Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 6: The Hugos

The Hugo Awards are a science fiction award. They are awarded at a smallish convention called 'Worldcon', which moves around. There are generally five nominees for each category, including Best Novel. This year, I decided to read the Best Novel nominees, as part of my attempt to get some more rest. In part, I'm reading because this year, there's a bru-ha-ha over how the nominations were chosen, who they were chosen by, and a number of other things. It's all very interesting to a subset of people, and causing emotions to run high. Reading about the controversy has made me make popcorn on more than one occasion.

If you're interested, you can read some of it here, and that should link you to the other players. Do not believe everything you read about the various people, as they are far more complex than either side is portraying them. Personally, I've found the Puppies side to be interesting, while the non-Puppies seem to be reacting as anyone would when a powerful, alien group invades your area.

So far, I've read two of the best novel contenders: The Goblin Emperor and Skin Game.

Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, is a novel of the Dresden Files, and the fifteenth of that series. I read the first one years ago, and watched the brief show that was on the Sci Fi channel. So I had a basis of which character was which, and how things ended up. That said, it was a sprawling cast of characters, many of whom had a long and complicated history with the main character. And the main character swirled and danced and collapsed through that history, giving you brief glimpses of things which were much more complicated, and things you'd have to read the earlier stories to understand.

That said, the novel introduced me to some fascinating concepts: The Denarians, 30 warriors who had the coins of Judas, and were ridden by the Fallen, apparently a group of 30 fallen angels with whom Harry Dresden had interacted previously. There were faeries, cold and alien in their abodes. There were consequences for actions that had happened in previous novels, and off screen. There were in jokes and pop culture references.

All in all, it was a good yarn, and I could keep up with what was happening. But the novel made promises it didn't keep. There was a coalition of good, fairly neutral, and evil guys. The good guys won, and you expected that. But throughout the whole novel, the good guys were threatened, yet they did not suffer a loss. Damage, yes. Tense situations, yes. But not one loss.

Not one.

In a novel that involves a trip to the underworld and an insane, invisible sasquatch, you figured you'd get at least one ally death. The dread was there, the foreshadowing. But the loss was not. And when that promise is made, it needs to be followed through on. Not with the cruelty of a George R.R. Martin, perhaps, but there should be some loss.

That said, it was a good novel, and entertaining story, but as a Nominee, it's currently ranked very low. Right now, that low value is 2 out of 5, but I still have three novels to read.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is a novel of court intrigue in an elven court. It touches on homosexuality, racism, absolute power and it's proper usage, and child abuse. In one way, it's the story of a child mourning his parent. In another, it's a murder mystery, a story of intrigue. In a third, it's sort of a set piece describing a complex world of considerable depth.

It's a shame the author didn't spend more time on that world. Clothes figure fairly prominently into the narrative, as does court etiquette and the political situation. As one would expect. However, given the alienness of the world we're thrust into, in many ways it reminds me of a particularly wealthy, idealized middle school. The descriptions of the opulence and bizarreness of the world are skipped over. Magic is taken as a given, but only experienced twice with little description. It is used as a deus ex machina at least twice. The bullies are always clearly seen. The dangers are telegraphed well in advance, and promises of danger are followed through on.

The story really doesn't make any promises, and it follows through on them admirably. It's basically a coming of age story with an ugly duckling who becomes emperor, who is met with skepticism and wins over his detractors with sincerity. That said, I still think it was better than Skin Game, so it's currently at number 1. I don't expect it to stay there, though.

Next up is The Dark Between the Stars.

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