Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Series

Last year I had read at least one book in all but one of the series on the final ballot in this category. This year all but one of them were completely new to me. In three of those five cases I decided to just read the first volume, for another I picked the volume with the highest rating on Goodreads and LibraryThing, and for the fifth the author kindly provided a sampler for Hugo voters.

To repeat what I said last year, I actually opposed the Best Series award in principle, and supported trying it out for the 2017 Hugos last year in the hope that its flaws might become apparent more quickly. I was against it for two reasons. First, I feel it's important that each year’s Hugo Awards represent the best in the genre of the previous year. (Of course this gets a bit blurry with the individual achievement Hugos where there's sometimes a tendency to reward lifetime achievement rather than last year's record, but I’m talking about the ideal here). With the Best Series final ballot this year, we are being asked to judge between series that started in 2005 (Bujold), 2010 (Sanderson), 2011 (Wells), 2012 (McGuire), 2013 (Brennan) and 2014 (Bennett). I don't think it's really comparing like with like, and we're certainly not comparing 2017 with 2017.

Secondly, as a conscientious Hugo voter I have generally tried to read every work on the final ballot every year I've had a vote. That's clearly completely impossible with Best Series. The options are to cast a vote based on only partial knowledge of the finalists you don’t know as well, or to leave them off your ballot. I don't find either option satisfactory, but I don't think any other approach is realistic if we have a Best Series award.

I do query how long the Best Series category will be sustainable. No winner can be eligible again; no finalist can be eligible again until another two volumes with 250,000 words have been produced. My feeling is that the well of plausible nominees may run dry rather quickly.

However, we are where we are, and these are my votes for this year.

6. InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire: I read the first volume, Discount Armageddon. Second paragraph of third chapter:
“Remember, Very,” Dad used to say when I whined about the goggles, “if your opponent has night vision and you’ve never bothered to learn the local landmarks by anything but sight, you’re going to be in a bit of a pickle when it’s time to avoid getting disemboweled.”
I felt this was really Buffy reheated for New York, and as soon as the tall handsome antagonist hove into view I could see how it was going to end.

5. The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells: I read the short story volume Stories of the Raksura: The Dead City + The Dark Earth Below, which had the highest ratings on Goodreads and LibraryThing. Second paragraph of third story (Trading Lesson):
Moon would have been fine with this, or at most only a little impatient and annoyed, if Chime hadn’t come up to the queens’ level to tell them how exciting it all was.
The protagonists of the stories are non-human, which made it more difficult for me to get into, and the stories were a bit disjointed from each other. However, I’ll come back to this series at some point.

4. The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan: I read the first volume, A Natural History of Dragons. Second paragraph of third chapter:
My collections of oddments from the natural world went away, tipped out onto the ground of the small wood behind our house. The cards I had written up to label various items were burned, with great (not to say melodramatic) ceremony. No more would I bring home anything dirtier than the occasional flower picked from the gardens.
Young gentlewoman in vaguely Victorian world goes off to become an explorer to find out more about dragons, challenging convention as she does. Nicely worked out world with linguistic variety and politics and economics. Not so totally convinced by the emotional dynamics of the protagonist.

3. The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson: I read the Introduction to the Stormlight Archive for Hugo Voters, kindly provided by the author as part of the Hugo voter packet. Second paragraph of third chapter:
For a moment, Kaladin couldn’t feel anything but that coldness. He was pressed against the side of the barrack by the extended blast of water. Rocks and bits of branch crashed against the stone around him; he was already too numb to tell how many slashed or beat against his skin.
As a voter, I very much appreciated the time and effort that Sanderson made to compile a sort of “greatest hits” anthology of individual chapters of the three huge books that comprise the Stormlight Archive. It’s well-written, dramatic stuff, and I will come to the books themselves sooner rather than later.

2. The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett: I read the first volume, City of Stairs. Second paragraph of third chapter:
But, Shara notes as she enters, the university plumbing is nothing short of immaculate. As with most buildings, only pieces of it can be seen: connections to water mains, sprinklers in the ceiling, along with the usual taps and sinks. But what she sees is fairly advanced.
I was aware of this novel having been one of the original Puppy victims, kept off the 2015 ballot by slating. I thoroughly enjoyed it, a great bit of political and emotional world-building, with special ops and ancient magic mingling in a dark and uncontrollable combination. Looking forward to the rest of these.

1. The World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I have read all of these, and reviewed Penric’s Fox here. Can Bujold make it two years in a row? She has my vote anyway.

2018 Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Related Work | Graphic Story | Dramatic Long | Dramatic Short | Professional Artist & Fan Artist | Series | Young Adult | Campbell Award
1943 Retro Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Dramatic Short | Fan Artist

Tags: hugos 2018, writer: brandon sanderson, writer: lois mcmaster bujold, writer: robert jackson bennett, writer: seanan mcguire

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