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Hugo Thoughts: Best Novel

The Big One.

I read a lot of novels. I became a voracious reader as a kid, and very little has changed since... well, no, one thing has changed. I no longer feel an obsessive need to finish every book I start. Some just don't hold my interest, and I find myself putting them aside and picking up something else. Sometimes I return to the books I've put aside and sometimes I don't.

One of life's greatest pleasures, for me, is finding a book that's so bloody damn good that it won't LET me put it aside. The kind of book that grabs me by the throat and will not let me go. Those sorts of books are not easy to find, but I treasure the authors who deliver them regularly.

Jack Vance had that effect on me, for decades. Bernard Cornwell still does. Stephen King too. Once I start a book by any of these worthies, I am hooked. I will keep reading till the end.

Recently I have had to add James S.A. Corey to that list. Which is annoying, because I know both halves of James S.A. Corey. One of them was a student of mine. The other was my proto-minion. How the hell did they get so damned good?

However they did it, it's done. Now, I am sure there were lots of great SF and fantasy novels published during 2016 that I have not read yet (I read lots of books, like I said, but not all are SF or fantasy, I read lots of history and mystery and historical fiction and biographies and non-fiction as well, and I read older books too, not just stuff from the current awards year, so I'm always trying to catch up). Of all the SF novels from 2016 that I have read, however, this was the best:

For me, it wasn't even close. I expect I will fill in all six slots on my Hugo nomination form with the titles of worthy contenders, but this will be the first one I write down.

I commend it to your attention. Jimmy Corey deserves his shot at The Big One.

((Which frosts my ass. Because if Jimmy actually WINS the Hugo, Ty will be unbearable.))

P.S. The EXPANSE tv series is amazing too. Have you guys been watching season two? I'm also going to be nominating "Leviathan Wakes," the final episode of season one, for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 27th, 2017 08:00 pm (UTC)
I'll take a look ...
I will definitely take a look your recommendation on my next book store visit this weekend . I'm so far behind , I'm reading His Dark Materials at the moment , so you can see how much I'm slacking !!!
Feb. 27th, 2017 08:09 pm (UTC)
Babylon's Ashes was a fantastic addition to the series, though I think Nemesis Games might be my favorite of the series so far. I am quite excited for the two novellas we are getting this year (especially because we don't know what they will be about yet), plus they're planning to release the next novel in the series late this year!

The Expanse has been outstanding this season, too...I love that they aren't racing through the material, and that they are adapting the entire series so well, bringing in things like the novellas. I have you to thank for turning me on to the series, actually, during season 1 of the show, after which I devoured everything (of course!). It's now one of my favorite book series.
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:29 pm (UTC)
NEMESIS GAMES was amazing, I agree.
Jonathan Dow
Feb. 27th, 2017 08:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is an amazing feeling when a book grabs you with hook, line, and sinker. Out of 2016's terms, that has happened to me with a book named The River by Michael Neale, A Song of Ice and Fire (of course), Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and pretty much any work by Shakespeare. Out of 2016's boundaries, what has been your favorite series or novel throughout your life?
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:31 pm (UTC)
I have so many books I've loved it would be impossible to single out a few favorites.

LORD OF THE RINGS would certainly be up there.

So would Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT.

And THE GREAT GATSBY, the closest thing I've ever found to the mythic Great American Novel.
Feb. 27th, 2017 08:27 pm (UTC)
I promised myself I wouldn't read ahead for this series, which I did with ASOIaF and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I've never voted for the Big One blind, but this year I may make an exception.

The Expanse S2 has been blowing me away...especially S02e05, "Home." Spectacular. I think it took a while to find its footing but when it did, WOW. Same feelings I got when B5 started coming into its prime.
Feb. 27th, 2017 08:50 pm (UTC)
This year's Worldcon will be my first and I will be woting. But I haven't read enough to nominate beacause I haven't read enough new books. So I will wait for the nominations, and then try to read all of them, and make an fair vote.

Also I hope that you will be in Finland so I can get your autgraph to my beautiful Estonian Fevre Dreams edition, and moan about my favourite characters being killed in ASOIAF.

I love the Expanse, both book and TV series, but I don't love the season one finale. I have to watch season one again and decide which is my favourite episode. But there is also a certain episode of GOT where some bastards are fighting, which is a strong competitor for a Hugo.

Edited at 2017-02-27 09:03 pm (UTC)
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:35 pm (UTC)
"Wait for the nominations and try to read all of them" was an approach adopted by a good many fans who felt they had not read enough books during the awards year. And it worked well enough... for decades... until the advent of the Sad and Rabid Puppies.

