Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Hugo award votes 2016 part 1 : Novellas

The rabid and sad puppies were influencing voting again this year. The approach was a bit different: the sad puppies collected nominees openly on their net site, and their suggestion list was pretty ordinary – mostly things which most likely were going to be pretty popular, anyway. The rabid puppies' ring leader took a bit different approach. He pushed partly for choices, which were going to be nominated anyway, partly for very militaristic, violent stories and partly, especially in the short stories category, purely trolling choices. As last time, practically everything he pushed for nomination ended below “no award”. Now he apparently uses a “human shields” approach, trying to prevent that from happening and partly nominated stories which were going to be nominated anyway. Last year I nominated on merit after reading everything (and put most things below “no award”), and this time I will do the same. I will read everything and nominate based on merit. It seems there will be fewer things below “no award” than last year, but there will some, but not in this category. I have used that choice, even before those puppy lovers appeared to ruin voting for everyone, and mostly likely, I will be using that even after they are nothing more than a despised bitter memory.

Novellas is the first category I have finished. The stories were much better than last year – it hardly would have been possible to be worse. The stories were mostly pretty decent – only one was so bad – or rather irritating – that I will leave it away from my voting list. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll use the “no award” choice. The top three were pretty obvious, as was the last one. The order of the top three wasn’t as easy to decide; the best was, after some thought, pretty obvious. The second and third place might have gone the other way around, but Penric’s Demon was such a fun story that I will place it before the Reynolds’ story.

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)

A young man who is a younger son of a very minor country lord, gets infected with a demon when the old woman who was carrying it dies unexpectedly. The “symbiosis” takes some getting used to from both parties, but it seems than the match is better than anyone could have expected. But not everyone is happy when a “no one” gets a coveted demon. The story happens in the same world as the Chalion series, but is much better than Paladin of Souls – the only book I have read from that series. (This novella uses less time on selecting clothes, but even this story does use a few pages on that subject…). The story has a very interesting and endearingly naïve but open-minded main character and is well written. Not bad.

Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)

A hero has mastered the magic that rules everything and conquered the known world. He gets an order: He should reproduce and he gets a list of compatible women. Real women. All his life he has lived in a virtual world designed to give him the best of possible lives, completely designed for his personality. Almost everyone in the world lives as detached brains stored somewhere and spend their consciousness on computer created worlds, whole worlds filled with virtual inhabitants. But now he must meet another real human and reproduce. From spite he selects the least suitable candidate and goes to meet her on another virtual world. But he really wasn't prepared for that meeting... A pretty good story with nice characters. The writing as such wasn't the most eloquent but very solid. A good story.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (

A young woman from a desert tribe goes to an intergalactic university as the first of her people. During the journey, their ship is boarded by aliens and everyone excepts her (and the pilot) is killed. She happens to have a strange ancient artifact that she happened to find from the desert and the mixture of flower oils and clay she uses to cover her body and BOTH of those have powerful effect to the aliens. Really? The writing was good but the plot depends on totally ridiculous coincidences. The main character was pretty irritating, too. The writing was very good, but the pretty poor plot ruined the story for me.

The Builders by Daniel Polansky (

A group of anthropomorphic animals, lead by a battle hardened mouse, try to defeat a toad, who is now the leader of the realm. He won the earlier battle after someone turned traitor. Now it is time for revenge. The mouse assembles again the “old gang”, makes a well planned, but extremely bloody, attack against the corrupt and evil leader. A strange cross of the three musketeers, a dark fantasy, and a fairy tale. The fable-like language and extremely brutal content were extremely irritating. I also don’t understand why the characters had to be animals; there was no real reason for that. By far the least favorite nominee for me.

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

A war is ending. A solder is almost killed by a war criminal. She is rescued by peacekeepers and sent away on a transport. She wakes up a lot later - at least hundreds, possibly thousands of years have passed. Apparently, there has been some sort of accident. The transport is failing, and the worst war criminal is on loose on it. What has happened? Is there any way to repair the ship? What should the survivors do? What could they do? And all memory devices onboard are failing - possibly most of the human knowledge might soon be lost. The story is pretty good, after a little confusion at the start, and goes somewhere I was not expecting. The writing was nice and ideas were thought-provoking. It is very hard to believe that there no provisions for any sort of backups of computer systems and no personal removable storage space (other than the one exemption).

My voting order will be:

1. Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
2. Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
3. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)
4. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (

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