2004 Hugo Award Nominees: Novel

I now interrupt the catching-up for my comments on the five 2004 Hugo Awards Nominees for Novel. (Votes are due the 31st.)

[broken up for import into MT; follow the links or hit “next”]

Next up: the short fiction categories.


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  1. But isn’t Paladin just as much a series book as Ilium?

  2. Not in the least.

    _Ilium_ is the first half of an incomplete story.

    _Paladin_ is a story set in the same world as _Curse of Chalion_. One could read _Paladin_ by itself and have a complete story.

  3. I’ve only read three of the five (this is the first I’ve heard of this year’s nominees; shows how out of touch I’ve been, I guess), but if I had a vote, I’d go with Ilium (it really was loads and loads of fun) by a nose over Paladin (forget about American Gods–if HP: Goblet of Fire can win, the much superior Paladin certainly should be able to). I’d put Humans last, behind the two I haven’t read, which I know is hardly fair, or even really logical, but even though I think I said mildly nice things about it on my booklog, I find that the Sawyer trilogy has really dropped in my estimation with time.

  4. Trent–I would be unsurprised if _Ilium_ did win, and if it were a complete story, it would definitely get my vote. I’m aware that not everyone shares my feelings about incomplete stories getting awards.

  5. I just can’t see Bujold’s book as a Hugo winner. It’s enjoyable, sure, but there are plenty of enjoyable books that don’t win Hugos. Books published last year that I thought better included Martha Wells’ The Wizard Hunters, whichever of Brust’s books were published then, Stephenson’s Quicksilver (though arguably not genre), Kirstein’s The Lost Steersman (which would probably be my overall pick), Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment (and Wee Free Men if it came out that year).

    I haven’t read Ilium, so don’t know how it compares to that list, but at the very list, it’s novel and weighty and significant in a way that Bujold’s book really isn’t.

  6. Mike–you’ll notice than none of the books you cite were nominated. And my criteria isn’t “novel and weighty and significant”, it’s “the best book nominated.”

  7. Are you intending to read more RCW after enjoying this one? If so, I wonder if your opinion will change. To me this was “yet another volume of Wilson doing the same thing he always does,” but that’s not really a very good way for me to entice my household into reading one of his books, much less several, so I haven’t been able to tell if it’s just a personal thing for me.

  8. I’d probably read _Chronoliths_, at least, but I’m not in any great hurry.

  9. Kate, that was more a pile of befuddlement directed at the nominators than your choices.

    But I do tend to think, award-wise, that ambitious-but-flawed works should win over slight-but-well-done ones. This is probably indefensible, and completely inexplicable given my actual reading preferences, but there you are.

  10. Mike: I didn’t get off my butt in time to nominate, so I can’t help you there.

    _Ilium_ isn’t *flawed*, precisely, just hanging fire on its other half. If it were not going to have a sequel, and just stopped there–well, after I got over the shock [*], I’d probably be okay with it.

    [*] Do you remember Steve Monohan? I made him read _Hyperion_ and he was furious–seems the edition he had didn’t mention that there was a sequel.

  11. Hyperion is better without the sequel, so I’d have no problem with that edition.

    (Yes, if it stopped there, there’d be a lot of questions left unanswered. But Hyperion builds quite nicely towards its own crescendo, so the story works even if you never find out what the Shrike really is. Ilium, though it doesn’t really end on a cliffhanger, is more obviously unfinished.)

  12. Ray–I read _Hyperion_ and _Fall_ back-to-back, so I can’t really think of them separately. I know that the answers aren’t as interesting as the questions, but isn’t that always the case?

    I really ought to re-read them, now that I’ve largely forgotten the travesty that was the Endymion duology.

  13. For my votes, I try and look for something I would like to point out to kids in twenty years as an example of great sf…like Neuromancer, Dispossessed, Downbelow. For me, Paladin edged out Singularity as the one with the most legs. (I couldn’t finish Ilium)

    I wonder how much votes are influenced by the collective body of work, and how much the Bujold fans outnumber the Simmons fans.

  14. Chronoliths is well worth reading, IMO, though if it accomplished any unique effects with its central trope, I’ve forgotten them.

    I taught Hyperion the first term I did composition. Most of the students decided that it could stand alone and the journey sufficed by itself. Few of them granted Ender’s Game the same courtesy, so perhaps their judgment was flawed….

