liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
I didn't get very far through Hugo reading. I read all the short stories, and the three novels which were stand-alone or first in a series, skipping the ones that are sequels. I managed two of the six novellas, but didn't feel able to vote when I hadn't looked at the others. And I spent the last day before the voting deadline reading through the novelettes in order to be able to rank them. Plus, I happened to have seen enough of the films I felt I could reasonably vote on that category.

Novels: I loved Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, even though it's massively disturbing. It's a really original book with great world building and voice, and I'm excited for the sequel. My favourite review is [personal profile] marina's, because she's very good at SF meta and is also a military veteran with a fascinating take on the way the book portrays war.

I did not like Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer nearly as much as I hoped to like it. It has a lot of great elements including some very original world-building, but it's just too annoyingly prurient about sex and gender. And although Palmer talks a lot about how the book is joining in a Great Conversation, she seems to have skipped all the other SF that addresses classical Western philosophy. Like, sure, it's in conversation with Voltaire and Machiavelli and so on, but it's not in conversation with Cherryh or Delany. Also my favourite take on, how do sadists fit in to a Utopia is AS Byatt's Babel Tower, which is only arguably SF, but I think I spent too much of TLTL being annoyed that it's not that.

I enjoyed All the birds in the sky by Charlie Jane Anders. It's a much lighter book (in spite of being apocalyptic) than the other two. Again, it's original and well-crafted and twisty. I probably don't agree with all its opinions, but I enjoyed being exposed to them and they're never heavy-handed. I will try to write a proper review presently...

So my ranking is:
  1. Ninefox Gambit
  2. All the birds in the sky
  3. Too like the lightning
I didn't rank the others, not because I expect them to be bad but because I would need to read at least one preceding book to appreciate them. Also all three have already received various accolades for the first of the series and I have a mild preference for not giving Hugos to the nth in already popular series.

Novellas: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is really good Lovecraftiana. I enjoyed it in spite of having very minimal interest in Lovecraft. Well, enjoy is maybe not exactly the right word, it has a horror structure of everything going worse and worse. There's more emphasis on violence than horror, and much of the violence is normal, non-mystical human evil. Including racism; it was a daring choice on LaValle's part to do Lovecraft with an African-American protag, but it does a very strong take on both Lovecraft's racism and real-world racism, including the topical issue of police violence.

Every heart a doorway is pretty much what I expected from reviews and from Seanan McGuire's other work. There's a central cool idea, some lovely prose, a lot of pointless gore, and a story that doesn't really hang together. And much as I hate to make this criticism, it does feel like it's doing tick-box diversity. There's an ace character who explains asexuality in Tumblr-approved terms, there's a trans guy, there's twins with contrasting gender expressions, blah blah blah. I largely agree with [personal profile] rachelmanija's (somewhat negative) review (spoilers, along with some really fascinating discussion) in the comments. Maybe I should have read it unspoiled, maybe I should have not read it on a horrifically delayed train at about 1 am, but I don't think even in better circumstances I would have loved this.

Novelettes: I liked all of them (except the Puppy troll entry). I didn't really love any of them. I therefore found them very hard to rank, but in the end went with:
  1. The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
  2. The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
  3. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  4. The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
  5. You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
But it was mostly on the basis of whether it's the kind of story I like since I didn't have strong preferences about the quality. I won't be sad whichever of these wins, and I'm glad the Hugos brought them to my attention.

The Tomato Thief is lovely, very clearly located American fantasy, and it manages to be both sweet and humorous, and at the same time impressively weird and numinous.

The art of space travel is a very nice near future SF piece about people peripherally involved in the postulated first crewed Mars mission. Some absolutely gorgeous characterization and it felt as if there was a lot more background than appeared in just this episode from the protag's life.

Touring with the alien feels like a real classic SF story, it's a first contact thing about aliens who don't have a conscious mind, and it explores that idea. Definitely the kind of thing I like, perhaps not the best possible example of that sort of idea-driven SF, but worth reading.

The other two are quite fantasy ish, the Wilde being classic secondary world with lots of magic and not much tech and a princess as the main character, and the Wong sort of horror-ish set in the American Old West. Both are very good stories of a kind I'm not very fond of. Lush prose, characters who feel more like archetypes than people, somewhat depressing structures. I am uncomfortable with what Wilde is doing with slavery and what Wong is doing with sex work, though both are nuanced and at least partly subverting the obvious tropes.

Short stories: I liked all of these (skipping the puppy crap). The City Born Great by NK Jemisin was my clear favourite, the prose and the imagery are absolutely stunning. But I liked all five for different reasons.

  1. The City Born Great by NK Jemisin
  2. That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn (interesting SF with cross-cultural communication)
  3. Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar (really gorgeously written subverted fairy tale)
  4. Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander (basically a prose portrait of the Furies)
  5. A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong (time travel fails to save either the narrator's sister or the world from doom)
I don't hate Alyssa Wong's writing, though I've ranked her last in both the novelettes and the shorts. She has a really gorgeous prose style, reminds me a bit of a less nasty Catherynne Valente, but both of these stories are the kind of thing I find hard to get into, and are very down-beat.

I also voted on the films:
  1. Arrival
  2. Hidden Figures
  3. Rogue One
  4. Ghostbusters
Since I'd seen three of them and everything I've read about Ghostbusters leads me to think it would be a reasonable choice to win the award. I think Hidden Figures may be the better film, but Arrival is more SF and I really, really, really loved the way they portrayed properly alien, but not monstrous, aliens.

And the series:
  1. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich
  2. Vorkosigan by Lois McMaster Bujold
  3. The Craft by Max Gladstone
  4. The Expanse by James SA Corey
  5. Temeraire by Naomi Novik
  6. October Daye by Seanan McGuire.
I think the Vorkosigan saga is in fact the better series, but it's already won lots of Hugo awards for individual books and I think the most recent are not up to the standard of the earlier ones. I have only read one book of the Craft and two of the Expanse, but I think that's enough to get a feel. Temeraire I like but I found it quite superficial. And I haven't actually read October Daye but I had enough positive feelings about the others that I ended up ranking it last.

That's brief notes on my voting choices (well, I'm not great at brief)! I'm more than happy to discuss in more detail if anyone's interested, I just wanted to get this posted rather than being intimidated by it.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-23 05:25 pm (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (Default)
From: [personal profile] damerell
The gender stuff in the Palmer was ghastly.

"Here's a new person. I'm going to call them 'he'. You, gentle Reader, protest they are a 'she'."

No, I don't, narrator, the reason being all I (or the hypothetical reader in The Future) know about them is what you have told me.

"Now I'm going to explain why not. Here's a bit about their dangly bits."

Would you please get on with the 2 1/2 mostly unlinked plots? I have a suspicion they're not going to get tied up or together by the end of the book.

Frankly, it read a bit like Puppies who were outraged by Ancillary Justice without reading it must have supposed AJ was.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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