The 2017 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts

The 2017 Hugo Award Finalists were announced this week, so I guess it’s time to start the bitter recriminations and whining. Assorted thoughts below:

  • The novel ballot looks pretty good and indeed, I’ve already read three of the nominees, all of which were pretty good (and two of which were in my nominations). Ninefox Gambit is the clear front-runner for me, with its intricate worldbuilding and simple, pulpy plot. A Closed and Common Orbit ranks a distant second, but I liked its focus and positive attitude enough to throw it a nomination. All the Birds in the Sky has a great, whimsical tone to it, but of the novels I’ve read, it’s the one that could fall behind some of the things I haven’t read yet. Speaking of which, Cixin Liu returns to the ballot with Death’s End, the conclusion to the story begun in the Hugo-winning Three Body Problem and the one I’m most looking forward to catching up with (even if it requires me to read the second novel, which I never got to last year). Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning has been on my radar for a while, but I never pulled the trigger. It sounds like it has potential for me. N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate rounds out the nominees. A sequel to last year’s Hugo-winning The Fifth Season, a book that I have to admit that I did not enjoy at all. Well written and executed, but it felt a little too much like misery-porn for my liking, and thus I’m not particularly enthused about reading the sequel. I realize this puts me in the minority here, but it’s got me seriously considering not actually participating this year. I really don’t want to return to that gloomy world of suffering and despair, as well written as it may be…
  • For the shorter fiction categories, the only thing I’ve already read was Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and the Shaman, which I enjoyed, but which I feel is inferior to its sequel, Penric’s Mission (perhaps because that came out late in the year, not enough people caught up with it?) In fact, now that I’ve caught up with the latest Penric & Desdemona book, Mira’s Last Dance, I can say that Penric and the Shaman is my least favorite in the series. And yet, I’ll wager that I’ll like it better than most of the other nominees. Only one way to find out, I guess.
  • The only out-and-out trolling nominee (in the fiction categories) is Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, which, ugh, why bother? I’m so over this Rabid Puppies trolling and I really don’t get it. Their point was made, now they’re just being gluttons for punishment. We know exactly how all the Rabid Puppy nominees will fare this year (at least there were less of them). The Sad Puppies seem to have faded away, which is fine I guess, but while I never really joined forces with them, I did have a certain sympathy with the type of fiction they claimed to enjoy. Of course, many of their nominees didn’t really bear that out, but the idea was solid. Except that this whole three year affair has ended with a really polarized field of nominees, which again makes me wonder if I should participate again this year. A good amount of the nominees in short fiction categories are available online for free, which is nice and could allow me to get a better feel for the tenor of these categories.
  • The Best Series award is new and experimental this year (and could be made permanent next year if people like it) and they’ve generated some interesting nominees. Chief among them is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, which might be my favorite series of all time. Of the other nominees, I’ve only read one book from James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, which frankly did not impress me very much. I’ve recently had Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence recommended to me by an independent observer, so I may get to that at some point. I really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s Uprooted last year, so I’d wager that her Temeraire series could also strike a chord with me. That Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series made the list is interesting because I don’t think any of them have previously been nominated for a Best Novel… The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch is the only one I wasn’t really familiar with at all, but it sounds interesting enough. Those last two are both Urban Fantasy, a sub-genre I’m not a particularly huge fan of, and not something traditionally awarded by the Hugo crowd, so this is an interesting list… That being said, this category has some rather high logistical hurdles facing it… If you haven’t already read these books, it’ll be difficult to pack them into the next couple of months (along with other Hugo reading). Some of these series are short, but most are very, very long. I’m a huge Vorkosigan fan, so I have something to root for here, but I don’t think it’d feel right to vote on this award without giving a fare shake to all the nominees, which is probably not going to happen…
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form has a clear winner for me in Arrival. <a href="Deadpool“>Deadpool and Rogue One made the cut, neither of which is particularly surprising. Season one of Stranger Things showing up here (as opposed to one of the episodes in the Short Form category) is a pleasant surprise. Ghostbusters is a profoundly mediocre blockbuster and it’s surprising that it made the ballot. I’m disappointed that The Witch couldn’t draw enough nominations, but it’s not your typical Hugo fare either…

So there you have it. Still not decided with whether or not I’ll actually vote this year, but I will probably read a bunch of stuff on the list in any case, so look for some reviews in the next couple of months…

4 thoughts on “The 2017 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts”

  1. I agree that PENRIC’S MISSION is better than PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN but when I suggested it as a potential novella nominee I was scolded that at 45,300 words it is exactly 300 words above the maximum word count. (I was not able to estimate its length so precisely.)

  2. Interesting, I never considered that, maybe because I have the same trouble estimating length! I guess that makes it a “novel” despite being marketed as a novella…

  3. scepticsmiscellanea

    I started the Rivers of London series in January this year, and I finished the first six books in the next three weeks! I don’t know how much they will appeal to you, but I absolutely loved them. The tone and setting are kind of similar to the Jim Butcher’s Dresden books (which, IIRC you were kind of ambivalent to?) but the humour is a bit more dry (and British) and the writing is more skillful – Aaronovitch has a really clever, slick way with words, while remaining very readable and accessible.

  4. I’ve enjoyed some of the Dresden books, but I’ve never found them really great or compulsively readable. I do like a lot of the concepts, so I keep coming back to the series, (I think I’ve read about 5 of them at this point), but they never quite live up to what I want and always feel a bit bloated. Ironically, the one I enjoyed the most was the most recent one nominated for a Hugo (a couple years ago) that was, like, 10 books after the others I’d read. Definitely felt a little bloated and filled with series service, but the story itself was a pretty neat little heist.

    Funny thing is that a friend who recommended Gladstone’s books to me told me that he likes them because they had what he wanted out of the Dresden books, but never got…

    Anywho, it’s not so much that I think I wouldn’t enjoy those books (even though I tend to be more SF focused than F), as that there’s just so much to tackle on this ballot, not to mention all the other stuff I want to tackle…

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