Posts Tagged 2312

Hypothetical Hugo Ballot, Pt2

Last time out I looked at the dramatic presentation categories. Now that I’ve finished the last of the five novel nominees, I’m ready with the ballot that I would submit. If I could. Which I can’t. Let’s get right to it, then commentary:

  1. BlackoutBlackout
  2. Redshirts
  3. 2312
  4. Throne of the Crescent Moon
  5. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

First there’s a clear division on the ballot between my top two picks and my bottom three picks. Blackout and Redshirts were the two books of the five that I had a difficult time putting down. Redshirts I tore through in three nights, Blackout I read the last 120 pages in a single night. If there’s a better reason of dividing a ballot into halves, I can’t think of it.

Ultimately I went with Blackout for two reasons. One, on its own I felt it was a more compelling and entertaining novel than Redshirts. Two, I feel the entire Newsflesh trilogy deserves some recognition beyond just nominations. While only the last part is being considered this year, I feel it’s appropriate with a self-contained trilogy to consider the work as a whole when deciding whether or not to honor the third part. It’s why Lord of the Rings swept up so many Oscars with Return of the King. Newsflesh did so many things well it’s hard to know where to start. Especially harder since many of the things it did so well are rather massive spoilers to the entire series.

Redshirts ends up second because it was the other book I loved, I just didn’t love it as much as Blackout.

In the lower half of the ballot, I didn’t include a No Award vote. Though I almost did. To be blunt, I’m not sure Captain Vorpatril would have been nominated standing on its own, not part of a long running series from a well respected author. At no point did I dislike the read, but it wasn’t as strong as the other four nominees.

In between Redshirts and Vorpatril is my bias for science fiction over fantasy shining through. It’s my hypothetical ballot, it gets subjected to my biases.

I’d be curious about how anyone else would vote (or, if you’re so bold as to go on record, did vote). Drop me a comment if you’ve read all five. Agree with me completely. Tell me what an idiot I am. I’m interested to see how others would rank this year’s field. And remember that the awards will be presented on September 1, and they’ve promised the stream won’t be killed by a copyright claim this year.

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2312 CoverYou may have noticed a quote from 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson go up on the blog earlier this week. That was a sign that I had finished the book, and was thinking about my responses to it. The quote itself is from near the end, as the book ruminates on the events that transpired over the preceding 500 pages, though divorced from those events I thought it was an interesting passage about the process of writing and creation. Which…is a good summary for the book. It’s about the process of creation, it’s about art, it’s about revolution, and it’s about what all of those things actually mean. It’s a book willing to take it’s longest chapter to follow two characters stuck in nearly endless tunnels as they walk and whistle.

And, in the end, it’s a book I’m still trying to make my mind up about. This review may reflect that. I may even come to a conclusion over the next couple hundred words.

It’s a book of impressive breadth. It travels through a solar system massively transformed over the next three hundred years, as mankind escapes an earth left scarred and flooded by The Dithering (a damning description of the modern era), and terraforms those worlds suitable, turns asteroids into great pleasure cruisers, and saves what they can from their home in hopes of one day helping earth fulfill her promise. If that all sounds very philosophic to you, well, you’re not wrong. The book concerns itself with the smaller revolutions. Though excerpts from history books, we see the Martian revolution, an invisible civil war on Venus, declarations of freedom coming from the moons of the outer solar system. The main character, Swan, has an extended discussion about the very nature of revolution, breaking down to the definition of the word, with her literal minded personal computer.

In the end, it’s a book about a revolution. It’s a book about creating change within a society, and seeing that society coalesce better around a new threat. It’s by no coincidence that this threat comes from coalescence itself, attacks made on the inhabited worlds of the solar system by thousands of tiny rocks flung with precision so that they come together at a decided point of impact at a decided time.

So it’s a book about revolution and coalescence. It’s in some ways an origin story for the Great Human Empire sub genre of science fiction, about how humanity can come together into one cohesive unit strong enough to then push its will beyond the solar system.

I like those kinds of novels, the ones that tell the implied stories that other novels stand on the backs of. The bits that we might be curious about while reading about rip roaring adventures through the outer darkness of the galaxy. But that means that 2312 is the book for sitting down on the beach and getting lost in the story. It’s a novel that requires some work from the reader, coming along on the ride. In this way, it’s a very different book from the first three Hugo nominees, and I suspect a very different book from Blackout. It’s a more cerebral science fiction.

Appealingly so, mind you. There is a place for thoughtfulness within science fiction. It just meant 2312 was a slower read, it took a little more work than the other books to date. It’s a book with a smaller payoff, too. Perhaps that’s not the best combination, and perhaps that why I liked the book a lot, but I just can’t now put it at the front of the pack of the four Hugo nominees I’ve read thus far. It’s a worthy nominee, and I would even say a worthy winner of the Hugo. It’s probably the novel, of the four, that has the highest chance of staying power. If that’s the right metric for deciding the Hugo, then 2312 should probably be the winner.

I suppose that’s what makes the Hugo Award interesting. It brings in a diverse voting population, so it brings in diverse opinions about what metric should be used to decide the award. I’m personally not sure if trying to guess the future is the right way to hand out the Hugo, who’s to say what will become a classic in the end. For that reason, 2312 actually falls to second on my hypothetical ballot-to-date, behind Redshirts, with one book left to read.

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On Sentences, Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 Coverto form a sentence is to collapse many superposed wave functions to a single thought universe. Multiplying the lost universes word by word, we can say that each sentence extinguishes 10n universes, where n is the number of words in the sentence. Each thought condenses trillions of potential thoughts. Thus we get verbal overshadowing, where the language we use structures the reality we inhabit. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe this is why we need to keep making sentences.

–Kim Stanley Robinson, 2313


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