On the latest episode of The Incomparable podcast, we talk about the five Hugo Award nominated novels from 2012. It's a mixed bag, and nothing that stands out as a novel that we'll be reading 5, 20, or 50 years from now. You can't have a Dune or a 2001 or American Gods every year. But there are great books being written, and these five don't seem like the best five of 2012.
Every contest is based on popularity, but I fear the Hugo process is way too biased towards the partisans of given authors, especially the most popular ones. You have to pay to get a ballot (which also includes free electronic copies of all the stories and novels and other material). Some people read broadly and vote on personal preferences. Others pony up $65 in order to vote for their favorites without having formed opinions of the others.
We had an enjoyable hour, however, talking about the five that were nominated, one nominated for the Nebula Awards, and several other novels. You can also listen to our off-topic and slightly insane mutterings in the After Dark segment.
What where the books, you ask? In the order of how I liked them:
Redshirts by John Scalzi: It's a good read, but it has a central conceit and then three codas after the main plot. Scattered, enjoyable, but not the heft of a novel.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed: I like the universe this guy has created, and it's an interesting story with some well-delineated characters. But it lacks the sweep of a novel. It's a short story told at length. It also has some terrible red herrings and loose ends.
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson: I am a huge "KSR" fan. I've read most of what he's written and loved it. This is so bad, I thought I had a stroke. (I wrote about my reaction to about the first half of the book and worrying something was wrong with me for The Economist .) I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of rigor in science, the terrible characters, the stupidity of the plot's resolution. This was a book of KSR's many ideas stuck together with nothing compelling. I read the second half for the podcast, and found it less awful because I had already gotten over my disappointment.
Blackout by Mira Grant: Please don't read this book.