Posts Tagged 2013 Nominees

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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Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

(This is expanded from a review posted on Goodreads.)

Captain VorpatrilI’m going to start this review by admitting this is the first Vorkosigan Saga book I’ve read. Normally I wouldn’t go diving into the deep end of a series like this, but my desire to read this year’s Hugo nominees ran headlong into my inexperience with this series, and I had to make a choice. Therefore, I can only review this book as a newcomer to the series. Thus, I’m approaching it with a very specific question in mind: does this book work on its own?

The answer is yes.


First for the plotline. For the most part, I liked the integrated elements of espionage, space opera, and (dare I say it) romantic comedy. Though the romantic comedy elements were about as predictable as most romcoms put out by Hollywood, they weren’t the central focus of the story, so I could forgive the broad clichés for the sake of enjoying their inclusion at all. However, as all the different themes came together, I wasn’t sure which was the driving notion of the book, and which were just along for the ride.

Now, to my main point. Does it stand alone? The story is clearly very well contained, which is aided by (as I understand it) a new protagonist stepping forward as the star of the book. There wasn’t any pickup from a previous book’s cliffhanger. There wasn’t anything left unresolved. It felt like watching a monster-of-the-week episode of the X-Files or Buffy or Angel without being aware of the broader mythology of the series. There were bits that I’m sure went over my head, but if they did they flew so high I didn’t even see the contrails.

However. And this is a big however. At times I was left feeling that I’d stepped into the middle of a conversation between several old friends. They were trying to keep me up to date, explaining their inside jokes, telling me how they met, letting me know where they were coming from. But from the point of view of a reader, I didn’t know which bits of back story were references to older books in the series, and which were new bits of back story being introduced for the first time. Which was…oddly uncomfortable. It was hard not to feel like an interloper.

I do plan on hitting this series up from the beginning, part of my larger quest to read all the past Hugo winners, and the world and writing style leave me looking forward. But as for stepping straight into this book? It’s possible, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Perhaps I’ll revisit this review when I wrap around to this book again in the series, when I understand things better. But for now, three stars is the best I can do.

In terms of looking at this compared to the other Hugo nominees I’ve currently read, I’d have to list this third. With any ongoing series, there’s a question of whether to judge a book on its own or as a member of its broader series. I have no choice but to do the former. It’s not a book I disliked by any stretch, it’s just not a book I enjoyed as well as either Redshirts or Crescent Moon.

Still two more nominees to go, 2312 and Blackout. Which, from the reputation of the former and the prequels to the latter, I expect might end up my top two picks.

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2013 Nominees

So…we’ve got a problem.

See, one of the reasons I introduced the secondary reads is to catch up on series if a later book won the Hugo Award. I’d always intended that these secondary reads may occasionally involve catching up on series for a nominated book. But…what’s one to do when book 14 or 15 of a series is nominated? That’s what happened when Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was announced as one of the nominees. It’s the 15th novel released in the massively epic Vorkosigan Saga, and slots in as the 14th novel in the current continuity. These novels start showing up in the read in 2018, but I didn’t expect one to show up in the nominees.

So what to do?

I’m going to slot it in with no prereading. There’s nothing else I really can do. I may then skip it myself, even though that’s somewhat against the spirit of the Great Hugo Read, and catch up in December of 2021 if it wins.

There’s another book on the nominees list that’s part of a series, but a much shorter one. I am going to slot the two previous books in that series as secondary reads. So here goes, one schedule, five months, seven books.


Primary:Redshirts by John Scalzi

  • Print: Recently released in paperback.
  • Electronic: Available DRM-free. Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated by Wil Wheaton, available from Audible and iTunes.

Secondary: Feed by Mira Grant (Blackout pre-read)

  • Print: Available new in paperback.
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein, available from Audible and iTunes.


Primary: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

  • Print: Available new in paperback.
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated by Paul Gigante, available from Audible and iTunes.


Primary: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Print: Available new in hardback, paperback released in September.
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle only.
  • Audio: Narrated by Grover Gardner, available from Audible and iTunes.

Secondary: Deadline by Mira Grant (Blackout pre-read)

  • Print: Available new in paperback.
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated By Chris Patton and Nell Geisslinger, available from Audible and iTunes.


Primary: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

  • Print: Paperback releasing on June 25, 2013
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated by Sarah Zimmerman, available from Audible and iTunes.


Primary: Blackout by Mira Grant

  • Print: Available new in paperback
  • Electronic: Available from Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sony Reader.
  • Audio: Narrated By Paula Christensen and Michael Goldstrom, available from Audible and iTunes.


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Two Great Hugo Read Administrative Notes

Nominations for the 2013 Hugo Awards have closed, and over on the official Hugo blog a new post announces, “The final ballot for the 2013 Hugo Awards is scheduled to be announced on Saturday, March 30.” This means we’ll know what books we’re reading between April and August with little lead time.

This is actually good news. I expected to learn with no lead time as nominations were announced April 7th last year and April 24th the year before. That’s the danger of setting up an event like the Read with complete reliance on a schedule that I have zero influence over.

Initially I was planning to schedule the physically shortest book for April, expecting to have less reading time that month, with the other books assigned in alphabetical order by author. Since that’s not necessary, I’ll instead look at which books are part of a larger series and may require some pre-reading and which books are stand alone novels or part one of a new series. Books requiring pre-reading will be scheduled for later months, other books will still be sorted in author name order.

And if there are more than five nominees, as has happened in 2010? I’ll pair up the two shortest books into one month with no secondary reads that month.

AGameOfThronesI understand that those who are joining the read are more likely to have read the nominees recently, since they’re less than a year old by definition. I can promise I’ve read none of them, as the only 2012 Science Fiction book I own is Redshirts, and I haven’t yet touched it. Thus the schedule for these months will be more of a suggested schedule for those who have read none of them. If you’ve already read one or two, that’s great, especially in the off-chance of more than five nominees. In those cases, feel free to figure out your own schedule, and we’ll convene near the end of August to talk our opinions of who should win, or how you voted if you’re so eligible.

One more thing as long as I’m talking administration the Read. It’s folly to predict nominations. It’s even more folly to predict nominations of books that haven’t even been published yet. Or scheduled. Or finished. But here goes even more folly. Books three, four, and five of George R. R. Martin’s massively epic Song of Ice and Fire series were all Hugo nominated. I don’t want to be in a position in a few years of The Winds of Winter being nominated and having to fit in the first five books, totaling around 5000 paperback pages into four months of secondary reads. Therefore I’m going to make two assumptions. Assumption one: The Winds of Winter will be nominated whenever it comes out. Assumption two: it won’t be out this year, thus making it eligible no earlier than 2015 and more likely 2016 or even later. Under those assumptions, I’m going to seed the first five books into secondary read slots where I can, trying not to stack them too tightly.

Now my only terror is A Memory of Light being nominated next year and what the hell to do about 13 previous Wheel of Time books.

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