Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.
This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.
The Novella length has gotten a lot more popular recently and Tor.com has responded by providing a lot of high quality ones to the ebook market. Apparently that was a good move for them as they've got 4 of the 6 slots here. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.
The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing) - Lovecraftian horror from a far better writer than Lovecraft. I've never read LaValle's work before, but now I know he's a name to look out for. This is great!
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing) - Also lovecraftian, but by an author I just don't enjoy reading. I tried, but gave up at less than 20%. I made myself finish the last Kij Johnson novella to make it onto a ballot and that was a mistake.
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing) - A great premise and interesting characters, I really wish McGuire had trusted her reader a little more here. There is far too much exposition followed by a mystery that has an obvious motive and obvious solution. A solution that is pointed out in one scene, and then ignored. This has all the right pieces but is assembled in a way that did not work at all for this reader.
Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency) - Penric seems like an interesting character, but I don't like this setting. I don't like it at all. I don't like the names or the gods or the social structure. But I did finish reading this one, that's something.
A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing) - There's a scene towards the end that recontextualizes the entire story, leading to a satisfying conclusion. That said, the experience of reading up to that point was somewhat frustrating. Because there isn't really a story, just a bunch of scenes from some dude's life - made extra frustrating by how interesting the lives of some women around him seem to be. If this had been half the length, I think I'd have really dug it.
This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador) - another I couldn't finish, but made it almost a third of the way into. Tedious.
So LaValle's entry goes at the top, followed by McGuire's or Wilson's? Bujold will be ahead of the two I couldn't finish. Or maybe I'll just leave those two off the ballot.