A Hugo Award Recommended Reading List (2017 Edition)

For Tami, because she asked.

Best Novel

  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)*

Yes, I am recommending that many. It was a really strong field!  A Closed and Common Orbit is a worthy sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, with quite a bit more in the way of actual plot, while still retaining the charm and character focus of the first book. Ninefox Gambit is brilliant military science fiction that kind of messes with your head. The Obelisk Gate is a sequel that meets or even surpasses The Fifth Season, and that set a high bar. The final book in the trilogy is coming out within the next month and I am so excited.

*Too Like the Lightning is quite possibly the most unique and creative SF I’ve ever read (and the most bananapants), but it’s not a full story on its own and whether I ultimately find it totally successful will depend on how well Palmer can stick the landing. So I can’t really recommend it…but I’d love to have more people to talk to about it.

(Tami, I’m not sure if you’d like TLTL. ACaCO is definitely going to be your favorite off this list).

Best Novella

  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)

Every Heart a Doorway is wonderful, as I say at every opportunity. Bujold is a master of the craft, and the Penric series is delightful. I love the world’s religious/magic system, and I love Desdemona! A Taste of Honey should be read for its gorgeous, gorgeous language.

Best Novelette

  • “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Quite a weak field here. Lots of mediocre picks. “The Tomato Thief” is lovely, as I always find Vernon to be. I also really enjoyed “You’ll Surely Drown…” on my first reading; it won’t work for everyone and I’ve since cottoned on to a couple more issues with it. But I still do like it.

Best Short Story

  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
  • “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

Really all the short stories were good (minus the slate pick), and particular props to “The City Born Great” for a vivid voice, but these were my three favorites. “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” is tiny but packs an enormous punch, has a couple of killer lines, and is a masterclass in how “telling” is sometimes better than “showing”. “Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a very nice re-imagined fairy tale with a feminist slant, and the whole collection (The Starlit Wood) is worth reading. “That Game We Played During the War” is a beautiful story about conflict resolution, and possibly my second favorite short story of all time.

Best Related Work

  • The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
  • “The Women of Harry Potter” posts by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a powerful essay collection, and the showstopper is, of course, the Hugo-winning “We Have Always Fought”. Sarah Gailey’s “Women of Harry Potter” posts are fantastic. (Tami, definitely check those out).

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Look, everything in this category was good. (Well, I didn’t watch Deadpool, but if that’s the sort of thing you’ll like then you’d like it). But I really want to draw attention to Arrival, because it’s so rare to see an intelligent, well-written sci fi movie that’s not part of a franchise, and Amy Adams gave a fantastic performance.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form 

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)

I usually find Black Mirror unwatchable — I just can’t take the bleakness, not these days — but this episode is that rare beast, the unicorn optimistic episode. Stay patient, it’s a slow burn.

Best Fancast

  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

I’ve discussed both of these podcasts before; they’re still great.

Best Series

  • The October Daye Books by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
  • The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
  • The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

Toby Daye is a fantastic series. It starts off a bit rocky (author’s first published books), but with each book it improves. The worldbuilding is incredibly detailed and the overall series arc is so well planned. So much foreshadowing. So many delicious twists.

Peter Grant is likewise great. It’s a bit more dudely (Peter does spend a lot of time, particularly in the first book, thinking about boobs and things), but that’s starting to improve in the later books, and his voice is so strong, and Aaronovitch is very good at making the setting an integral part of the books. It’s really one of the few UF series I’ve read that actually captures the “Urban” in a meaningful way. I was very pleasantly surprised by this series. (Got kinda burned by the Dresden Files).

The Vorkosigan Saga is a masterpiece. I don’t really know what else to say about it. Reading about Miles is a little bit like watching a trainwreck and a lot bit like watching an underdog accomplish something extraordinary. My favorite novels are still the two that feature Cordelia (Shards of Honor/Barrayar), who is a scientist and a politician (of sorts) and a wife and a mother and a badass. The “epilogue” to Shards of Honor is my favorite short story ever, “Aftermaths”.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Sarah Gailey

I’ve talked about Ada Palmer already above. Laurie Penny and Kelly Robson are obviously talented, but their work didn’t click with me. (Although, Tami, I think you might like “Waters of Versailles“). Malka Older had some short stories that I liked (“The Rupture”), and her novel Infomocracy, while a bit too dry, had a lot of fascinating ideas in it. If you’re into political nitty-gritty, it might be worth a look.

The real stand out, however, was Sarah Gailey. Of the short stories included in the packet, there was only one that left me feeling “eh”. My reactions to the rest ranged from delight to delighted outrage (okay, and one that left me aching just a li’l bit). I want to call particular attention (Tami) to “Bargain” and “Rescue“. Gailey has a novella duology, the first part of which is now available, about hippo farming gone wrong in Alt!Louisiana; the premise alone had put it on my radar but now I’ll definitely read it. If I’m not mistaken, I also heard she’d sold a novel (Goodreads Says: “Pitched as The Magicians meets Tana French it follows a detective without magical powers drawn into investigating a grisly murder at a secret school for young magicians“) and based on the strength of her work so far I will definitely be reading it.

Your Thoughts

If you read any of the Hugo-nominated works this year, what did you think of the ones I suggested? Any others you would recommend?

If you haven’t, what looks particularly good?

If you read anything on my recommendation, please do come back and tell me what you think 🙂

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3 thoughts on “A Hugo Award Recommended Reading List (2017 Edition)

  1. Bless you for this! (and I appreciated the personal callout!)

    More to add to my library list for sure! Every Heart a Doorway is so popular it’ll be a while before it makes its way to me. Ditto the October Daye stuff.

    acoco now has a hold on it (I enjoyed the first one, but am very eager to hear the second one is more plotty).

    My library is a bit sparse on some of the newer authors mentioned, so thank you for the links!

    I’m catching up on older stuff mostly — just now working my way through The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland and the inCryptid series by McGuire.

    The Paper Magician is one that I enjoyed, but would enjoy talking to you about it in emails even more. I recommended it to Perry as well, but super would love your thoughts on it.

    Same with Roses and Rot — Enjoyed more than enough to recommend, but am eager for conversation about it.

    Aside from that, am watching the most recent GBBO on pbs.com (probably the last one that Paul and Mary did together, but I don’t care how out of date it is, I adore every second). It’s not done yet, but this is the one with Selasi in it (He’s my underdog favorite, but I think Benjamina’s the strongest contender so far)

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    • You are amazing, this comment is epic (all the more so for the hoops gone through to retrieve it from the ether), and I am sending you an email posthaste 🙂

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  2. First of all, it’s great to hear Tami’s voice again! (My own fault for being absent) Seems like everything Tami does has some epicness to it (even including–reluctantly–the Facebook cat posts).

    I have to add my thanks to you, Faith, for the continuous book reviews, whenever I go looking for my next book to read I start with your reviews and posts. Your descriptions are so spot-on and helpful that even though our tastes differ, I can always tell when I’m going to like something. I’m continuously amazed how you read so much, so fast, and still have time for everything else you do!

    Contrary to my previous statement, I found this book on my own (I think, perhaps Faith planted the name in my head?): Ren of Atikala. I’m not even going to give it a review, not in this audience, but I really enjoyed it. I’m currently at the beginning of the second book and it’s still very good. Suffice it to say that it is the familiar fantasy world told from the unusual viewpoint of a Kobold. We’ll see where the story leads and how it develops over the series, but so far I recommend it.

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