And onto the novellas nominated for the Hugos for 2012.
I read all of these on the Kindle, all of them from the Hugo packet apart from the Valente and the Grant, which I already owned (I also own the Valente in hard copy, which I am gleeful about. I had a few issues with the formatting of a couple of these on the Kindle, but they were ultimately readable. It’s a small quibble, and hey, the Hugo packet is provided for free, essentially, and the love. Not complaining, just putting it out there in case anyone is wondering.
Countdown by Mira Grant
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Newsflesh
trilogy, for which this novella is a prequel. I was pretty excited to read it, and overall, I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know how any voters who haven’t read the trilogy will fare with this one, since it is vastly enriched by the reading of the other books.
Basically, this novella relates some of the events that led to the Rising, where humanity and animals over a certain mass rose as zombies. The Newsflesh books are an awesome look at the potential the zombie outbreak has on humanity, and I loved the way that Grant incorporated the world of bloggers in the events post-Rising.
I don’t feel that this novella is as strong as the novels. One of the major strength of the other books are the protagonists, and here, the reader is given a variety of viewpoint characters (which would be very hard to relate to if you hadn’t read the other books). There are a lot of “aha!” moments which call back to events of the trilogy, and there’s a decent amount of stuff that’s genuinely heartwrenching.
I really enjoyed this one, but I feel that, standing on its own, it’s not strong enough to be a Hugo winner.
The Ice Owl, Carolyn Ives Gilman
This is the weakest story on the ballot, to my thinking. There is some genuinely beautiful stuff in here – the ice owl itself, and its story arc – but overall, it felt scattered and nothing captured me. I felt like there wasn’t consistency or conviction in the characters, and as such I didn’t feel invested in their stories.
There are some fascinating glimpses into the larger universe this takes part in, which just aren’t explored enough in the context of the story.
Not for me, but there are obviously people who see more in this story than I do, since it’s on the ballot.
Kiss Me Twice, Mary Robinette Kowal
Another of my favourite authors, who I am very happy to see on the ballot.
I loved a lot about this novella – I loved Metta herself, and I think the use of Mae West quotes and imagery for her was an inspired choice by Kowal. I liked Huang as protagonist, and even though the police procedural isn’t really my thing, I found myself really caught up in the plot.
I do feel like the ending let this one down a bit. I felt as though there was a bit too much luck involved in the resolution, which detracted from what otherwise was a wonderful and strong story.
In another ballot with different competition, this would probably be a winner for me.
The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson
Here’s where I have to admit to some sacrilege and admit that this is the first Kij Johnson story I’ve read. I’m just not someone who tends to seek out short stories in general, which is one of the reasons I was really keen to get a supporting membership and get hold of the Hugo packet.
This one really surprised me. The plot is really pretty basic: man builds a bridge over the mist (populated by fishes and Big Ones, who are clearly lethal and angry and gloriously enigmatic). I honestly thought this one would totally bore me, and I was completely wrong.
I am someone who reads for character, and this novella gave it to me. I really liked Kit as protagonist, and I adored Rasali. I even liked the end of this one, though I can imagine that it would be frustrating and anti-climactic for some readers.
Definitely up there in competition for my vote.
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, Ken Liu
And here is where I have to admit that this is the first Ken Liu story I’ve read. I have a handful of his sitting waiting on the Kindle and in various publications, I’ve just not gotten around to it (despite many people enthusing about his work, and justifiably so).
I don’t think I can say that I enjoyed this one. This novella is a punch in the gut. It is amazingly written, with the documentary style coming across flawlessly, and it is a very realistic look at what could be done with time travel, and the motivations behind people’s choices to travel back.
This one should definitely come with a trigger warning, and I know several people who wouldn’t be able to read this because of the war crime content (I have a pretty strong tolerance for such, and this one pretty much had be revolted/weeping/despairing in general).
I’m torn on this one, because it is amazing, but a lot of the amazing and wrenching content comes from the history and not the science fiction elements.
Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente
The novella category is one that really spoiled me, including three of my favourite recent authors. And this novella pretty much propelled Valente to the status of being one of my favourite authors of all time (as well as being an incredibly awesome person in general).
And tangent – if I ever get a cover like this one, I will be an extremely happy author. Happily, the story within is just as awesome as the cover.
I can understand that Valente’s lyrical style probably isn’t for everyone, but I adore it, and it’s especially amazing to see her writing science fiction in that same style.
This novella is just incredibly beautiful and complex, like the jewels that Elefsis begins “life” as.
I think this is a pretty damn amazing list of nominees, and all of them would be deserving winners in their own right. For me, the race is between Countdown, The Man Who Bridged the Mist and Silently and Very Fast, but I think it is the latter that truly deserves to win.