meet.

I do not have the faintest idea how the SFWA will vote for this award, and I will not be terribly surprised if A Stranger for Olondria wins the award, but I do think that The Golem and the Jinni was very much the strongest novel on the slate (out of the ones I have read). Ancillary Justice has been nominated for pretty much everything this year and I hold Nicola Griffith in the highest esteem, so I would like to see her win the Nebula just because she is a fantastic writer and I expect that Hild is a masterwork. But, I haven't read it. 

Overall, and this goes for the short fiction categories as well, I think that this was a very strong year for the Nebula Awards. Well done, SFWA.

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