The 2014 Hugo Nominations Are Kind of Weird

Hugo LogoThe 2014 Hugo nominees were announced today, and, like always, some of the categories have a few head-scratchers. However, I’m going to focus my discussion on the Best Novel category, which is usually the one where I’ve read the most nominees:

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

The list starts off very strong with Ancillary Justice, which is the only book nominated that I’ve actually read as of this post, but HOLY SHIT was it good. Hands down one of my favorite reads of last year and definitely one of my all-time favorite books.  I think I said everything I need to say about it in my review. I’d probably vote for this to win with a clear conscience, although if I was a voting member I would do my best to actually read the books before voting.

Neptune’s Brood is on my wish-list, although I think I like Stross most when he’s doing the Laundry Files books, which include a good helping of humor and satire to offset the political nature of his work. (Even though I do generally agree with his politics.) I’m not sure what I’ll end up thinking of Neptune’s Brood; I read Saturn’s Children, which is set in the same universe, but I get the impression that the two books are very different. The only Stross book I don’t particularly like is Rule 34, but only because it made my skin crawl at several points and didn’t really live up to Halting State.

Parasite is sitting in my to-read pile right this very instant (it is one of many review copies I have in my hot little hands) and although I’ve read enjoyed several of Seanan McGuire’s books under her own name, I’ve never read any of her sci-fi/horror stuff as Mira Grant. I’m pretty sure I’ll like it, but I don’t know how much her style changes under her pseudonym. It’s a wild card!

Warbound is where things get weird. First off, it’s the third book in a series, which seems like an odd choice when neither of the previous books were nominated. Then again, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga gets nominated all the time, which seems to set the precedent for sequels getting nominated whether or not the previous entries made the short-list. Maybe book three of this series really is so much better than the previous two books that it deserves some kind of recognition. I suppose it’s possible, but I’m not really inclined to give Correia another chance… for more than one reason.

Some background: a few years ago, I picked up his debut, Monster Hunter International, after a friend recommended it, only to discover that it read like gun-nut propaganda with a wish-fulfillment protagonist and paper-thin supporting characters. My first red flag was that the inciting incident revolves around how great it is the main character brought a concealed weapon to work so that he could kill his evil boss when he turned into a werewolf. Armed co-workers are exactly what I want in my life, y’know? Long story short, I hated it with a burning passion and stopped after maybe an hour of that sort of bullshit.

Okay, so, I don’t agree with his politics and I hated his book, but the fact that Correia doesn’t even try to hide his contempt for the Hugo nomination process makes his presence on the Best Novel short-list a bit suspect. Apparently he thinks that the nominations are nothing but a popularity contest for liberals and their political causes. (Because his books are only entertaining, never political, I guess?) However, instead of writing off the Hugos entirely, he’s decided that his job is to try to get his work and the work of his friends on the short-list. This has naturally led to accusations of ballot-stuffing on his part, which… he’s kind of up-front about, really. John Scalzi is sanguine about the whole thing, pointing out that the nominees will stand on their own merit even if Correia did encourage ballot-stuffing.

Anyways, after the speed-bump that is Correia’s Warbound, the list ends with a nomination for The Wheel of Time – as in the entire damn series. Apparently this is possible when no previous books in a series were nominated for the award. The only conclusion there is that the WOT nomination serves mostly as an award for completion. “Good job for crossing the finish line,” etc. I read three or four of those books sometime back in the 90s and knew then that the series wasn’t for me. I have no desire to try again.

So, in summary, I kind of want Ancillary Justice to win, but I’m betting that I’ll enjoy both Neptune’s Brood and Parasite once I get around to reading them. I’m unlikely to enjoy Correia’s book if I ever do give it a chance, and the Wheel of Time is a non-starter for me. I’m actually kind of tempted to get a supporting membership so that I could vote in the Hugos, but I probably wouldn’t manage to read enough of the nominated works to actually have an opinion.

Oh, and, the Dramatic Works sections are always kind of silly. The Long Form nominees are all the blockbuster SF&F movies of last year, and the Short Form nominees are almost all Doctor Who episodes. I love the show, but surely there are other shows that deserve notice! At least Orphan Black made it on the list.

Final thought: if I was nominating for Best Novel, my short list would probably be:

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • The Human Division by John Scalzi