Jan. 4th, 2016

heron61: (Hat)
Last year was my first time voting for the Hugo Awards, but I’ll likely keep doing so, and that means I also have a chance to nominate stories. I mostly read novels, and so that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

The first two are obvious, since they are also the two of the best novels I’ve read this year – Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, and A Succession of Bad Days by Graydon Saunders (both links are to DRM-free versions).

In addition to being perhaps Bear’s best written novel to date, Karen Memory is interesting because it’s set in a steampunk world, but unlike my experience with almost all other steampunk fiction, it doesn’t suck. I like the idea of steampunk novels, but almost all of them are dreadful, often because, like steampunk of other sorts, they are far more about style than substance. In contrast, Karen Memory is a well told story with a host of excellent characters, which is set in a steampunk world.

A Succession of Bad Days is the sort of novel I more typically enjoy, the story of someone with substantial magical power learning to use it, but it’s well more than that. Saunder’s Commonweal setting is fantasy that has the same level of careful world-building as the best SF, as well as a basic humanity that it impressively refreshing in modern SF&F.

Other options are less clear – I really enjoyed Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, and Andrea K Höst’s The Pyramids of London , but I’m not certain that any of them should be considered the best SF&F novel of the year. I also really enjoyed J. Kathleen Cheney’s The Shores of Spain, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, & Judith Tarr’s Forgotten Suns, but did not think they were quite good enough for a Hugo nomination.

If it had not been written back in 1999, I’d definitely nominate Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s A Red Heart of Memories, one of the flaws I found in other work by her that I read was the protagonist or protagonists were far too passive. This novel is exceedingly unlike that, and it’s also beautiful and brilliant in the ways that make me love Hoffman’s writing style – it’s a gorgeous book and available for very little used (sadly, there’s no ebook version).

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