  15. Karen: why couldn’t you finish _Ilium_?

    I think staying power is a slightly different criterion than mine, but a perfectly valid one all the same. And yeah, I thought briefly about body of work–Bujold has several Hugos, Wilson none–but decided in the end that I didn’t want to consider that.

    I’d think Simmons’ fans are at least as numerous as Bujold’s, though maybe not as passionately devoted. Just a guess.

    gthistle: they didn’t think _Ender’s Game_ could stand alone?! Wow. Did they read _Speaker_ and what did they think of that?

  16. For me the vote came between Singularity Sky and Blind Lake, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit, and added to that I a personal reason to tilt my vote toward them (in the case of Stross, he’s a friend of mine; in the case of Wilson, he gave me a nice blurb for my upcoming book). I should note that if I didn’t like their novels, the personal aspect would not have influenced the vote, but since I did, the personal aspects do have some weight. I won’t say which of the two I ultimately put in my first slot, but they are in the 1-2 positions. If either wins, I’ll feel my vote mattered.

    Regarding Illium, Dan Simmons is one of my all-time favorite writers, and I think Illium is great, but I’ll go with our hostess here and note that it is at this point half a story. I have high hopes for the continuation (I’ll note that I’m in the minority of people who enjoyed Fall of Hyperion more than Hyperion), but I want to see the resolution and then, if warranted, cast my vote for the second book in the stead of voting for them both.

    I haven’t read either Humans or Paladin, so have no opinion on either. I suppose I probably should have tracked them down to read, but I’m on a book deadline at the moment and don’t have the time (I don’t have the time to be commenting here, either, but what can I say. I’m weak). Celebrated as the authors are, I’m sure they are good.

  17. Hey, John–good to see you here!

    Yeah, in the future I don’t know that I’ll be so conscientious as to read all the fiction nominees, but as this was my first one, I figured I should start as I’d like to go on, at least. Well, except for _Humans_.

    Have you read _Iron Sunrise_, and what did you think of it?

  18. Re: Iron Sunrise —

    I have it on my desk right now, ready to be read, but between me and the action of reading for pleasure is about another 20 pages of the book I’m supposed to have finished writing today (whoops).

  19. By the Lord’s blood, bones, teeth, and breath! Do you have any idea how few “Best Novel” Hugos there would be if such a book had to be as good as or better than _A Deepness in the Sky_?!?!?!


  20. As to not finishing Ilium…I got about a quarter of the way into it (where the gods are creating superwarriors) and found I had little interest in the plot or the characters. I don’t know much about Troy except the general overview, and there was way too much detail about it. And the characters were annoyingly passive. I did like the robots, but they didn’t seem to have much screen time. I read Hyperion a while back and had to force myself to finish it; I found it rather gruesome, and didn’t think I needed to read more of his books. If a book hasn’t somehow grabbed my attention by page fifty, I’ll probably get sidetracked onto another book.

  21. Brad: Oh, I know and I agree, but I think “what’s the book that was closest to being as brilliant” is as good a standard as any.

    Karen: if you didn’t like _Hyperion_ you probably won’t like _Ilium_ either, though the passivity in the Troy plot goes away with a vengenance later on.

  22. Consider the Retro Hugo nominees (for 1953). The novels are Caves of Steel Fahrenheit 451 More Than Human Childhood’s End Mission of Gravity It should be possible to compare a Hugo winner, or a Hugo nominee, with the least of these (whichever that is), without laughing. Few of the nominees in any category qualify; and many of those barely. Nevertheless, two of the 2004 novel nominees do pass, even if the comparison is against them. Bujold did some serious and evocative writing about the nature of godhood and what it feels to be in the presence of one. Wilson draws plausible characters, and a convincing (if unmemorable) picture of the universe Out There.

  23. Paul: re: Retro Hugos: I take your point, but I’m a little hesitant to hold up the Retro nominees as comparisons, as history has undoubtedly shaken out a lot of stuff that might have been nominated at the time and yet would have been regretted twenty years down the road. Besides, I like _Deepness_ better than any of those books. =>

  24. As for Retro Hugos v. Hugos: The hindsight may affect the voting and nominations in either direction. I have seen it argued that the Retros unfairly favor books that are not so good, but have a high present reputation. In any case, that is one reason my standard was relatively low: may be compared to some one of without laughing. I agree, btw, that _Deepness_ passes easily, although I do like half of the list better. Which half? That’s likely to change by Worldcon, so I won’t answer now. I found the Retro Hugo ballot *really* hard.

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