Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

2012 Hugos: Best Novella

My reading of this year's nominated fiction for the Hugos did not end particularly well. Although I very much liked my favourite in this category, I was disappointed by the other five and indeed found three of them rather poor.

7) "Kiss Me Twice" by Mary Robinette Kowal. I really hate stories with cute anthropomorphic artificial intelligences, and this one has a police computer that thinks it is Mae West. And when it gets captured by bad guys in the first couple of pages, the police department does not treat it as a class one emergency, mobilising all resources to regain its most strategically valuable piece of equipment, but leaves it to our hero's lonesome plodding to solve the mystery. There is an interesting twist at the end but I had lost sympathy long before.

(I would add, though this did not much affect my view of the story, that the ebook version was also rather sloppy, preserving original page headings and numbers from the magazine publication which interrupted the text.)

6) [May Books 12] Countdown, by "Mira Grant"

This is a prequel to the zombie apocalypse trilogy whose first two volumes got Hugo nominations last year and this; here we have the story of how the zombie infection came to pass. Apparently some stoned activists drove across two states to vandalise a secure laboratory. One of them, while being held in protective custody by the police, is interviewed by an investigative journalist. I'm afraid the story lost plausibility for me on those two points. (Also I thought that Grant's zombie virus couldn't manifest in mammals weighing less than forty pounds, so the infected raccoon at the end of the story must be an impressive specimen.)

5) "The Ice Owl", by Carolyn Ives Gilman. I'm sorry about this, because I really liked the first 90% of the story, a coming-of-age tale of an immigrant girl in a future city of an alien world and her elderly tutor who turns out to have both a sinister past and a set of present enemies. But the ending completely ruined the story for me; the heroine's rapid turnaround in her attitude to her mother, and her mother's unnerving ability to be in the right place at the right time, fatally eroded the emotional (and astronomical) parameters of the narrative for me and was a crushing disappointment after such a good start. Without the ending, I might have put it in second place.

4) No Award. I might wobble this up or down a ranking on mature reflection.

3) [May Books 13] Silently and Very Fast, by Catherine M. Valente. More anthropomorphic artificial intelligences, but at least these are not meant to be cute, but re-enacting various foundational human myths in their efforts to become more than human. Lots of lush description, but there did not seem to be much going on and I did not warm to any of the characters.

2) "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" by Ken Liu. As discussed earlier, this is a tremendously detailed and sparsely emotional tale of second world war atrocities which did not quite work for me as an sf story, educating rather than entertaining or enlightening. Still better than most of the others.

1) "The Man Who Bridged The Mist", by Kij Johnson. This won the Nebula Award earlier this month, and as five of the six nominees were the same, I suspect that the Nebula voters made the right choice. I thought this was a brilliant story of a world not quite our own, with a hero-engineer dealing with the challenges of a river of deadly mist and of facing up to his own emotional needs - an odd but effective mixture of immersive fantasy and basic technology. Excellent stuff, which I really hope wins the award.

So, that's it for the written fiction categories. But I see that vast amounts of new material in the other categories has just been posted to the Hugo Voter Pack site, so this will not be the last post in this series.

See also: Best Novel | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist
Tags: bookblog 2012, hugos 2012, writer: seanan mcguire

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