I made considerable headway through the Hugo list this month. Here are my mini-reviews:
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Hugo winner, 2010)- Thailand goes all steampunky after the consequences of climate change cause a Contraction of resources and international trade. From all this, we get a genetically-engineered, wind-up stripper girl, and a series of other characters, all of whom are self-centered, greedy, and just plain horrible. If you like dystopian fiction and graphic rape scenes, this is the book for you. If not, go for the other 2010 Hugo award winner, The City & The City by China Mieville (which is also kind of dystopian, but without all the rape and horrible people).
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (Hugo winner, 1962)- What happens when an Earthling is born and raised among Martians, then returns to Earth as a young adult? He starts out endearingly naive, (even when he permanently disappears people), exhibits phenomenal telekinetic powers, and then starts a sex cult. Such a weird book, but you have to read it because it’s Heinlein.
Among Others by Jo Walton (Hugo winner, 2012)- First-person, diary-style novel about a magical teen struggling in a mundane private school. Billed as the “reverse Harry Potter,” it feels like a YA book, but it’s tolerable enough to be read by grown ups. The best part– the main character is a major sci-fi bookworm and makes all kinds of references to seventies SF. This book introduced me to Le Guin and Zelazny.
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Hugo winner, 2011)- Time-traveling Oxford historians from the year 2060 get stuck during the London Blitz and might be wrecking history as a consequence. These two books were my favorites of the month, despite my criticism that they should have been whittled down to one longer book with some considerable editing. It was still an exciting read that was difficult to put down.
My recommendations: Choose Willis’ Blackout/All Clear for the suspense and history. Walton’s Among Others is also great if you want fairies, and don’t mind the young, first-person perspective.
- Paolo Bacigalupi’s dystopian near-future cyberpunk / hard sci-fi (metafilter.com)