It’s that time of year again when Hugo and Nebula Award nominees are published in preparation for the conventions that will decide the winners, to be held shortly. The Hugo nominees are listed and the Nebula nominees should come out shortly, but there is lots of speculation on the list. Traditionally that means that I start some informed reading, although I’m not really eligible or, for that matter, inclined to vote on them. It’s just a good “recommended reading” list.
The Hugos and Nebulas have come to encompass Fantasy as much as Science Fiction novels in recent years, with the whole Game of Thrones / Lord of the Rings spotlights shifting attention to the Fantasy genre. Personally, I’m not nearly as fond of Fantasy as I am of Science Fiction, so I’m a little disappointed to see this shift. It can be seen in the bookstores as well (those that are left) in the amount of shelf space delegated to Sci Fi and to Fantasy. Where once the latter held a distinct secondary ranking, it is now crowding out the Sci Fi.
Two Sci Fi books that appear on several lists for this year’s best are Fire With Fire, by Charles Gannon and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, both of which happen to be initial offerings in a series.
Fire With Fire almost lost me in the first third of the book. It starts off strongly, introducing a mystery on a newly settled planet, but then shifts over to a whole different plot line with a series of disjointed action scenes. It actually never returns to the original mystery. Fortunately I stuck with it as about 40% of the way through it the novel takes another sharp turns and gets down to the main business of the story. It becomes quite fascinating , looking at interspecies diplomacy peppered with action and intrigue. Long sections are kind of cerebral, but it’s interesting speculation and, for me at least, unique and worthwhile. I particularly liked the main character whose ability to analyze and evaluate situations was kind of like a cross between a Mentat from Dune and Holmes from TV’s Elementary (without the heroin addiction).
I did enjoy it and am looking forward to the next installment. Largely because of it’s slow parts I would rate it a B+ rather than an A.
Ancillary Justice is a far future, Star Wars like, space opera, combining some interesting ideas about AI with interstellar political intrigue. There are lots of fast paced action sequences, although I found the flashback format a little tedious at times, and the characters are not highly compelling. There’s a kind of impartial and unemotional quality to the characters, which is probably quite appropriate to the story and scenario, but still makes things seem a little flat. In spite of that, it has lots of excellent points and I would also give it a B+, …although I think I’d rate it a rung or two higher than Fire With Fire.
Looking forward to Neptune’s Brood by Charlie Stross next on the list, …but not till I’m done with the newest release in the Dune series.