‘Tis the season for Science Fiction/Fantasy award announcements—either the at times dizzying lists of finalists or the winners themselves.
First off, the juried Shirley Jackson Awards recently announced its slate of finalists, including, for best novel, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, A Dark Matter by Peter Straub, Feed by Mira Grant, Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, and The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. Of these novels, your loyal correspondent has read the Straub, Bennett, and the Joyce, and found all three disturbing in the best way, but the Joyce the strongest by far (see my Washington Post review).
Not to be outdone, the venerable voted-on Hugo Awards revealed its nominees, including the Best Novel category: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, Feed by Mira Grant, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. How to make sense of this somewhat traditional/non-trad list? Willis is a perennial Hugo favorite, and no one would have bet against her or Ian McDonald and his sprawling future-Turkey tale. In a similar vein, the inclusion of Bujold shouldn’t come as a surprise, given her popularity, but she wasn’t on the radar in any pre-Hugo’s awards talk.
On the newbie side, some have dismissed Grant’s novel out-of-hand in comments about the Hugo nominations, but this seems unwise given that it also appears on the juried Jackson Awards list. Finally, the Jemisin novel (a first) is very good, with its sequel even better. Perhaps most notable, for once the novel ballot is dominated by women. Is it a particularly adventurous list, however? Check it against the Amazon and Amazon UK best-of lists from last year.