Once the slates appeared, however, waiting ceased to be a viable option, because the final ballot was no longer representative of the best work of the previous year.

In the present environment, the only way to get great work on the final ballot is to help put it there yourself, by nominating. (And even that does not always work. But it works better than waiting).
Brendon Knoetze
Feb. 27th, 2017 08:52 pm (UTC)
Completely agree - thanks
I spotted these on your blog a while ago, and I must say, they are wonderful, fast paced exciting writers.

I flew through the books, and told all my friends about them.

When you see them next... tell them to hurry up with the next one... which reminds me....

Thanks for the journeys
Sean Hall
Feb. 27th, 2017 09:07 pm (UTC)
Considering the sheer insane amount of fantasy and sci-fi books you've read in your lifetime compared to most people, I will definitely have to check this book series out. Though if I do like the series, I will definitely be mad at myself for not going to the Jean Cocteau the one or two times the authors have already been there.

Also curious how often your #1 pick has been the book that won "The Big One." Is that something you've kept track of over the years?

And, since I'm assuming you've attended many of them in person, have they ever had embarrassing (or hilarious?) Miss Universe/Best Oscar Movie major gaffes where they accidentally read the wrong winner?
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:41 pm (UTC)
No, sorry, I have not kept track of how many times my own top pick has actually won The Big One. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. More no than yes... but it was not something I usually minded. It IS an honor just to be nominated, and more years than not, the final ballot was all terrific books, top to bottom, so even if your own choice did not win, you were generally pleased with the book that did.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Once in a while a book or story wins that you really did not like, for whatever reason, and that is always harder. When it's your own book that lost, the sting is increased tenfold. Even then, however, the thing to do is smile and congratulate the winner... and then go off with your friends and get drunk and tell each other you were robbed.

And yes, last night's Oscar fiasco produced a sense of deja vu for me and many other fans. The same thing happened at the 1992 worldcon in Orlando, in the Best Fanzine category.
Jimi M
Feb. 27th, 2017 09:10 pm (UTC)
Book to start reading Cornwall?
Which Cornwall is a good starting point? I started watching the Sharpe series with Sean Bean so I'm not sure if that series would be the best choice due to my exposure. By the way, I'm only on Abaddon's Gate but up-to-date on the expanse show, and only thanks to your prior recommendations did I start the series! Really a fun ride, thanks for the recommendation.
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Book to start reading Cornwall?
The first Sharpe or the first Uhtred are both great.
Feb. 27th, 2017 09:15 pm (UTC)
Best Series
As I understand the rules, the Expanse series is also eligible for the new Best Series Hugo.
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Best Series
I think pretty much everything is eligible for the Best Series Hugo.
Berta Kleiner
Feb. 27th, 2017 09:26 pm (UTC)
Don't forget The Spider's War.
Spencer Lamb
Feb. 27th, 2017 09:32 pm (UTC)
George, how do you get a girl named Allison to like you?
Feb. 27th, 2017 11:43 pm (UTC)
Re: How???
Sorry, you've come to the wrong place for relationship advice.
Feb. 27th, 2017 10:04 pm (UTC)
Expanse TV
The Expanse episode 2x05 is also deserving of major recognition.
Feb. 27th, 2017 10:20 pm (UTC)
I say we nominate La La Land
Just because the best fantasy of the year was that it won an Oscar.
Mike Rubin
Feb. 27th, 2017 10:37 pm (UTC)
Love the Expanse!
Love it, season 2 is picking up right where it left off, and my wife and I are hooked again. Really well done.
Marcelo Silva
Feb. 28th, 2017 01:01 am (UTC)
Great, but...
The Expanse is, undoubtedly, one of the best SF nowadays (and Long Price Quartet one of the best fantasy). But, I thought Babylon's Ashes the weaker of them.

It felt rushed, probably because they had to deliver a book in 2016 but they had the TV series to deal with (and 6 months of delay). This book felt shallow too; Clarissa, who spend a book trying to kill Holden, now is part of Rocinante and has 1 chapter!; Earth was killed and Avasalara, who lost her family and became the maximum leader, has 3 chapters; Fred has 1 chapter; and so on. And the ones that get more chapters, they don't develop anything.

Towards the end, everything became predictable. It was really annoying as it was obvious what would happen, it was obvious who would and wouldn't die...

But the other books of the series were so great that I'm waiting for book 7!
Feb. 28th, 2017 01:29 am (UTC)
Re: Great, but...
Uh... hey... a few too many SPOILERS there. Try to be considerate of all those who have not read the book.

Obviously I disagree. Hugely.

But I'm waiting for the next book as well.
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George R.R. Martin
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