Friday, July 31, 2015
The Three-Body Problem for Novel :: Aaron's Take on the 2015 Hugo Nominees
Aaron's Ballot for Best Novel:
1. Cixin Liu - The Three-Body Problem
2. Ann Leckie - Ancillary Sword
3. NO AWARD
4. Jim Butcher - Skin Game
5. Kevin J. Anderson - The Dark Between the Stars
6. Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) - The Goblin Emperor
The last two choices fell to the bottom simply because I found them rather dull. I could only fight my way 200 pages into The Goblin Emperor, because Monette never gave me a sense of what was at stake. I never felt any sense of urgency, as the protagonist made a series of choices that as far as I could tell were entirely trivial and unimportant.
I similarly found it difficult to get into The Dark Between the Stars, partly because it picks up where Anderson's last multi-volume space opera left off, so there was a lot of catching up to do. But I think my trouble with it goes deeper than that. I was once lucky enough to have a great author critique one of my stories. He suggested I rewrite a scene where the main characters had a conversation while driving through an alien city. He told me there's nothing interesting about driving in a car, and I shouldn't make my readers see the city through a piece of glass. In The Dark Between the Stars, I persistently felt like there was a piece of glass between me and the best parts of the story. For example, early on we meet a viewpoint character who has abducted his own son and left his wife, because she refused to believe him about an imminent danger to their home. This would be a terrible, heartbreaking choice, but for some reason it all happens offstage and we only hear about it later, as the guy is staring into space twiddling his thumbs.
I rate Skin Game ahead of The Dark Between the Stars and The Goblin Emperor because Jim Butcher's storytelling has more immediacy to it, and so I found it easier to read. And yet I don't much care to see the Hugo Award go to the umpteenth book in a series, addressing story elements that this author has covered ten times before and other authors have covered a thousand times.
The two nominees that I find Hugo-worthy are The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. Both of these novels are well-written and thought-provoking and original. One could make a case for either. I have a slight preference for The Three-Body Problem, especially since Ann Leckie already won a Hugo Award last year for Ancillary Justice, which introduced many of the same concepts that make Ancillary Sword so interesting.
I urge you to vote for Liu or Leckie for Best Novel, and perhaps we can end the Hugo Award ceremony on a high note after stepping through all the Puppies' messes in the previous categories.