The finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, which honour achievement in science-fiction and fantasy, were announced via social media on April 4, 2017 and this year’s nominees are very exciting!
Since the awards are voted on by supporting or attending members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), in recent years there has been some controversy as organized right-wing campaigns (the “Sad Puppies” and the “Rabid Puppies”) sought to undermine what they saw as a movement towards recognizing diversity and more literary takes on science-fiction and fantasy that rewarded “niche, academic, overtly to the left in ideology and flavour” works by lobbying voters to support their suggested nominees, generally white men, who likely would not be nominated otherwise. (This is my simplified view, George R.R. Martin is quite involved in the Hugo Awards and has discussed the matter more thoroughly on his Not a Blog for anyone interested).
As a result, I was extremely pleased to see such a diverse slate of nominees for this year’s awards. African-American author N.K. Jemisin, who (deservedly imho) won Best Novel last year for The Fifth Season is nominated again for her second book in the series, Obelisk Gate. In fact the Best Novel category is completely devoid of white men, while including authors who are transgender, Asian and Asian-American, and gay.
With such an exciting slate and works that look interesting and all very different from one another, I’ve decided to read all six Best Novel Hugo nominees before the winners are announced at Worldcon on August 11th! Since one of the nominees (Death’s End by Cixin Liu) is the third book in a trilogy, I’m also going to read the first two books in the series, The Three Body-Problem and The Dark Forest. I’ve already read Jemisin’s Obelisk Gate, but will be re-reading in July to prepare for the release of the final book in the trilogy, The Stone Sky, in August. This gives me 3 months to read the eight titles.
I’ve decided to stick to just the Best Novel nominees this year, but the Short Story, Novella, and Novelette nominees also look interesting. And as a sidenote for any musical theatre fans, Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs is nominated with his band Clippin’ for their album Splendor & Misery in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category! I haven’t listened to it, but it was an interesting surprise when I first read the nominees!
Here are the six nominees for Best Novel that I will be reading:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go war as the world from tearing itself. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.
As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.
All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.
Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early 21st century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.
Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.
The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.
It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.
It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.
The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.
The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.
And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…
I have The Three-Body Problem and Ninefox Gambit checked out my local library now, so those will be my May contributions to this challenge. Stay tuned for reviews later this month!
Have you read, or are you planning to read any of this year’s Hugo nominees? What do you think of the nominees?