Hugo nominees

by Henry Farrell on March 28, 2005

The nominations for science fiction’s Hugo awards were announced yesterday. In alphabetical order, the nominees for Best Novel are:

I’ve read four of the five of them, which is a personal record (the exception is the Banks book – while I love Banks’ stuff, the reviews of The Algebraist were mixed enough that I didn’t feel inspired to buy it in hardback). Indeed I and other Crooked Timber people have blogged extensively on both Iron Council and Strange and Norrell. I haven’t blogged on either the Stross book (which has gotten a fair amount of well-deserved blogospheric love recently), or on Ian McDonald’s book, although I’ve been meaning to write about the latter for a long time. It’s both smart and fun, a collision between booster-stage cyberpunk (the underlying story of the book riffs on William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Count Zero) and a reinvented India. McDonald has been engaged in a very interesting effort over the last ten years to re-imagine science fiction from the perspective of the developing rather than the developed world, and in this novel he’s made a crucial leap forward in imagining what an India transformed by information technology might look like and mean, on its own terms. Only two of the many viewpoint characters are Westerners, and they serve more to provide contrast than to translate and domesticate the exotic. McDonald’s West retains economic and political dominance, but is quietly losing out over time, because it’s trying to shut out the disruptive impact of new technologies. It’s an aging monopolist which is about to have its lunch eaten. India is where it’s at – new sexes (neuts), AI-driven soap operas, towed icebergs, and finally, the gateway to a new universe. I’m not sure whether the book is (or even tries to be) authentic in any strong sense of the word (I’d be fascinated to hear the opinion of anyone who’s from India and has read it), but it’s exciting, thought-provoking, and (once you come to grips with the many viewpoints that McDonald uses), very entertaining. Not a book that I’d pass on to anyone who isn’t already an SF reader – the future-shock might be a little much – but something that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone who loves the genre, and wants to read something that feels fresh and new. As far as I know, it hasn’t found a US publisher yet – perhaps the nomination (and the British Science Fiction Association award that it’s also picked up) will prompt somebody over here to pick it up.

(nb – as always with my posts, all commission from the Amazon links above will go to charity).



Cheryl Morgan 03.28.05 at 12:33 pm

River of Gods will be published in the US by Pyr. It doesn’t appear on their schedules yet, but they are already leaping up and down with joy.

And for anyone in the US looking for a copy of The Algebraist, it will be coming out soon from Night Shade. Again there’s no release date yet, but it is on their web site.


Ross Smith 03.28.05 at 4:19 pm

I think the reason The Algebraist got such mixed reviews was that too many reviewers didn’t notice that it’s a comedy, and made the mistake of taking it seriously. (It reminded me in some ways of Terry Pratchett’s early and undeservedly forgotten SF novels.)

Of the five nominees, I’ve read the Banks, Clarke, and Mieville. It’s a good thing I’m not voting, because it spares me the agony of choosing between Strange + Norrell and Iron Council.


Henry 03.28.05 at 4:59 pm

Thanks Cheryl – when they put something up, I’d be glad to link to it.


pedro 03.28.05 at 9:51 pm

Iron Council was inferior–in my view–to both Perdido Street Station and The Scar. But then again, that may be simply because I’m not a native English speaker, and all the agrammatical mess of the text threw me off. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a delightful story, but I never quite understood how it was a bit subversive, as claimed by Henry some time ago.


Cheryl Morgan 03.29.05 at 11:57 am

Lou Anders, the editor at Pyr, has posted “We’ll be releasing a US edition in Pyr’s third season.” When I find out what that means I’ll let you know.

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