The Great Hugo Read


One unexpected side effect of fatherhood is an increase in my available reading time. I’m not sure where it all came from, but I’m loving it. Since starting my two weeks at home with my daughter, and continuing through going back to work, I’m now reading novels at a pace of better than one a week. It’s mostly been John Scalzi, as I finally started reading his novels coincident with staying home and got hooked. After reading mostly Ace Doubles for a while, it was great to dip my toes back into contemporary science fiction. I’m not done with Doubles, just interspersing.

As part of this expanded reading time, I’m launching on two connected reading projects. They will not represent the total of my reading time, but they will get weaved in among the other novels and stories I’m going through, and both will involve the Hugo Awards. Thus I’m calling them both, together, the Great Hugo Read.

Part one: I’m going to read all the novels nominated for the 2013 Hugo Award. I’ve only read one Hugo winner before it won the Hugo, and that was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. With my reading patterns the past few years, this goal would be ambitious to say the least. Nominations come out in April, the awards will be presented on September 1. That’s five months, but a month a novel was a typical reading pace for me until recently. Now it doesn’t seem nearly so crazy. It’ll be fun going into the ceremony with an educated opinion. It’s crazy, I know.

I hope to get a head start by reading Redshirts in January. Hopefully I’m not jinxing things by anticipating this as part of my 2013 nominee read.

Part two: This is the bigger part, and it’s not just a 2013 goal. When I said above I’ve only read one Hugo winner before it won…well, that doesn’t seem quite so crazy when you factor in that I’ve only read four Hugo winners. Ever. That’s it. Here’s the whole and complete list:

  • Rendezvous with Rama
  • The Diamond Age
  • American Gods
  • The Graveyard Book

That’s it. Four. And it’s only that high because both the Hugos and I are fans of Neil Gaiman. I’m looking to fix that, and I’m looking to do so in the most extreme way possible. I’m going to start reading all the Hugo winners. That’s 62 novels, way more than I could read in one year even if I skipped the ones I’ve already read and read nothing but Hugo winners. This isn’t my plan, they’ll be interspersed with my other reading, perhaps every other or every third book. I like this as a project, getting more of a history of the genre that I love. However, there are some pitfalls.

Series. Oh sure, there are the series that make it easy. Connie Willis has been gracious enough to win for every book in the Oxford Time Travel series, so while they’ll be spread out, I don’t have to make any decisions about what pre-reading I need to do. The Harry Potter series winning for Goblet of Fire is alright, I’ve seen the movies, I think I can get enough of what happened in the first three books to jump right into the fourth. Hell, I’m sure I’ll end up reading the whole series with my daughter eventually anyway. Green Mars and Blue Mars winning when Red Mars didn’t? I’ve been wanting to read the trilogy for a long time anyway, and Red Mars will give me a head start if I want to later read the Nebula winners.

However, things get more difficult when I get into Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Three books of this series have won, and they happen to be books four, two, and nine. The out of number ordering isn’t mine, it belongs to the series. Book four, The Vor Game won in 1991, book two, Barrayar, won the next year. Clearly they were published out-of-order, so can be read out-of-order. But I don’t know enough about this series to know how out-of-order. Can I skip straight to book nine, Mirror Dance, without the books in between? No, really, can I? If you know the series and can answer that question, please do so in the comments below.

Herbert. As in Frank Herbert. 1966 saw Dune share the Hugo Award with Roger Zelazny’s …And Call Me Conrad. You’ll notice Dune is not sitting up on my already read list, something that surprises people when they learn that about me. I’ve tried reading some Herbert, specifically Destination: Void. In short? It defeated me. It’s the rare book I’ve walked away from unfinished. I had a hard time getting into his writing style, especially the schizophrenic head hopping around the characters. Which I understand is one of the hallmarks of Dune. If you’ve read both Void and Dune, could you speak up in the comments, let me know what I’m in for? Because, honestly, that’s the first big road block that I seen on my trip through the Hugos.

