Looking for a good read in 2014? These are the best Hugo-nominated novels I read last year, in chronological order by Hugo year:
1. Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed, 2013 nominee
A refreshing Arabian twist on the typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel. I was disappointed this newcomer didn’t win the Hugo, but I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in the Crescent Moon series.
2. 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson, 2013 nominee
Written as a terrorism mystery of sorts, KSR is at his best when he acts as a tour guide for solar system civilizations that don’t exist… yet.
3. Redshirts, John Scalzi, 2013 winner
A parody of our favorite TV space operas, this book pulls off a meta-twist that is silly but satisfying. (Quick read)
4. Among Others, Jo Walton, 2012 winner
Marketed as a “reverse Harry Potter,” I was surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. Written in first-person, epistolary format, this is a must-read for fans of YA fiction, and an enjoyable read even if you normally avoid YA fiction.
5. Blackout & All Clear, Connie Willis, 2011 winner
Historians of the future have the advantage of time-travel to conduct their studies, but when a few WWII scholars get trapped in the Blitz, they wonder if their presence is changing the past. The street urchin antics of the Hodbin siblings alone make it worth the read.
6. The City & the City, China Mieville, 2010 winner (tied)
Styled as crime-noir fiction with an eastern European flavor, this is Mieville at his most accessible.
7. His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik, 2007 nominee
A man-and-his-dragon tale about the Napoleonic War. If you loved Hugo winner Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, or are just a fan of 19th century Brit lit, this might tide your appetite.
8. Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson, 1997 winner
(best read with the entire trilogy: Red Mars and Green Mars) This is the best of the Mars colonization series, which maintains KSR’s love affair of Martian terrain but adds more emotional depth to his complex and aging characters.
9. Tea with the Black Dragon, R. A. MacAvoy, 1983 nominee
A unique approach to the tired genres of crime and romance, but the witty banter between the main characters is the best part. (Quick read)
10. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang: A Novel, Kate Wilhelm, 1977 winner
A haunting tale of human individuality and imagination, this book is near perfect. (Quick read)
11. The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin, 1975 winner
Le Guin allows us to explore the possibilities of an anarchic society through her beautiful, philosophical prose. This story also addresses the issues of intellectual property, decades before Metallica was bitching about Napster.
12. The Robot series: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, & The Robots of Dawn , Isaac Asimov (1951 – 1953)
2004 Retro Award nominee (Caves)
1984 nominee (Dawn)
Elijah Bailey and his android partner Daneel Olivaw solve crimes on Earth and beyond in this classic SF series. The engaging man/robot conflict helps to air out the stuffiness of 1950’s arrogant white male machismo, and any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation will enjoy reading about this Data prototype. (All quick reads)
What’s next in 2014 for the From Couch to Moon blog?
This year, I’ll complete some of the Hugo years I started in 2013. Once I’ve made some headway, I will post an index of book reviews by Hugo year (it is embarrassingly scanty right now). I’ve also put together this handy little document as a reference to upcoming SF book award shortlist publications and voting deadlines, all in chronological order leading up to the Hugos. (I am aware that there are many, many more contests out there, but I don’t care :-P) It is a work-in-progress, so let me know if you see something inaccurate. By the way, it’s not too late to nominate your favorite 2013 SF novel for the British Science Fiction Association Award (required membership fee of £29 for UK citizens, £40 for non-UK citizens).
As far as reading plans go, I’ve got a few tasks on my docket as the new year commences:
January: 1950’s Hugo winners- Bester, Heinlein, Clifton, & Leiber. I’m on the tail end of Asimov’s Foundation series right now.
February: I promised to give McMaster-Bujold a second chance, so I’ll devote this month to filling in some of those gaps.
Spring: I expect to finish up Hugo years 2010 and 2011, and read up on the 2014 Hugo noms that I’ve missed, including the 1939 retro noms. Is it too early to proclaim that Gaiman will most definitely make an appearance on this list?
Rest of the year: Reading, reading, and more reading!