~post by Tommy
2012 has come and gone and brought with it some wonderful Science Fiction and Fantasy books. It’s soon going to be book award season, but before we get to official nominations let’s take a look at ten books I think may end up on the list of nominees for the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
The first of my picks for possible Hugo glory is John Scalzi’s new part-absurdist, part-philosophical tale, Redshirts. The book is, first and foremost, a wonderfully funny send up of the original Star Trek series. Andrew Dahl is a bright shiny new ensign on board the starship Intrepid and is very happy to be there, until he starts to notice that on every away mission one of his fellow ensigns wearing a red shirt always dies. Scalzi makes us laugh right from the beginning with this goofy parody, but about halfway through he changes tones and takes a deeply philosophical look at writing and what responsibilities a writer has to characters and their story. Scalzi has proven his ability to mix comedy and philosophy with his story of old soldiers in Old Man’s War, and he continues that trend with what might be my favorite of his books.
Final Ranking: 7 As much as I want to put this in my final five, goof ball humor has never quite been the Hugos’ style. This book is amazing but its definite comedic bent keeps it off of the final list, but only barely.
Next up for this year’s award is Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest entry into the saga of Miles Vorkosigan. This new book, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, focuses on, as its title suggests, Miles’ barely older cousin Ivan Vorpatril, who is a wonderful character who has gotten the short end of the character development stick. Well with a whole book of his very own, Ivan gets some great character development as he gets into enough crazy trouble to make readers wonder if he isn’t Miles for just a moment. Like every Vorkosigan Saga novel, Alliance is filled with wonderfully complex and well thought out characters who, coupled with a twisty, convoluted storyline, make this probably the best entry in the series since A Civil Campaign. Lois McMaster Bujold is the second most nominated Hugo novelist after Heinlein and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is definitely worthy of another.
Final Ranking: 5 Like I said definitely worthy of another nomination and I think it will sneak on the list and make Bujold just the second author with double digit nominations for Best Novel.
Now we come to what may be the book with the strangest yet most amazing premise I’ve seen in a long time. China Mieville has always been on the cutting edge of modern science fantasy, yeah I said that right, but his new novel Railsea is both a touch derivative and strangely innovative at the same time. Railsea is, at its core, a retelling of Melville’s Moby Dick, on a train traveling through a post apocalyptic wasteland, with giant moles. How awesome is that, you ask? It’s quite awesome, thanks for asking. Like he always does,Mieville builds a wonderfully dark and depressing world that sucks the reader into whatever story he chooses to tell in it, and the story of Sham is a wonderful mix of heady adventure and intellectual self reflection. You may ask why I have a young adult title on my list and all I’ll say to that is if Goblet of Fire can be nominated, so can this.
Final Ranking: 6 I know young adult lit doesn’t usually get a fair shake from the voters unless your name happens to be Rowling. Despite Railsea‘s charming mix of classic literature and dark storytelling, I think it will just fail to make the nomination list (but it should be on there).
Next up on the list is James Corey’s, and by that I mean co-authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, sequel to Leviathan Wakes: Caliban’s War. When I describe Leviathan Wakes I tell people that it felt like I was watching Star Wars for the first time again. It had such a sense of wonder and newness (I know that’s not a word), that I couldn’t help but be awed by a book that was three parts space opera, one part noir crime horror. Caliban’s War is the sequel that abandons that sense of wonder and instead focuses on the internecine political wranglings between the outer planets and inner planets, yet still manages to retain its story and the experiences of a few well written individual characters. Franck and Abraham take a wonderful world created in their first novel and give it a fantastic sequel that adds new dimensions to an already great universe.
Final Ranking: 4 As much as I praise this book, there are still some titles yet to come that I think will beat it out. I will say this to the 2014 Hugos though: Watch out for Abbadon’s Gate, the third in the trilogy, because it may go all they way to an award win.
Last for this half of my list is Deborah Harkness’ Shadow of Night. Shadow of Night, like Caliban’s War, is a sequel, in this case to 2011′s A Discovery of Witches. In Shadow Harkness takes her characters, a historian witch and her vampire husband, back to the sixteenth century and allows the second book to wallow in the history that the first brings to life so well. Though at times all of the historical description does bog down the narrative, Harkness still weaves a very complex story that is anchored in a fascinating historical time period. Like many historical novels, Shadow of Night loves to get caught up in presenting us with famous historical figures as supporting characters, in this case Kit Marlowe and Richard Burton, but again, Harkness manages to make up for it with a story that also makes sure to focus on story lines presented in the first book rather than just start all new threads.
Final Ranking 9 A good book, but not quite there yet. Harkness still has some steps to take before she can truly contend for the Hugos, but Shadow of Night is a very good first step on that path.
So this is the end of part one of my list. Coming up in part two is not only my other urban fantasy pick, but some well known Hugo winners of past years and of course my current choice for the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. So join us next week as Marie looks at Ursula K. LeGuinn and in a week after that for part two of my 2013 Hugo list.
Sci Friday is a weekly post focusing on all things Sci Fi. Booksellers Tommy and Marie are you intrepid leaders on this journey through awesome new books; the best and worst of what’s come before; Sci Fi film adaptations and more. Check back next Friday for more!