May 12th, 2009

buzz

The Hugo Novelette nominees

Five - well, four - decent stories in this line-up. For further opinions see Rich Horton, Abigail Nussbaum, and the readers of Vector (with links to other reviews, here, here, here, here and here). [ETA: also Ian Sales.] As before I'll list them in reverse order of preference:

5) Alistair Baffle's Emporium of Wonders, by Mike Resnick: two old men rediscover the magic shop of their youth. One accepts a new life, the other doesn't; not really much happening, and rather sentimental. (One of the old men is called Nate Silver, but this is probably a coincidence.)

4) Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel. Jane Austen meets Mary Shelley, as Mary Bennett of Pride and Prejudice has a brief flirtation with Victor Frankenstein. It's a lovely idea of crossover fanfic, but the idiom isn't quite there and the ending a bit weak. Somewhat surprised that this won the Nebula.

3) Shoggoths in Bloom, by Elizabeth Bear. Bear won a Hugo last year for another story featuring monsters on a beach, and this will no doubt do well. An African-American biologist visits the shoggoths living on the coast of Maine, while war brews in Germany across the ocean. The setting - human and natural - is well realised; again I was a little disappointed with the ending.

2) The Gambler, by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is a great near-future fairy-tale story contrasting the central character's youthful experience of escaping a monarchist coup in Laos with his difficulties operating as a journalist in an online media company. Bacigalupi skewers celebrity culture rather well, with a slightly laboured but worthy point about how the real news gets lost. (But he can't spell Aung San Suu Kyi's name.)

1) The Ray-Gun: A Love Story, by James Alan Gardner. Sometime I'm just a soppy romantic, and while this is possibly not as good literature as some of the above, I enjoyed it more than any of the others and so it gets my vote. A young boy discovers an alien ray-gun and it comes close to ruining his life. You don't have to be a literary genius to interpret the ray-gun as any juvenile obsession, potentially even sf itself as a fandom. But it tugged at my heartstrings and won my affection.

So, once again my vote actually goes to the one story which was not included in the e-book package from the WorldCon. (But Ian McDonald tells me that his The Tear is now included in the pack.)