May 27

Who Should Win The Hugo Award For Best Novel

As a reminder here are the nominees (you’ll note that they’re a little different to the nominees that were originally announced with Marko Kloos deciding to pull his novel for consideration.  More props to him).

Let’s start by saying something a tad controversial: This years Hugo Novel category is far better than what was served up in 2014.

Last year the finalists included Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice – a book that seemed to win every genre award available in 2014 – Charles Stross’ Neptune’s Brood – decent, but well below his best work – Mira Grant’s Parasite – a dull, predictable and overlong novel about mutated tapeworms – Larry Correia’s Warbound – I read the first book of the trilogy and found it to be a series of “will they ever end” battle sequences – and finally the entirety of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time – the less said, the better.  Not the most inspiring of ballots and it was no surprise to anyone when Ann Leckie walked away with the rocket ship.  That’s not to damn with faint praise, Ancillary Justice is a fantastic début novel that provides a fresh coat of paint to New Space Opera, following on from the work of writers like Paul McAuley and Alastair Reynolds (two writers who have never been honoured with a Hugo nominee.  Just saying – Edited To Add: Jonathan Strahan has pointed out to me that Reynolds was nominated for the novella “Troika” in 2011. ).  But in a year that also featured Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria, Christopher Priest’s, The Adjacent and The Machine by James Smythe, the 2014 ballot could have been so much better.*

Where 2015 easily trumps 2014 is that Ancillary Sword, the sequel to Ancillary Justice is clearly not the best book in the category**.  It may still walk away with the rocket, but at least this time the book faces real competition from two very fine novels, Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor.  Both these books engaged with me emotionally, whether it was wiping away tears or picking my jaw up from the floor.  And frankly, any fiction that has this sort of visceral impact, that actually bypasses the cynical nerve bundles in the brain and evokes a smile or a laugh or a giggle of surprise*** should be celebrated.  So yes, 2015 far, far better than 2014.  And this, in spite of the elephant in the room.

And it’s one big elephant.  Two of the novels featured above were on the Sad and Rabid Puppy ballot – the Kevin J Anderson and the Jim Butcher.  If Larry Correia had not declined his nomination and Marko Kloos had not pulled out, I would be talking about a very different Hugo slate, one that would probably included the Leckie.****  And I doubt very much that I’d be as enthusiastic about this years finalists.

As it is, I didn’t enjoy having to read the Butcher or the Anderson.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  The Butcher was mildly entertaining even if it the plot was derivative and I was exposed to Harry’s smug voice (AKA witty banter) and his sexist attitudes.  The Anderson though was offensive.  A bloated novel, filled with featureless and unremarkable characters where nothing happens for page after dreary page.  I gave up a third of the way through and frankly it took much brain stamina and discipline to get that far.

The Anderson in particular led me to question this whole notion purported by the Sad / Rabid Puppies that good SF has big ideas and entertains.  Having read two examples of this sort of SF, both the KJA and Charles Gannon’s awful Nebula nominee, Trial by Fire (review forthcoming) I can only conclude that my idea of entertainment and big, high concept ideas lives in a very different Universe than what the Sad Puppies are aiming to promote.  This isn’t snobbishness***** on my part, I just struggle to see the appeal of novels that are so poorly written.

But let’s get back to the point of this blog post:

Who Do I Want To See Win – I tossed and turned about this, but I’ve finally landed with The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)

Who Do I Think Will Win – I might not have been so keen on the novel, but I believe that Ann Leckie will take home her second novel Hugo for Ancillary Sword.


* Yes, I know, in reality neither the Priest or the Smythe ever had a chance of making the 2014 Hugo ballot.  But a guy can dream…

** Obviously, this is a very subjective use of the term “clearly”

*** Doesn’t everyone giggle?

**** We won’t know until the Hugo’s are awarded whether it was the Leckie or the Addison that took that fifth spot.  Based on popularity alone I’m assuming the Leckie.

***** I thought it was laughable that Nick Mamatas was accused of being snobby and elitist for comparing a snippet of Raymond Chandler with a snippet of Jim Butcher.  I’m sure Chandler would be overjoyed to know that a niche group of SF fans thinks he’s a literary writer.


1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. Paul Weimer

    I think Leckie will take it but with this year’s demographics? Who can tell? I liked both Sword and Emperor a lot, and it would take a lot for Three Body Problem to keep it from being a two person race for me.

    1. Mondyboy

      Well, I really liked the Three Body Problem, and seriously I was *this* close to choosing it ahead of The Goblin Emperor.

  2. Joe Sherry

    I think Leckie was likely a lock for the ballot. Addison may have been in that #6 slot before Correia pulled out, but the buzz a week before nominations came out was that SP/RP had 3/5 slots and my guess is that this was before Correia dropped. I would guess either KJA or Kloos himself moved up. But we won’t know this until August.

    1. Mondyboy

      That’s a fair assessment. As usual, the best part of the Hugos will be seeing those stats. This year more than most.

  3. lauredhel

    I’ve been going round and round in circles on this one, having initially thought that the Leckie would be a lock. Going purely by my enjoyment of the books, it’s a narrow race which I think shakes out ThreeBody>Sword>Goblin, but only barely, with the race for second place being especially narrow. And my primary issue with Goblin was the proper-noun problem, which really did make this read a bit of hard work at times for me; but maybe it’s unfair to use that issue to bump it to third place.

    When I think about which novel I’d like to win (which is not always exactly the same as which novel I enjoyed most): I’m keen on a big-ideas novel win, so that’s Three Body. In a minor consideration (perhaps usually relegated to tiebreaker), I’d also like it for a non-white person to win, with novel-in-translation being a big bonus, so that’s Three Body as well. Done and done.

    Which one I’ll end up putting in second place remains to be seen, really. No Award is taking up fourth place.

    1. Mondyboy

      The proper nouns in GE are a definite mouthful – it was something I originally mentioned in my review of the book but edited out because at the end of the day it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

      I adored the big ideas of Three Body. And they nearly got me across the line. But I had an issue with Wang who is really a plot cipher rather than a character. And ultimately, it was GE’s character work that got me across the line.

  4. MadProfessah

    To me It seems like it is Liu’s race to lose. However since we have no idea what the demographics are who knows what the final result will be? The great thing is that the tallies Wil be released so we’ll see if VD’s “casual remark” that he is biting for Three Body Problem has an impact.

    1. Mondyboy

      There’s still plenty of buzz for the Leckie and that’s why I see it winning. But VD’s adoration of the book – a book he apparently wasn’t aware of when he put together his RP list – may see he and Dread Ilk push it over the line.

  5. Lindsay

    Of the books on the list I would prefer that the Goblin Emperor took the award, but it is fantasy and Jonathan Strahan’s attitude (Hugo is for SF) seems to be common enough that most fantasy books face an uphill battle to win the Hugo. Probably too much of an uphill battle for this year’s list because both the Three Body Problem and Ancillary Sword are very good.

    Objectively I think it will go to the Three Body Problem because it’s solid big-idea SF and it would be the first translated work to take the best novel award. And despite it not being on their slates, the puppies seem to like it, so will likely see a boost from part of that sector as well.

    1. Mondyboy

      I would be incredibly happy if it went to the Three Body Problem. In fact I think both sides of the current SF divide would genuinely celebrate this win (for different reasons).

  1. The Effect of Puppy Rays on Fan-in-Spokane Rocketships 5/26 | File 770

    […] “Who Should Win The Hugo Award For Best Novel” – May 27 […]

Leave a Reply