Review: Best Novellas – The Hugo Awards 2017

Best Novella

1410 ballots cast for 187 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 167 to 511.

  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle ( publishing)
    • A man works the streets, guitar case in hand, but he’s not musically inclined at all – instead, inside there’s a book. He deals in mystery and knows when to talk or stop talking to help his business along. In one job he can secure enough money to cover six months rent, which means less worrying about his ailing father, and a chance to treat himself in a gamble for once. This piece was interesting and gripping, dealing with the broad subject of  racism – from the start we see the indifferent warnings given to both side, relating to Harlem and Queens. It’s a harsh and unfair world, and …then it dissolves into the weird, which is somehow even more gripping.
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson ( publishing)
    • Absolutely lovely and amazing. Apparently a retake on a Lovecraft story which I haven’t read, this feels entirely its own. A middle-aged woman goes on a quest to save her best and brightest student from a man who’s charmed her away – hopefully before scandal reaches the masses. It doesn’t help that the student is daughter to one of the universities’ highest donators. What’s interesting in this tale is that they all live and belong to the dreamworld, and the charmer is from the waking world – a place Vellitt has been before, which means now she’s the one best equipped to save their young student. A very lovely tale with a cat and hints of the very strange.
  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire ( publishing)
    • In this short novel we go to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, which, much alike Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is a haven for those who are different. It’s for those who have been to other worlds and are no longer satisfied with normal life, but for various reasons can’t return to their other world – at least, until they can. This book is all kinds of awesome, and manages to wrap everything up sweetly in so few pages, yet it seems there’s also another two books on the cards in this series, which is excellent news. – full review is here.
  • Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
    • My main issue with anything that I love too much is that I then can’t read anything out of order. Seeing that this is actually chronically third in the series (according to this list) means I didn’t want to read this until I’d first read The Hallowed Hunt, and Penric’s Demon. Which wouldn’t be too bad except that somehow The Hallowed Hunt is also the third in the World of the Five Gods series… bah! You don’t make it easy, Bujold (and yet we still love you.) Somehow I was convinced to start with Penric’s Demon instead, and I loved them both utterly and completely – I now can’t wait to devour all the fantasy Bujold has written, just like the thread of humour and lightheartedness we see in Miles from Vorkosigan series we have the same here – and I just can’t get enough of it.
  • A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson ( publishing)
    • I’ve been meaning to, but I haven’t yet read The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. Now, I think I’ll have to try find the time to fit it in. Aqib is proud to take care of the exotic animals of the prince – such as Sabah, a cheetah. He thinks he has everything he needs in life – a purpose, parents who care and will provide for everything in his future… that is, until, he meets a charming soldier who thinks Aqib is as equally handsome and charming back. Unfortunately, as one could almost expect, their union isn’t allowed nor welcome in their customs… though partly, it’s their customs which draw them to each other – one favour war wounds, and the other favour smooth and unmarked skin. Picking my order of voting is going to be harder and harder.
  • This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)
    • A hard book for people new to Miéville as it’s a bit weird, and you have to put a lot of trust in the author as to how it’ll all turn out. It’s a bit traumatic – a boy witnesses something beyond awful and is then locked away, where he’s allowed to write the book we’re reading whilst in captivity. The thing is though, that his jailer is his father. Parts in this are beautiful, parts are in ruins, and sadly, parts are confusing as character perspectives change randomly. Miéville is a good writer, and he can take these risks, however I don’t feel it gives me as much as a reader as the other pieces.

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