Monday, 18 February 2008

Hugo Award Nomination Recommendations 2008

Nominations for this year's Hugo Awards are currently being made and I thought I'd weigh in with my own thoughts and recommendations. Whilst I'm hoping to make it to Denver for the awards this year, this is highly tentative based on various RL events (including - yet again - a major house move in May/June), but hopefully I'll be there to see one of my favourites pick up an award.


1. Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Brasyl is an intelligent and literate work of SF; it's also very funny and features characters you come to care about. The country comes alive in this book in the same manner that McDonald evoked India in River of Gods. You even pick up some Portugese whilst reading it!

2. Black Man by Richard K. Morgan
Published as Thirteen in the USA. Morgan's finest work, which considering he's also the author of the blistering Altered Carbon, is saying something. This is a violent, passionate, withering observation of the United States and its path into the future, and also a commentary on crime, genetics and gender, wrapped around a compelling mystery and driven by an impressive narrative force.

3. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Allegedly a children's novel, but with enough biting social commentary and political allusions to keep adults entertained whilst never intruding on the plot for the young 'uns. Mieville's grasp of character and plot has never been better and his trademark weirdness and surreal imagery (given greater life thanks to his excellent illustrations) is at its richest and most imaginative.


1. Sunshine
The most beautiful SF movie since Blade Runner, a stylistic tour de force which matches breathtaking visuals with a soundtrack to die for. The small cast of characters is vividly drawn and excellently played by some great actors at the top of their game.

2. Heroes: Season 1
Landing with a splash, Heroes became the must-see television event of the 2006-07 season. With a strong storyline building over twenty-two continuous episodes and carried by a plethora of excellent characters, the first season of Heroes is an impressive work. Sadly, the second season failed to live up to the accomplishments of the first, but the first season remains an impressive viewing expeirnece.

3. Battlestar Galactica: Razor
Whilst the third season of BSG was a disappointment, this stand-alone TV movie did a good job of patching up some holes in the show's continuity whilst telling a good story on its own, that of the battlestar Pegasus and how it survived under the increasingly draconian command of Admiral Cain. Some stunning visuals and an exceptional performance by Michelle Forbes make this an enjoyable viewing experience.


1. Lost: Through the Looking Glass
The former golden child of US TV had been given a much rougher ride in its second season by the critics, with the show reaching a nadir of quality in early Season 3. However, it bounced back strong throughout the latter part of Season 3. Several other episodes - The Brig and the Twin Peaks-esque The Man Behind the Curtain - nearly made the cut, but for me the Season 3 finale was gripping television with an emotionally satisfying conclusion, twists and turns aplenty and some much longed-for resolution to long-running storylines. Based on the opening episodes of Season 4, expect to see more Lost nominations for next year's awards.

2. Doctor Who: Utopia
I nearly went for Blink, but in the end decided that Utopia was - just - the stronger episode, mainly through an absolutely masterful performance (pun intended) by Derek Jacobi, who went from sympathetic, befuddled professor to pure malevolence in a completely convincing manner. This is an episode that comines some of the better elements of 'Nu Hu' with established mythology to deliver what was probably the finest closing ten minutes of SF TV in the last year. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, we got a John Simm cameo as well! Excellent stuff.

3. BSG: Crossroads, Part II
The latter half of BSG Season 3 was a rather strained affair, with poor editing, dubious writing decisions and some characters acting very inconsistently with their established personas. The writers just about managed to turn things around for the finale, however, delivering a damning indictment of the hypocrisy that allows the fleet to operate whilst simultaneously persecuting those it dislikes whilst simultaneously establishing a strange mystery related to a song that built to a startling conclusion. The triple-whammy cliffhanger ending - with four more Cylons revealed, the fleet about to be annihialated by the Cylons and the return of a supposedly dead character - nearly made up for the numerous tedious episodes that preceded it. The icing on the cake was a great turn by Mark Sheppard as the lawyer Romo Lamkin, the sort of offbeat, slightly demented character that makes for great television.


Only one suggestion for this: Simon Spanton and his team at Gollancz have been doing excellent work for the past two years, delivering a continuous stream of great novels frome some of the best writers in our genre. Whether it's discovering great new talent such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Richard Morgan, or delivering the first UK editions of excellent foreign works as such Andrzej Sapkowski and Patrick Rothfuss, Gollancz has been on top form in 2007 and with their line-up for 2008 already looking incredibly strong, I expect this to continue for some time to come.


The blogger has been rising to prominence in the last few years, but to date I have not seen any blogger really giving us the same in-depth commentary and observations that the best print-writers seem to manage. As such I am forced to recommend the constant David Langford for this award. Ansible remains an essential monthly read for all fans of the genre and his monthly articles in SFX are the highlight of the magazine. Nevertheless, a shout-out to Patrick St. Denis, whose Fantasy Hotlist has grown into a vital genre resource in the past two years as well. Best wishes as well to William Lexner, whose blog would have resulted in recommendation for him as well for this award, had it not been largely inactive over the past year due to personal issues. Hoping to see you back on the blogging trail soon, William!

Hands-down, this goes to Joe Abercrombie. Scott Lynch's second book was mildly disappointing and Patrick Rothfuss apparently isn't eligible (due to a short story published in 2002), so that leaves the 'Crombie with a clear run at the title. His First Law Trilogy is the freshest, most enjoyable thing to happen to fantasy in the last few years, building from a solid start in The Blade Itself through the startling revelations of Before They Are Hanged to an absolute solid-gold classic conclusion in Last Argument of Kings, giving us blood, betrayal, torture and war, delivered through compelling characters (Glokta is fantasy's finest creation since Tyrion Lannister) with a cynical eye and a fantastic line in humour. He has also achieved the near-impossible by giving us a superb ending to his series which doesn't wimp out or betray the spirit of the books.

No comments: