Novellas happen to be the first category of the Hugo awards I have read this year. The overall quality was pretty good. There were no bad or unreadable stories at all this time.
Act One, Nancy Kress
An actress and her midget manager are meeting members of a clandestine (and highly forbidden) organization which is creating children who are modified to be more empathic, as a movie dealing similar issues is being planned. Later the organization decides that some more drastic measures will be needed for the good of mankind. Pretty good story, but there is nothing really new or surprising.
Palimpsest, Charles Stross
A sort of ”timepolice” is constantly altering reality to ensure long survival of humanity. But is their plan the best possible one? Extremely good story which has some echoes of Asimov's ”End of Eternity”. There are few stories which cover a longer time span.
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow
An actor famous for his roles as a monster in horror films is planning a suicide. He reminisces his contribution to the war effort during the second world war. There apparently for a competitor for the Manhattan project – a plan to create giant monsters to wreck havoc on Japan's coastal cities. A part of the plan is to make an impression to Japanese delegation by using man in a suit to create the impression of damage which could be caused.
The God Engines, John Scalzi
Minor gods are used as engines on starships. They are forced to that function by torture and iron which binds them, and by the force of the main god, who get power through worship of his people. But there appears to be a new force in play, someone or something who weakens the power of main god be killing the believers. Beginning and the end are excellent, the middle part probably a bit weaker.
Vishnu at the Cat Circus, Ian McDonald
The main protagonist, Vishnu, is genetically enhanced. He is extremely intelligent and will live twice as long as a normal human. Only catch is that his body ages at half speed starting from childhood, so when his mind is twenty, his looks like a ten years old boy. His parents had entertained some idias about establishing a “dynasty” of superhumans, but Vishnu himself has some other ideas. And at the same time India seems to be approaching singularity. Good, well written story, but somehow it was a bit too open.
The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker
A steampunk style story. A very exclusive brother is working together with a clandestine government agency to ensure that British empire will flourish. The agency also makes new inventions, among others artificial eyes for a blind woman. When a shady, eccentric, nobleman invites representatives of several foreign powers for a demonstration of a new, amazing invention, it is up to our brave hookers to prevent any competitors of the empire getting it.
It was very hard to decide which is the best voting order, as all stories were at least pretty good. The first and the last places were fairly easy. I think that Stross's story gave the best sense of wonder. Morrow's story was a bit too irritatingly stupid and unlikely, and with some far too obvious allegories about nuclear war. Late Kage Baker's story was very nice. I wonder if it will get some sympathy votes, but it was not a bad story. In my opinion, it competes from the second place with Scalzi's story, which was pretty different from anything else I have read by him. Maybe The Women of Nell Gwynne’s was a bit stronger overall.
1.Palimpses, Charles Stross
2.The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker
3.The God Engines, John Scalzi
4.Act One, Nancy Kress
5.Vishnu at the Cat Circus, Ian McDonald
6.Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow