Quality and Diversity | Hugo Nominations 2017

2010header[1]After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rabid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. LJ sf columnist Megan M. McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their teeth, was thrilled by the lists. “That so many women are represented (trans women! women of color!) just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited that a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—made the list.

Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally delighted by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big, squealing girl fan of Seanan McGuire, and I think his novel, Every Heart a Doorway, has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”

The winners will be announced at Worldcon75 in Helsinki, Finland, August 9–13. Below are McArdle’s and Chadwick’s reviews of the nominees for Best Novel and Best Novella, with a blurb from LJ‘s Readers Advisory expert Neal Wyatt. As an interesting side note, the titles by Anders and Jemison were also nominated for a Nebula Award in the Best Novel category. Check here for a full list of the nominees.

BEST NOVEL

81Fpy5XqQxL[1]redstarAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
They met as children, both awkward and otherwise friendless but otherwise as different from each other as they could be. Patricia always wanted to be in the woods, where she came to believe she could speak to animals. Laurence was obsessed with science, building a computer in his bedroom closet. Still, the two were allies until Laurence witnessed Patricia’s abilities and couldn’t accept them. Decades later, the two are in San Francisco, where climate change has left the planet on the tipping point of disaster. Patricia is a part of a community of witches, and Laurence has joined a think tank of sorts that is trying to find a scientific solution to the world’s ills. Nature vs. technology: the two old friends are on paths that will lead to unavoidable collision. VERDICT At turns darkly funny and deeply melancholy, this is a polished gem of a novel from the Hugo Award–winning (for the story “Six Months, Three Days”) editor in chief of the website io9.com. Her depiction of near-future San Francisco shows a native’s understanding (and love) of the city, while gently skewering it at the same time. Readers will follow Patricia and Laurence through their growing pains, bad decisions, and tentative love. (LJ 12/15)—MM

51b2VlzEnZL[1]redstarA Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager)
At the end of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Lovelace, the artificial intelligence (AI) of the starship Wayfarer, had undergone a hard reboot that wiped out her former personality. She decides to leave the ship in an illegal body kit and try to make a new life on Port Coriol with engineers Pepper and Blue. Lovelace, now known as Sidra, struggles to find a place where she belongs while hiding that she is an AI. Her chapters alternate with flashbacks to the struggles of a child called Jane who was raised in a brutal dehumanizing factory, who has a significant bond with a different AI. As with her amazing debut, the power of Chamber’s second space opera is in her appealing characters. VERDICT While readers might initially be disappointed to leave the Wayfarer behind, they will quickly find this an equally compelling story that gains intimacy with its smaller focus. Her protagonists might not all be human, but they possess more humanity than most. (LJ 1/17)—MM

Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor)
Escape into sf with the final book in the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy (but start at the beginning with the Hugo Award–winning Three-Body Problem followed by The Dark Forrest). The near-future series involves a pending alien invasion and Earth’s reaction, delivering a fascinating and gripping read. (Wyatt’s World, 9/30/16)

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

61vhA4ybA7L[1]redstarThe Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit: Hachette)
The Fifth Season has begun, and a cold darkness signals the end of the world. Orogene Essun, formerly known as Damaya, formerly Syenite, has found relative safety in Castrima, but her daughter, Nassun, remains lost. Instead, Essun has met Alabaster, destroyer of the world, now being slowly devoured—both figuratively and literally—by his incredible power and his stone eater Antinomy. Alabaster tries to teach Essun how to tap the obelisks and possibly deliver civilization, with drastic consequences. Meanwhile, far away, Nassun travels with her father. Her love for him battles her desire to acknowledge her skills as an orogene, despite knowing that same power is what cost her baby brother his life. As Essun and Nassun deal with both their strengths and weaknesses, the non-orogene people and the stone eaters make a play for Castrima, and Nassun learns that her choices may alter the fate of the universe and tip the scales of authority. While time and location shift with the different points of view, the dual chain of events is masterly crafted. The epic journeys of mother and daughter through this dying realm are dynamic and emotional. VERDICT Jemisin’s follow-up to The Fifth Season is exceptional. Those who anxiously awaited this sequel will find the only problem is that the wait must begin again once the last page is turned. (LJ 7/16)—KC

