Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novel

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Neptune's Brood, by Charles Stross
Parasite, by Mira Grant
Warbound, by Larry Correia
The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Neptune's Brood: This is the one nominee I have not read.  I suppose I could just post this sometime next month and give myself plenty of time to read it, but the fact is that I have no interest in this novel. I struggle with reading most of Stross's work and I tried to read Saturn's Children and I just could not engage with the novel.  Why read the sequel, then?

The Wheel of Time: This makes me sad.  I have a deep and abiding love for The Wheel of Time, and it is  a series I expect to re-read again in the future (having read those early novels many times).  Heck, I hope any future children I may have will read and love these books as I have.  The problem I have that seems to grow the more I think about it is that while The Wheel of Time as a whole is technically eligible, this isn't a single novel. It's a single story (mostly), but not a single novel.  How can I possibly judge 14 books (15 if you count the prequel) which were published over 23 years and have deeply impacted my love of fantasy fiction against any other single work published in 2013?  While this nomination is a love letter and a thank you to all that Robert Jordan has given us, I think that fans would have been better served to have nominated A Memory of Light instead. Sure, it doesn't stand so much on its own feet, and it would be a case where the nomination of the one book is really a nomination for the series, but I think it would be a more valid nomination.  I also think that I would have ranked my vote differently if A Memory of Light was nominated over The Wheel of Time.  But, it isn't.  If I should consider the Best Professional Artist based on the body of work published in 2013 (see some of my thoughts on Richard Powers and the Hugo from 2010), should we not be considering Best Novel the same way?  The Wheel of Time, as a whole, does not represent the best of the field from last year.  It represents the collective emotion we have over two decades of following and loving a series.  That's not the same thing. 

Warbound: I have never read any of Larry Correia's novels before and Warbound is the third (and concluding?) volume of the Grimnoir Chronicles. My hope going into this was that it would also stand own as much as it concludes the story of the first two books.  Happily, it does.  I expect that I missed all sorts of stuff from not having read the other books, and that events and character interactions did not resonate as much as they would have had I encountered them before, but Correia did an excellent job telling this story in such a way that someone walking in fresh could pick up and follow along just fine.  This is a pulpy adventure set in an alternate history and feels a bit like it crossed its streams with Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn in how some of the powers developed (minus the whole eating metal thing), but it's a good deal of fun to read. 

Parasite: If I didn't know better, I would have thought that Parasite was an offshoot of Grant's Newsflesh trilogy.  It's not, but it sure does feel the same.  Part of that, I think, is the Mira Grant brand.  So far, Grant writes one particular type of book - which works just fine and is perfectly enjoyable.  I'm looking forward to the second book this fall and will snatch it right up when it is published.  But, with that said, it did feel like a partial rehash of Newsflesh, and not quite as good as those books.  I would generally consider Warbound and Parasite to be on a par with each other, but I enjoyed Parasite just a little bit more.

Ancillary Justice (my review): Really, Ancillary Justice is in a class by itself here. I expect that my nominating ballot would have looked drastically different than the final ballot, but the one constant would have been this book.  This is a wonderful novel, and I would reference back to my review because I think I said everything I had to say there. 

Of course, I do not have a vote for the Hugo Awards because I am not a member of Worldcon this year (I have been in the past), but if I did, this is how I would vote.  I don't feel that No Award is justified over any of the novels here, and despite my expectation of dislike for Neptune's Brood, I wouldn't rank it below No Award without having at least attempted it.  I also wish there was a way to suggest just how much of a gap there is between Ancillary Justice and the rest of the nominees.  

My Vote:
1. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
2. Parasite, by Mira Grant
3. Warbound, by Larry Correia
4. The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
5. Neptune's Brood, by Charles Stross
6. No Award

Other Hugo Thoughts:
Short Story 
Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

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