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Reading for Hugos

In my copious spare time (hoo-hah), I am continuing to work my way through the ballot for this years's Hugo Awards.

Just finished THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, by Cixin Liu, originally written in Chinese and translated by Ken Liu. This was the novel that just missed in the original round of nominations, only to secure a place on the ballot when Marko Kloos withdrew. In a half-century of Hugo Awards, there have been very few non-English originals ever nominated, and certainly never one from China, so THREE-BODY is a breakthrough book in that respect, and a sign that "worldcon" is (very slowly) becoming more global.

This is a very unusual book, a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology, where kings and emperors from both western and Chinese history mingle in a dreamlike game world, while cops and physicists deal with global conspiracies, murders, and alien invasions in the real world.

It's a worthy nominee.

If you like lots of science in your SF, this is a book for you, especially if you love theoretical physics, astrophysics, and mathemathics. The Chinese background is fascinating, especially the look at the Cultural Revolution and its aftereffects. And the prose is very clean and tight, which is not always the case with translations, which sometimes come across as a bit clunky. Ken Liu did a fine job, in that respect; the writing flows.

The central character at the heart of the novel is a fascinating and complex creation, but she is not the protagonist for most of the book, and the character who does fill that role comes across as very flat, more a viewpoint than a person. One of the secondary players, an abrasive cop, is much more successful; he's a bit of an asshole, but the story really comes to life whenever he's on stage.

All in all, I liked THREE-BODY PROBLEM, but I can't say I loved it. I thought the book started off very strong, but sagged in the middle before picking up speed again toward the end. And the ultimate ending was unsatisfying... mainly because, as I now see, this is just the first of three. I DO want to know what happens next, though. So I will be reading the next.

Now that THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is on the ballot, I'd say that it is the likely favorite to win (and I am pretty sure it is about to pick up the Nebula as well). It seems to have admirers on both sides of Puppygate, which will stand it in good stead, and it should do very well with hard science fans and the ANALOG readers.

I am not going to reveal which book is going to get my own Hugo vote... only which ones I think are Hugo-worthy, and deserving of a spot above NO AWARD. So far, both THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM and THE GOBLIN EMPEROR rank above the line for me.

The other nominees still await my attention.

Anyone else read the Cixin Liu yet? What did you think of it?

Talking about books, after all, is what these awards are supposed to be about.


May. 4th, 2015 12:28 am (UTC)
I hope people give Marco Kloos a chance despite being on the puppies slate
I read Terms of Enlistment, and it was a quick and fun read. I wouldn't call it an award worthy book, but it doesn't need to be to be entertaining.
May. 4th, 2015 12:51 am (UTC)
Re: I hope people give Marco Kloos a chance despite being on the puppies slate
Kloos is no longer on the ballot, so people can't "give him a chance" in that sense, but his principled stand did earn him a lot of admirers. I have his book here, and will get to it soon.
May. 4th, 2015 01:42 am (UTC)
Re: I hope people give Marco Kloos a chance despite being on the puppies slate
I grabbed a copy of the first book in his series, and found it to be fun MilSF, not the best I've read, but good enough that I've added the second book to my TBR stack.
May. 4th, 2015 05:07 pm (UTC)
Re: I hope people give Marco Kloos a chance despite being on the puppies slate
I've read the entire series that Terms of Enlistment touches off, and I have to say that, while I don't consider the books particularly Hugo-worthy (in terms of how they advance SF), I find them to be captivating and thoughtful instances of the milSF sub genre. There's some interesting social stuff being done in the books with the politics of the NAC and the military's relationship to civilian life. Also, Kloos has a nice, clean style. I'm definitely a fan of his now and eagerly await the next book in the series.

So ... I guess something good did come out of this mess.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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