The unusual thing in this year’s Hugo award nominations for the in novel category was a predominance of young adult fiction. Three of the nominated works can be classified to that category, one book might even be considered as a children’s book, at least considering the writing style (The Graveyard Book). Another thing that comes to mind about nominated books is that the authors with large online following seem to get nominated easier than others. I don’t think that it is entirely coincidence that three of nominated authors (Scalzi, Doctorow, Gaiman) have a great degree of internet fame. All those books were pretty good, but I have some suspicions that some lesser known authors might have been overlooked when fans were nominating books by author fame only. Another recognizable trend in this year nominations are homages of different sorts. Two of the nominated works are clear homages - The Graveyard Book is a homage of Kipling’s Jungle Book, and Saturn’s Children is a homage of later day Heinlein, especially of Friday. Zoe’s Tale could also be considered as an another homage of Heinlein, this time more of his juveniles, more in the general writing style (and quality) as a conscious attempt to imitate style. It is book that works very well for both adult and (presumably) for teenage readers - it is very good and entertaining story. Doctorow’s Little Brother is also fairly readable for readers of all ages, but it suffered a bit from a “syndrome” affecting some books meant for young readers: all adults are worthless and irritating idiots. Also, those info dumps which halted all action for page or two in several places were kind of irritating. The Graveyard Book isn’t one of Gaiman’s best books. The language was probably a bit too childish, , especially considering the content. However, it managed to quite poetic at the same time. I found the ending to be a bit too abrupt, but on the other hand it was left bit too open.
The Saturn’s Children wasn’t one of Stross’s best works, and his last year’s nomination, Halting State, was much better (and was my number one in Hugo-votes). I have hard time understanding why that period of Heinlein’s career would need a whole book worth of “imitation”.
Anathema is clearly the best nominee as book. But it isn’t exactly as clear if it is best book as science fiction. I am not still sure if it needed 900+ pages to tell the story it did, but as a whole it was very interesting. Part of reason why it felt so thick was fairly tight schedule I had when I was reading it.
I thought I would have trouble deciding to order of books in my vote - but after thinking about it for a while everything feels very obvious, and it was not hard at all to put these works in “correct” order.
My voting will be the following:
1. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
2. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
3. Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow