The 2014 Hugo Awards ceremony is today, August 17th at LonCon3! As we count down to the big moment, let’s review the best novel nominees from previous decades.
1994 was a good year. The U.S. enjoyed an economic boom, gas was 99 cents per gallon, and Kim Stanley Robinson won the Hugo Best Novel Award for Green Mars!
The other nominees weren’t bad, either:
Of all the Hugo years ending in -4, ’94 is my favorite year. Although they are of different styles and scopes, I enjoyed all of the nominees. Here are my rankings:
#5. Moving Mars by Greg Bear
This story about a political revolt by colonists on Mars, resulting in the physical relocation of the planet by quantum computer modifications, is the simplest tale of the bunch. Bear’s attention to his protagonist’s political career isn’t as shallow as one might expect, and the SF elements aren’t too generic to dismiss offhand, but the ultimate titular plot point relies on too much computer hocus-pocus to satisfy hard SF readers. Some might call this the layman’s version of the Mars trilogy (see below). Some might just call it lame.
#4. Glory Season by David Brin
Brin won the Hugo for Startide Rising just ten years earlier, and he returns with another strong novel about a planet ruled by fascist feminism. Amazingly thorough, Brin’s world serves as a cautionary tale for restrictive societies that will eventually turn on themselves, while it serves as an elegant allegory for our own world’s insidious misogyny. Perfect for teen readers, especially young men.
#3. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
Kress expanded her Hugo-winning novelette about genetically-modified humans who never need sleep. It turns out, never sleeping can result in greater productivity and intelligence, which might threaten all of the non-modified normals who resort to prejudice and mob violence. Part philosophical treatise, this novel alternately feels like a rebuttal to and a supporter of Randian libertarianism, which allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. Also, this novel has nothing to do with Spain.
#2. Virtual Light by William Gibson
Nearly ten years after Gibson blew minds with Neuromancer, he polished his style and released this cyber-light crime drama. The characterization and dialogue are brilliant and funny, and Gibson’s famous oracular skills prove accurate once again with his protagonist’s asides about reality T.V. I loved this book, and it would have been my top choice, if only it wasn’t competing against…
#1. Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
The second installment of this massive trilogy is considered the best of the three (although I lean toward Blue Mars). The colony on Mars is essentially established, and now the scientists get to work designing a Martian atmosphere and government, and, incidentally, a unique Martian culture. Although the colonists get crazier with their passions and neuroses (sometimes the same thing), they become a bit more human than they were in Red Mars. It’s a masterpiece, but some readers might get bogged down in the thoroughness of it all.