A big day is coming up for fantasy and science fiction fans! Less than a month from now, Wolrdcon 75 is taking place in Helsinki, and, among other things, the Hugo winners will be announced. This is the first year I’m eligible to vote, and I’m taking it very seriously!
First of all, I’ve decided I’m not going to vote in any category where I’m not familiar with every single one of the nominated works. It just doesn’t seem fair that I vote for a book just because I’ve read it, without giving the others a chance.
So, as soon as I saw the voting deadline was this coming weekend, I knew I couldn’t go through all the novels. Sadly, I rarely get the time to read nowadays – in between working on Men and Monsters, writing a brand new book, a full-time career in an unrelated field, and some family stuff, my reading time is limited to public transport, flights, and, occasionally, reading while walking down the street, with nose stuck in a book, Belle-style. So the “Novels” category was out, but I could still go through the novellas, novelettes, and short stories.
And I’m so happy I decided to do it! All six novellas were by authors I’ve never read before, and now I can’t wait to dive into their other works!
Some overall thoughts on the nominees before I dive into the specific books:
– 5 out of 6 were weird. And I mean it in a good way!
– 2 were retellings of some of Lovecraft’s short stories, 2 were set in existing universes, and 2 were original.
Now, I had a decision to make: Should I read the related works? It would enhance my reading experience, but at the end I chose not to. If a novella was nominated, it had to be able to stand on its own. That’s the whole point of a good novella – pack a great message within a limited world count! It seemed unfair if the author used what they had created in previous works, or what others had created before them, as a crutch. And so I decided to dive into the novellas completely blind, without reading any of the related works, and see if they could stand on their own. All of them did!
– 5 of the authors are American, and one – British. While it would have been nice to see some international representation, the diversity is great on every other account!
– 4 out of 6 books were classified as horror. That nearly scared me off – I don’t consider myself a horror reader. But these novellas taught me that I had a very, very limited idea of what horror is and isn’t as a genre. I loved them, and my top 3 are actually among them!
– All the novellas are adult. And the other categories show the same trend. No love for children’s or YA?!? Every Heart a Doorway has a huge YA appeal and I believe it will be very beneficial for YA readers, but it’s target audience is still adult.
So, without further ado, here are the brilliant novellas, in the order in which I read them (which was mostly random):
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
This blew me away!! Children, who had visited various portal worlds (through wardrobes, rabbit holes, and all sorts of portals,) are thrown back into the real world and need to adapt. Perfect concept, nearly perfect execution.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
A Lovecraft retelling, set in 1920s Harlem. The book reveals who the real monsters are. Hint – it’s not Chtulhu.
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
A middle-aged woman goes on an epic adventure and discovers all kinds of wondrous lands and creatures on the way! Need I say more?
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
Epic fantasy with scifi elements. Immense world-building. M/M romance. It’s a great story of regret and paths not taken. Also, there’s a cheetah.
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
A cute, old-fashioned fantasy adventure. A fun break from all the doom and gloom.
This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Please don’t make me describe this book. It defies description. Read the Goodreads summary. Yeah. It’s nothing like that.
And the winner is…
Obviously, I have no idea who will win (though I have a theory,) but I can tell you who I chose to vote for. And it wasn’t easy! I was debating between Every Heart a Doorway and The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe. Both are absolutely amazing, so I struggled to find some imperfections.
In the case of Every Heart a Doorway, the concept was perfect, but, perhaps, a murder mystery wasn’t the best way to resolve it. I couldn’t find any flaws with The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, but something else held me back from voting for it. The book is a retelling of one of Lovecraft’s stories that I hadn’t read. How much was the author’s original work, and how much was borrowed from Lovecraft?
After much debate, I decided to vote for The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe after all. It’s the messages that really touched me, and I know that they were the author’s own.
Have you read any of these novellas? Do you plan to?
How do you approach voting in similar contests? Do you always try to read all nominees?