Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novelette Category

So I've now essentially read every book/story nominated for the big four Hugo Categories this year.  For those who aren't aware (and if you're reading my reviews on this blog, I don't know how you aren't), the Hugo Awards are one of the biggest Science Fiction and Fantasy awards (arguably one of the big two, along with the Nebulas), and are awarded through an open voting process.  Anyone who at least buys a supporting membership at the Worldcon convention they're awarded at (for $40) is eligible to vote.

Note that if you buy a supporting membership, you gain access to a free giveaway of Hugo Nominated Material that contains nearly all (it's missing one best novel work, and that's it of the big four categories) of the works nominated for the Hugo this year.  The value of this is WELL OVER $40, so I highly recommend paying for this (we're talking like 20+ Novels, 5 comic trades, and much much more).

Anyhow, I'm going to be writing posts for each of the four big categories (and maybe a fifth for best graphic novel) and give my thoughts and reviews on the categories.  The Categories are Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story, and for the most part, I've finished all of the nominees.  So without further ado, let's get to Best Novelette first.

Nominees listed below in order of preference, from least liked first, to my pick last:

Behind No Award: "Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex" by Stix Hiscock

This was nominated due to the efforts of Vox Day, white supremacist and overall troll.  By all accounts (and the author is anonymous, so we can't know for sure), the author was not involved in the campaign (the "Rabid Puppy" campaign) that nominated this and is blameless.

That said, I refuse to read/reward something so blatantly nominated in bad faith, so it goes below No Award.  There will be other such bad faith nominations here, and unless they were stories that might've been nominated absent the Rabid Puppies' involvement, I will be treating them similarly.

Fifth Place On My Ballot: The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde:

Like her Updraft/Cloudbound books, this Fran Wilde story does excellent worldbuilding, telling a story in a world where there are powerful gems are bound to people who can hear them (the "Lapidary"s, who are bound to obey the royal family (the "Jewels").  In particular, this story tells of the last Jewel and her Lapidary, as they struggle to survive the betrayal of their people.

Unfortunately, like Cloudbound, this didn't really work for me.  Part of the resolution seemed like "Why didn't they do this before?" and basically made the whole impact of the plight seem minimal.  It just didn't make an impact on me as a story, so it is fifth on my ballot, just above no award.

 Fourth Place On My Ballot: The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan:

This story takes place in a near future setting, where one mission to Mars failed and all the astronauts died when the craft exploded and a new mission 20 years later is now being conducted, but is otherwise not SF/F at all.  It's a tale of a young woman who struggles with trying to live with and to take care of her sick mother (who has a disease affecting her mind) and who is also caught up in the question of who her father really was and whether he was connected to that past mission to Mars.

Again, this one really didn't do much for me either - it's nicely written, but the mystery is fairly obvious early on, and there isn't much else here.

Third Place On My Ballot: You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong:

Fantasy (Weird West) story here, involving a Boy who has the power to control things, living and dead, in the Desert, the girl he loves (at the whore house he stays in), and some corporate suits who have a use for the Boy's power.

This one definitely works for me - the characters are strong, it's interesting, and it resolves nicely - although it does so in a way that makes me wish this was novella length instead of novelette (or even just a bit longer as a novelette), with characters a bit more flushed out.  Would not be upset if this won, though it's below my top two.

Second Place On My Ballot: Touring with the Alien by Caroline Ives Gilman:

A really good SciFi tale here with an interesting ending: In a near future, aliens have landed ships around the globe, and the only interaction with them comes from some human "Translators" who have come out of the ship.  No one has seen or knows about the aliens themselves.  Then one day, Avery, a driver/shipper, gets a call from her boss that one of the Aliens wants her to drive it around in a bus around the Country.  As you might expect, nothing is as it seems, and the story touches on the value of consciousness and love.

I flip flop between this and my #1 for which should win this Hugo.  This story is terrific and intriguing, and the ending is very different from what you'd expect.  It's a story about choice and consciousness and whether that is good or bad - from a way that you wouldn't think of.  Really enjoyed this one.

First Place On My Ballot: The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon:

Another Fantasy (Weird West) tale here: Grandma Harken is a mysterious woman who wants one thing: to grow her tomatoes in peace, on a plot she has that grows the perfect tomatoes.  But some thing is stealing them.  So she sets out to find out whom, and finds herself in a tale of shapeshifters, living trains and train gods, talking coyotes, dragons, and more!

I loved this story - the voice is great and it's just a LOT of fun.  Apparently it's a sequel to a prior story which won the Nebula (which I haven't yet read, but will soon), and well, it's my pick for this year's Hugo.  It's short but not too short, the resolution works out pretty well, and Grandma Harken is just a really fun character - the badass magical grandma who mainly wants to enjoy her tomatoes, but is affronted by an evil that is forcing someone else to actually take those tomatoes, amongst other things.

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