51HmEzsHmBL[1]Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor)
The year 2454 introduces an atmosphere that is entirely unlike our own: one in which technology and economics rule, gender and social norms are taboo, and religion is outlawed but spirituality is accepted. Carlyle Foster’s position as a sensayer allows him to counsel people in the ways that the world could be. However, arriving at his newest assignment, he encounters a child with living, bleeding, plastic toy soldiers, and a convict serving the family—Mycroft Canner. The existence of one young boy who can make his wishes come true could threaten this utopian system. As Mycroft narrates this story, he depicts a calm sense of reality, one that hides a deep, intense undercurrent that will spur a revolution among the realm’s inhabitants. VERDICT Palmer’s debut novel examines the cohesive yet clashing connection between philosophical ideologies and advanced technology. Mycroft’s experience as a convict refreshes stale sf elements and offers a unique perspective on the birth of a future rebellion. (LJ 4/15/16)—KC

BEST NOVELLA

71cUWT14egL[1]The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Tor.com)
Charles Thomas Tester is not a very good musician, but he can fake it well enough to make a rough living hustling on the streets of Prohibition-era New York. He takes a job at the home of Robert Suydam, a wealthy man from Red Hook, Brooklyn, only to find Sudyam’s occult ambitions involve opening a portal to other dimensions and summoning the Sleeping King to Earth. VERDICT LaValle (The Devil in Silver) crafts a gem of a Lovecraftian novella, cleverly keeping his horrors just offstage. The real power of the story is Tom’s experiences of prejudice as a black man living in early 20th-century Harlem, and how he overcomes and subverts that prejudice, taking on whatever role he has to in order to get by: he is “Charles” to his father, “Tommy” to his friends, and eventually “Black Tom”—one to be feared. (LJ 2/15/16)—MM

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (Tor.com)

91sDvEmtpEL[1]Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
Sometimes children disappear, and when they come back, their stories of fantastical lands are too much for their families to handle. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for such “troubled” youth. One new resident is Nancy, who is surprised to find out this home is different, and occupied by many children, like herself, who have been cast out of their otherworldly dwellings. Learning to deal with the strangeness of reality is hard enough; interacting with peculiar children even more so. When tragedy strikes at the home, Nancy and her new friends must root out the darkness at the heart of their lives, otherwise they will never return to their families. VERDICT McGuire’s (“October Daye” series) lyrical prose makes this novella a rich experience. Readers will be unable to resist the children’s longing for home, no matter how bizarre or fanciful that destination may be. (LJ 2/15/16)—KC

51Hz72hUMoL[1]Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Subterranean)
Lord Penric has joined the Bastard’s Order, studying and marking time as a sorcerer in the court of the Princess Archdivine. Locator Oswyl arrives, looking for a wizard to find the shaman Inglis, who is accused of killing his best friend. Released from his service to the princess and accompanied by his demon, Desdemona, Penric travels with Oswyl into the mountains where he is forced to use his still-burgeoning powers when they are confronted with unexpected magic and spirits in capturing Inglis. VERDICT Set in the world of “The Five Gods” (The Curse of Challion; Paladin of Souls; The Hallowed Hunt), Bujold’s novella takes series fans back to a well-known realm in an exciting new adventure. The varied voices, especially between Pen and Desdemona, add a fun slant to a serious tale. (LJ 2/15/17)—KC

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com)

519cV74P5hL[1]This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey: Ballantine)
In an isolated community situated between two hills and a valley, an unnamed boy lives a meager existence “up-hill.” He leads a lonely life—his parents are uncommunicative, he has no siblings and no close neighbors. His only contact with other people is the company of orphaned, self-sufficient village urchins while his mother does her shopping. The boy spends most of his time roaming the bleak landscape surrounding his family’s dilapidated house. It is during one of these outings that he sees his father pointlessly kill a stray dog and then toss the animal down a rubbish pit. This senseless act and the arrival of a mysterious records keeper throw an ominous shadow over the boy’s existence.Verdict The always imaginative Hugo Award–winning Miéville (The City & the City) melds elements drawn from fantasy, fairy tales, and alternative universe tropes into an original and distinctive mix that is almost a new genre. Using his inimitable style to create distinctive, sympathetic characters, he has written a haunting novella that is bound to stay with readers. (Xpress Reviews, 1/29/16)—Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA

 

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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.

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