Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Hugo 2019 - Novel Category

The nominees are:
  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
My reading is done.  My reviews are not complete.  But this is where things sit right now.
Award position
Review forthcoming.  It's going to be hard to knock this one out of first place on my ballot.
A great piece of work that engages the reader and tells a unique tale immersed in the world of indigenous peoples.  The long version....
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers
Review forthcoming.  This one was "on the bubble" for a long time.  Good characters with a compelling message overcame massive plot holes.

No Award
  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Initial thoughts - didn't we read Seveneves within the last year or two?  And then there was Lucifer's Hammer from many years ago.  This seems sort of derivative and certainly less inclusive.  A full review is forthcoming.

After a great deal of thought, I ended up putting this novel below "No Award".  Primarily because of one huge plot hole.

Along with everything else, the protagonist experienced anxiety attacks when under pressure.  Specifically, she had trouble when she was appearing in front of an audience.  In much smaller groups or when not in front of the media and/or cameras, she was supposedly OK.  As a result, she ends up taking a prescribed medication for those specific circumstances.

This is presented as a probable disqualifier for putting her in space.  And probably for good reason.  Astronauts that don't deal well with stress are potential risks when thousands of miles away from the Earth.

In her specific case, the conditions of her anxiety probably would not have been an issue.  But rather than have a discussion about when her specific condition might be an issue, the book just waves it off as anyone on anti-anxiety medications is just the same as everyone else that doesn't need such medications.

It was a short cut around a longer conversation.  In my opinion, it cheapened her larger achievements and undercut the larger narrative of her superior capabilities.

I had similar misgivings last year when reading the Prometheus Award-winning The Powers of the Earth.

In this case, Ms. Kowal would have been better served by either having that fuller discussion or just omitting one additional complication to the narrative that involves marginalized individuals.
Essentially, this is a fantasy novel that is camouflaged as MilSF.  The SF portion contains little actual SF.  The Mil portion doesn't match my expectations for MilFic of any type.  

I didn't finish this novel because I really didn't care who won.  No one had expressed a convincing case for what a new world would be under their leadership.  A slightly longer version....
The short version is that it was long on exposition, short on humor, and appeared to lack useful input from an editor.  The long version....

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