I've been holding off on this post for a while, because I'm still catching up on my novel reading. But having at least got to The Moon and the Other and Ka, and with time running a bit short, I figure I'll go ahead and post it -- revising it later as I read more.
Hugo Nomination Thoughts, Long Fiction
I use the term “Long Fiction” because we now have three categories that can fit. Best Novel, of course, but also Best Series, as well as the new “Not a Hugo” for Best Young Adult Fiction.
Every year I mention that I haven’t read a lot of novels. Maybe I did a bit better this year, however. Already I’ve read the following novels I think are potentially Hugo-worthy:
Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory
Ka, by John Crowley
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodora Goss
The Moon and the Other, by John Kessel
Provenance, by Ann Leckie
Seven Surrenders, by Ada Palmer
The Wrong Stars, by Tim Pratt
Amatka, by Karin Tidbeck
I’ve got a few more novels ready to read real soon: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (cool that I’ll read that right after John Crowley’s novel about a crow); Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty; The River Bend, by Kij Johnson; and Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz. That doesn’t by any means exhaust the pool of good novels, or potentially good novels, but I only have so much time!
I’m going to put three novels on my tentative nomination list right away. These are the best three 2017 novels I’ve read so far, and I’ll be surprise (and pleased!) if any of the novels I have yet to read surpass them. The leading choices for other two on my ballot right now are The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, The Wrong Stars, and Amatka, but there is still time for a new novel to bump one of those, or for me to change my mind. (And, of course, I need to make up my mind between those three anyway!)
So, the top three are, in no particular order (well, alphabetical by author):
Ka, by John Crowley – the subtitle is “Dar Oakley in the Land of Ymr”, and it’s about a Crow named Dar Oakley, who, upon being nursed to life by an aging man in our near future, tells the man stories of his long life – or series of lives – and his increasing contact with humans and knowledge of the human world (which he calls Ymr). This sounds simple – oh, another talking animal story – and it’s nothing but: beautifully told and wise, with the voice of both the human narrator and of Dar Oakley remarkably well-realized.
Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory – a very funny (and often heartbreaking as well) novel about a family of pyschics – the pater familias is a con man, but his wife and his children (and at least one grandchild) have real (if inconsistent) powers. I was reminded of Michael Chabon, and I was convinced by the portrayal of the Chicago suburbs, where the book is set and where I also grew up. There are multiple love stories, there is a tricky and well-navigated plot, and there is a real and powerful emotional payoff. And, yes, it’s very funny.
The Moon and the Other, by John Kessel – Set a in the 22nd Century on the Moon, centered on the political turmoil in one colony run by the Society of Cousins, in which women hold all political power, on the grounds that men are too violent. (The argument is developed more subtly in the book and in its related stories.) One character (the hero of a previous story) has been exiled and is making a life in another, noticeably patriarchal, society, when he is offered an opportunity to return to his first home. Another character is a woman involved in a Reform movement aimed at giving men in the Society the right to vote. Another character is a charismatic athlete in the Society who wants custody of his son. And who has a very unexpected personal secret. The novel is not drily political, or polemical, at all (though as with most essentially utopian stories, I sensed a bit of bias towards the more utopianish community) – instead it’s actively engaging, very fun reading, very thought-provoking. This is the choice for those who want traditional hard SF.
I’m going to cop out just a bit and suggest that the best thing to do is look at JJ’s list of eligible series posted at File 770 here: http://file770.com/?page_id=32954.
I’m behind in catching up with some definite candidates. As things stand now I’m most interested in nominating:
The World of Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross
Riverside, by Ellen Kushner
Kylara Vatta, by Elizabeth Moon
Terra Ignota, by Ada Palmer
Best YA Novel
This is the first year for this new award. As I mentioned, it is not a Hugo, but it will be administered and awarded by the World Science Fiction Society using essentially the same process as for the Hugos (and the Campbell). The only true YA novel I read this year was Martians Abroad, by Carrie Vaughn, which I enjoyed, though I wouldn’t quite call it Hugo level work. I have just bought A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge, on the urgent recommendation of folks like Farah Mendlesohn and others, and it looks quite interesting. Beyond that I’d suggest a look at the YA category in the Locus Recommended Reading list: http://locusmag.com/2018/02/2017-locus-recommended-reading-list/.
Best Novel, Series, YA
Best Editor, Campbell Award