Retro Hugos. They’ve awarded these three times, for years that had Worldcons but no Hugos. As I start, I’m not planning to these to my reading list. What interests me about doing this read-through is the history of the genre and seeing what books were deemed important when they were written. The Retro Hugos are about which books stood the test of time. Sure, we can go back and give Fahrenheit 451 the Hugo award for 1954, and that’s an easy pick as it’s now become one of the most important books to come out of the genre. But would the voting fans in the year 1954 actually give it the award over Childhood’s End? Or any of the other books nominated? Or would the award in 1954 go to a book that organizers in 2004 didn’t think to nominate? Keep in mind in 1955 the voters went for what is frequently cited as the worst book to win the Hugo. Or, at least, frequently cited as being frequently cited as such. Speaking of which…

They’d Rather Be Right. It’s the second novel to win the Hugo, thus the second novel in my read through. It’s also probably the hardest Hugo winner to track down a copy of. Even alibris has precious few going for no less than $10, and copies of its rerelease as The Forever Machine go for a minimum of $25. Its only digital availability is through the Sony Reader store. I may be forced to skip over this one in my initial read, not because of its reputation, but because of its availability. I’ve also seen others who have done the all-Hugo read call this a “struggle.” It’s the only Hugo winner rated at below three stars on Goodreads, and one of only three below 3.5. So…maybe Dune isn’t my first big speed bump.

Re-Reads. It’ll be awhile til I hit my first re-read, and when I do it’ll be the only Hugo winner I read before I turned eighteen. So that’s a clear candidate for a re-read. I’ll probably re-read the others, too. Not like I need too much of an excuse to pick Diamond Age back up. Though…do I read the version of American Gods that won, or the slightly tweaked 10th Anniversary edition signed by the author?

I’ll probably start the read through in January, even though I’m not intending this as a finish-in-2013 goal. And I plan to read them in order, just as soon as I can track down a copy of The Demolished Man. Thank goodness for used bookstores and alibris. I’d be thrilled if anyone wanted to join me on the read, I’ll announce here on the blog and in Twitter when I plan to start each book, and will plan to talk about each when I’m done. I might make this a monthly thing, which means the read-through would take awhile. But it feels more like a book club that way. For now, I’ve shoved all of them onto a Goodreads shelf. Go, browse, and I’ll let you know when this is starting if you want to come along.

, , ,

  1. avatar

    #1 by Linda Adams on December 13, 2012 - 6:37 pm

    I’ve read Dune, though not Void. I enjoyed it, though it’s not a re-read for me, nor did it inspire me to look at other books that followed. Curiously, though, I can tell you it was good, and at the same time, it didn’t stay with me.

  2. avatar

    #2 by Melissa on December 27, 2012 - 1:04 am

    I’ve read Dune and its first three sequels. I liked Dune and Dune Messiah, tolerated the third, and hated God Emperor of Dune. Dune itself is worth reading. I also think the original movie version was underrated, but I did see it after reading the book twice.

    I would read the Vorkosigan Saga in order…Cordelia’s Honor, then Barrayar, then the Miles books. I’ve read all but the most recent book, and I’ve enjoyed them a lot. Supposedly, aspects of them are Horatio Hornblower-inspired, but I don’t see that so much (I do love the Hornblower books, by the way).

    RE: Connie Willis: Doomsday Book is good. To Say Nothing of the Dog is very funny. Bellwether (not Oxford series) is lots of fun. Passage (another not-Oxford standalone) is good, frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking. I have hit the point in Blackout at which she’s overused ALL of her favorite tropes, added in non-linear time/storytelling, and made me very cross with the book. I paid like $15 for it on Kindle, yet I’m not sure I’m going to bother finishing it or reading All Clear. I feel like I SHOULD like them, but I’ve grown tired of those tropes she uses (missed connections, poor communication, supposedly intelligent people having bouts of incompetence, etc.).

    • avatar

      #3 by DLThurston on December 27, 2012 - 10:02 am

      I might call an audible with the Vorkosigan Saga and lists books two and four in series order, rather than in the order they were published and won.

      Counting ahead, it looks like the books would come up in March, September and the following January of a year I didn’t note. So some schedule tweaking that year will give me time to catch up to book nine.

      Thanks for the tips.

(will not be published)


%d bloggers like this: