If you regularly read this blog and have no idea that the Hugo Award nominees were announced to some controversy then you’re a unique sort of person.  Well done!

The full list of the nominees can be found here.  If you’re interested in commentary on the Sad and Rabid Puppy shenanigans then check out this excellent blog post from Abigail Nussbaum (which itself has links to other stuff).

Now that you’ve wearily trudged your way back after reading all that stuff, here are the finalists for best novel:

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Putting aside the source of three of these nominations, my first observation is that four of the five are part of a series.  It’s not so bad with Ancillary Sword and Lines of Departure because both of these are Book Two and I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to figure out what’s going on.  The Dark Between the Stars is the beginning of a new trilogy set in an established Universe.  Again, not a huge problem because it’s set twenty years after the events of the previous series and Kevin Anderson goes at lengths to explain who is who in the zoo (I’m about 60 pages into the book).  And you could even argue that the 15th book in a series – I’m looking at you Jim Butcher – is not a deal breaker because if you’ve read Butcher before you’ll know that he makes a point of filling readers in when important stuff from previous books is mentioned.

But still, for these books to work as novels that you can judge on their own merit they require info-dumping.  There is a way of expositing that doesn’t stop a novel dead, and I’ll be interested to see if any of the four authors above can pull it off.  (So far Kevin J. Anderson would get a fail mark).  But still, if the award is meant to consider the best novels in a given year, these should be books that can stand on their own without the need for the reader to be aware of the 14 books that have come before.  (A friend did mention that I should read Changes and Cold Days before I read Skin Game.  But seriously who has the time to expose themselves to 1,500 pages of Jim Butcher?).

So, I do intend to read all five novels.  I’m not going to boycott this award because of the odious politics behind some of the entries.  But fuck me, three of these books better be bloody entertaining.  Because that’s what I was promised.  No message fic.  No SFW outrage politics.  But just sheer, unalloyed, possibly libertarian ENTERTAINMENT!

Finally, as I said on Facebook, big props to Katherine Addison for getting on the Best Novel list.  Even though the book has been well received, I didn’t expect it to have the grassroots popularity that would lead to a nomination.  Especially in place of other novels that, arguably, have had more buzz like John Scalzi’s Lock In and William Gibson’s The Peripheral.   While I haven’t read the novel… yet… if there’s one potential silver lining that’s come out of this shit-show, it’s Addison’s (AKA Sarah Monette’s) emergence as a critically acclaimed and popular author.