The 2017 Hugo Award Nominees

The 2017 Hugo Award Nominees

The Hugos are almost here! This year for the first time, I made a point of reading all the nominees for Best Novel. They're a pretty impressive bunch, running the gamut from insanely ambitious science fiction to beautiful, nuanced character studies to expansive and detailed worlds.

Here's a list of the nominees, along with my ratings and links to the full reviews:

Death's End by Cixin Liu - 3.75 / 5

"But if you ignore his actual characters and simply read this book with humanity as its lead, Liu will take you down a beautiful rabbit hole of exploratory scifi. He's firing on all cylinders with different theories of extra dimensions and interstellar travel. The sections where the crews of Gravity and Blue Space explore a section of four-dimensional space are incredible, as are the depictions of the bunker cities."

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin - 5 / 5

"Jemisin balances the necessary exposition of Essun's storyline with the excitement of Nassun's journey. It is through Nassun that we begin to learn more about who and what the Guardians are, and we see firsthand in a way we didn't really with the Damaya chapters in The Fifth Season just how hard it is for an orogene to learn control. "

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer - 3 / 5

"I like politically inclined plots, and though the jacket copy advertises this as focusing on Bridger's ability to create life, the plot really isn't about Bridger at all. It's about these power ranking lists, one of which gets stolen, and unearthing this conspiracy to protect and/or derail the Hive governments. As our narrator bounces between different Hive leaders, we get a fascinating sense of the world politics and the dangers of upsetting the balances between them."

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee - 5 / 5

"His first chapter has gorgeous prose and lets me develop a good sense of Cheris as a character, all the while dropping unexplained world-specific terms. I was so confused by the end of it and so excited to have found a book like this. By the time I'd read the next three or four chapters, I had a pretty solid understanding of the world, gained organically by watching Cheris move through it."

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers - 4.75 / 5

"The writing is exquisite, and Chambers' worldbuilding continues to impress with its originality and diversity. Port Coriol hums with life, and watching Sidra navigate through it is a joy. The book's conclusion is small, but holds great emotional weight for the characters, and that gives it a quiet power that many other books lack in their bombastic climaxes."

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders - 4 / 5

"After finishing All the Birds in the Sky, I can see why it won the Nebula and the Locus. The prose has a very literary feel to it, an almost fairytale quality that is endearing even as Anders talks about science and huge disasters afflicting the world. It's beautiful without being overwhelming, and it conveys a childlike sense of wonder that grows with the characters." 

So who am I rooting for? Well, that's a tricky question.

The short answer: Yoon Ha Lee and Ninefox Gambit.

The long answer: Of the whole list, I enjoyed The Obelisk Gate and Ninefox Gambit the most. You can see above where I tied them in score. However, The Fifth Season, the predecessor to The Obelisk Gate, won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and I find it highly unlikely that Jemisin will take the prize two years running. Given that, I'm rooting for Ninefox instead. It truly blew me away. Close second? A Closed and Common Orbit for its stellar character work.

But honestly, I don't expect either will win. If the Nebula and the Locus are any indicator, All the Birds in the Sky is going to take it. Kudos to Anders if so - but Ninefox will still be my favorite.

UPDATE 8/11/17: OMG SHE DID IT! I can't believe it! N.K. Jemisin won the Hugo for The Obelisk Gate, becoming only the third person to ever win back-to-back Hugo Awards! Major congratulations to her - it was definitely one of my favorite books of last year, and much like The Fifth Season, it deserves the recognition.

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