…in two categories.
Back in April, I decided I would dedicate my time to reading the Hugo Award nominated books from two categories; the Novels and Novellas. I wish I could have read all of the stories, but I am a simple human and didn’t want to be beholden to too many books especially when there’s other books to read and review. So I decided just these two categories will be enough for me.
Let me first start off by saying this was most definitely a challenge. Not only was I reading six extremely big and unapologetic sci-fi novels, but then I was reading five novelas that were small but mighty in their story power. Sheesh! The other challenge was that I didn’t own most of the books in these categories and being on a big old book buying ban, I didn’t want to buy them either. So I borrowed all of them from the library. Some had much longer wait times than others, so I was getting them in slowly and then all at once.
Each book was a completely different world to immerse yourself in. Each of these authors deserves some sort of medal for writing these stories. I’m honestly impressed with these nominees and I will be reading more from each of these authors in the future. Aside from Gideon the Ninth and Becky Chambers, I had never read any of these books or authors.
So the rules of my book challenge was to read all the books from the Novel category and 5/6 of the stories from the Novellas category. I didn’t end up reading In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire because it was a story in the middle of a series. While everyone told me that it’s fine to read this one because they’re standalone, I’m not the kind of person who’s reading books out of order. I must read the other books first and that’s my credo. Live by it. Die by it. So I didn’t read all the books from the Novella category, but I figured Seanan McGuire was also nominated for the Novel category so I did that.
Then I read the books. Phew! I went to space. I went to January. I went through two doors with a girl named January. I was in a parallel universe. I had a twin. I went to Alternate Cairo. I swam with mermaids who were born from the pregnant enslaved Africans who were thrown overboard from their ships. I played chess. I turned into a ball of light. I was an ambassador from a mining town. I died for my necromancer. I lost a friend in a time war.
All of these are elements from the stories I read. They were all complex and engrossing. Each of them brought something interesting to the table. I wasn’t a fan of maybe two of the stories, but the rest were ::chef’s kiss:: So let’s finally get down to my own personal choices for a Hugo Award…
VO: Folks of the science fiction and fantasy universe, welcome to Simone’s Personal Hugo Awards! [wait for applause]. With your host, Simone and Her Books!
ENTER SIMONE. SHE’S WEARING SOME KNOCK OUT DRESS WITH SEQUINS AND MAYBE A TENTACLE AND SOME SORT OF HEADDRESS THAT’S MADE OF STARDUST AND ALCHEMY.
Simone: Thank you so much! I’m so happy to be here to host my very own Hugo Awards! [pause for applause]. This year’s nominees all brought some interesting ideas to the table. Other worlds, parallel dimensions, monstrous beings, and mermaids alike! There was no end to the massive creativity and breathtaking life these authors put into their work. I’m so honored and privileged to have read these books and share these books with you all.
But without further ado, let’s re-introduce the nominees.
For the Novel category, our nominees are:
- The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
- Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
- The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)
- A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK)
- Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
The winner for best novel is…
Middlegame is a book I can’t get out of my head. Twisting and turning, the story of Roger and Dodger was so complex and well thought out I was breathless by the end. It truly was the most magical urban fantasy I’ve ever read in my life. Using alchemy as its main source of magic, Roger and Dodger were a set of twins created by a man who believed concepts in our reality can be personified into real people. However, they’re not perfect beings and split from each other at birth, it was only time that would eventually bring these two together. This book was so genius (in my opinion) that there’s even a book of the book within the book. MIND BLOWN. I cannot wait to read Over the Woodward Wall (out later this year) and I’m most definitely a lifetime fan of Seanan McGuire.
Simone: That was quite beautiful, don’t you think? And now onto the nominees for the Novella category:
- “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))
- The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga Press/Gallery)
- The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
- In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
- This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga Press; Jo Fletcher Books)
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager; Hodder & Stoughton)
The winner for best novella is…
Honestly, this was a tie between To Be Taught, If Fortunate and The Deep. The reason why I’m giving it to The Deep is because while TBTIF was a very straightforward space opera, The Deep went even further with the story Rivers Solomon creates.
First off, the story is based off a song by clipping. It talks about a world where the enslaved African women who were pregnant on the African slave ships were tossed overboard. Their children were born in the ocean growing gills and fins and learning to live in the deep. Rivers Solomon brings to life Yetu, a young woman who’s sole responsibility is to keep all the memories and history of her people. Every year, she would unleash these memories to her underwater tribe and they would all remember where they came from. But Yetu wanted more than just a life as a living history book. So she runs away searching for her identity when she comes across a little island off the coast of Africa.
While the story itself is pretty short (it is a novella after all), I thought Rivers Solomon’s way of sharing identity with history was so powerful. The lessons Yetu learns in her time away from her people made so much sense to me when I was reading it. And the lesson at the end made me cry to know about the hope in the future and learning our shared histories. It was incredibly moving.
Thank you all for coming to our little awards show. GOOD NIGHT!
FADE TO BLACK
Before I leave you all, I do want to share my other honorable mentions. I won’t go into details why they were good, but they were good. The best part about this challenge is that I got to explore so much from this genre. I have new favorite authors and books I wouldn’t normally pick up. It was such a great experience that I will never do again. Honorable mention goes to:
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
- The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
- A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
- The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P Djeli Clark
- This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
- The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley