Hugo Suggestions 2017

by Henry Farrell on March 16, 2017

Time again (seeing as nominations close in a couple of days), for Hugo nominations suggestions, or, more precisely, an excuse to briefly talk about books that I read in the f/sf genre last year and liked a lot.

*Best Novel*

* Ada Palmer – Too Like the Lightning. Enough being said around here already.

* Paul McAuley – Into Everywhere. People in the US don’t read McAuley nearly as much as they should. This, together with his *Something Coming Through*, is as good as straight science fiction gets these days. I didn’t like M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract books nearly as much as his other work – these two books are less ambitious, but seem to me to capture better some of what Harrison was trying to do, in using near- and middle-far future science fiction to get at the tropes of consumer society. Sharp, drily funny if you read closely, and does for *Childhood’s End* what his Confluence books did for *The Book of the New Sun.* There is infinite hope, but not for us. If you haven’t read any McAuley, try his short story Reef, available for free online. If it gets on with you, the rest probably will too.

* Dave Hutchinson – Europe in Winter. Again, I don’t think Hutchinson gets the attention he deserves in the US. But this – and the other two books before – are really quite brilliant about Europe, and England’s complicated attitudes to it. The first book, *Europe in Autumn* is still my favorite of the three, but this is extremely good too – spies, a Europe that has split up into hundreds of odd microstates, and an alternative universe in which the Home Counties have extended in a manner both sinister and avuncular to take over large parts of the globe.

* Sofia Samatar – The Winged Histories. I really liked this for its combination of large scale politics and small scale personal history. It reminded me (despite differences in writing style, subject etc) of Maureen McHugh’s wonderful *China Mountain Zhang* in the interest that it takes in people’s lives.

* Max Gladstone – Four Roads Cross. The latest in his Craft sequence of novels, which is available in its entirety for $12 on Kindle – a bargain that you probably won’t regret. Enormous fun, but also very interesting in its take on the politics of globalization (the previous book, *Last First Snow* very deliberately takes on the question of how the insights of James Scott’s Seeing Like a State could be transferred into a fantasy setting).

Also, two books that I *don’t want* to see nominated for Best Related Work, if only because they were both published in the UK in 2016, and US in 2017, and probably have better chances next year.

* Edmund Gordon – The Invention of Angela Carter. I’ve loved Carter’s work since I first came across it – she’s one of the very few supserstars whom I would have loved to meet (I remember plotting as an undergraduate to go to a talk that she was going to give in Dublin; it was cancelled at short notice, because of what turned out to be her final illness). It’s surprising that we’ve had to wait so long for a biography, but this is a really quite wonderful one. It isn’t at all hagiographical (as the title suggests, she happily reinvented facts about herself and her family to come up with an identity that she felt she could get on with), but it conveys her strength, her intelligence, her contrariness and her warmth. I hadn’t realized that David Hume was such an influence on her work (not having read the novel that takes an epigraph from him), nor would I have ever suspected that William Trevor was an admirer of Carter’s work, given their differences of subject matter and style. If Carter wasn’t often formally identified as a genre writer, she was emphatically a fellow traveller, whose work both spoke to fantasy and borrowed from it.

* Mark Fisher – The Weird and the Eerie. I only figured out who Mark Fisher was after he died last year. I’d read a couple of pieces he had written (especially his interview with Burial), and encountered many of his ideas at second hand, without ever properly realizing that there was a single person behind them. Now, I’m very sorry. This is a wonderful, odd, individual book, which brings together Alan Garner, the last series of Quatermass, M.R. James and others. I desperately want to argue with him, and write at him (it seems to me that his concept of the eerie is very helpful in understanding aspects of *Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell* which isn’t nearly as cosy as it appears to the superficial glance), but can’t.

As always, feel free to carp, disagree and (especially) make other suggestions for books worth reading in comments.



Tiny Hermaphrodite 03.16.17 at 9:51 pm

Mark Fisher is dead? Shit. And I think know precisely how he died (wikies). Fuck depression.


Dave Maier 03.17.17 at 12:23 am

Maybe not Hugo-worthy (I don’t read enough SF to know) but I just finished Robert Charles Wilson’s Last Year, which was pretty good. Not particularly high-concept (time travel) but enjoyable.


Dr. Hilarius 03.17.17 at 4:38 am

Happy to see McAuley’s name mentioned. He is a greatly under-appreciated writer. “Fairlyland” is a favorite of mine.


sasha 03.17.17 at 9:13 pm

I’d say Ninefox Gambit and Infomocracy are both worthy.


shah8 03.19.17 at 4:05 am

This hasn’t been a great year, looking through my read pile. Yes, I cosign with Sasha that Ninefox Gambit is the only missing great novel for the year. The next strongest and reasonably original works would have to be Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, Bennett’s City of Blades, Jemison’s Obelisk Gate.

I liked Ada Palmer fine, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the racial implications of Too Like the Lightning. This seems to be a them with Euro-Scifi. I really had a problem with Jo Walton’s first Thessaly book, and long ago, I put down a Paul McAuley book because I found it too racist explicitly. So I’ve never been very eager to pick up another of his books.

It’s been an interesting year for shorter stories, as Okorafor and Kai Ashante Wilson both released follow ups to their good stuff. Among other short stores.


Brian Kearns 03.20.17 at 9:55 pm

Too Like The Lightning was excellent, and sequel Seven Surrenders is shaping up to be quite good.


Tom Jackson 03.21.17 at 2:00 am

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo is really good and deserves some Hugo consideration.


Roland 03.21.17 at 4:03 am

Does Jerusalem by Alan Moore count? Somewhat sits by itself but belongs somewhere for 2016

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