Monday, 3 September 2007

Update and Hugo Musings

Joe Abercrombie's much-praised debut novel, The Blade Itself, is now available in the USA from Pyr Books. My original review here:

The 2007 Hugo Awards were held over the weekend in Japan and as usual the results have provided fodder for numerous blogs over the past few days, with the normal arguments about the award's validity (you wanna vote, you have to pay), Americo-centric nature (the Best Novel recipient, Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge, was only first published in the UK ten days before the results were announced) and voting process (which is highly reminiscent of how the Conservative Party elects its leaders) competing for time against more personal arguments about who won and why.

Full results here:

The results are a mixed bag. Best Novel up first. Rainbow's End, the winner, I haven't read as it didn't have a UK release until very recently. I've also failed to read Blindsight by Peter Watts, which was remiss of me considering the huge amount of praise it's picked up (it was also seen as the favourite to win by more than a few critics). Glasshouse by Charles Stross I chose not to read on the grounds my brain hasn't recovered from the battering previous Stross books gave it. Eifelheim by Michael Flynn I hadn't even heard of, given it's made as big an impact on the blogosphere and SF press as a gnat farting in a snowstorm. I'm assured it's quite good, however. Temeraire (American title: His Majesty's Dragon) by Naomi Novik is the only book I had read, and I was thus bewildered that it made the shortlist, certainly ahead of Scott Lynch's excellent The Lies of Locke Lamora. Temeraire is light, fluffy, disposable popcorn which lingers in the memory for about as long as it takes to turn the final page. To me a Hugo winner should be interesting, insightful, fun and original. Temeraire, which reads like a confluence of Chris Bunch's Seer King Trilogy (fantasised version of the Napoleonic Wars, although Bunch changed the names and geography a bit) and the same writer's Dragonmaster Trilogy (dragons used in war), cannot really be said to fall into this category.

Obviously Novik then had to go and win the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. However, this was more predictable. Novik released three novels and I believe a short story in the same time period most of the other nominees released just one book or one story (Sarah Monette had two though, I'm informed), which probably told heavily in her favour.

Ian McDonald's win for Best Novelette (The Djinn's Wife in Asimov's) was very encouraging. River of Gods was defeated in the 2005 ballot (probably the strongest of the last decade) but nothing short of Richard Morgan's Black Man should keep McDonald's Brasyl from a well-deserved victory next year.

2006 was, in retrospect, a very strong year for SF&F films. Pan's Labyrinth, which I missed by, err, falling asleep, seems to be a well-regarded movie by all and Guillermo del Toro has rarely put a foot wrong as writer or director. I plan to catch up with this one ASAP. The Prestige was a very strong adaption of the classic Christopher Priest novel whilst Children of Men is simply an amazing movie combining the most intense combat sequences since Saving Private Ryan with really interesting ideas on life and fate. A Scanner Darkly I haven't seen, but the only bad link on the shortlist I can see was V For Vendetta. Based on Alan Moore's excellent graphic novel, the movie felt very badly edited and suffered a weak central performance from Natalie Portman.

TV was a curious shortlist, with Battlestar Galactica's Exodus, Part II, predicted by virtually everybody as the winner, failing to get onto the ballot. This has since been blamed on the vote being split by those who wanted to vote for the episode by itself or as part of a two-part story. This confusion meant that BSG was instead represented by the good-but-unspectacular Downloaded, which unsurprisingly did not perform well. The 200th episode of Stargate: SG1 brought up the rear but the day belonged for a second year running to Doctor Who, with three stories nominated (Girl in the Fireplace, which won; the Army of Ghosts/Doomsday two-parter; and School Reunion). With Heroes Season 1 apparently being counted in the Long Form category next year and the second half of BSG Season 3 not representing the show at its best (although the forthcoming TV movie Razor could still count), look out for Doctor Who to do the hat trick next year, probably for Blink.

I wasn't too interested in the other categories (although noting sadly that Simon Spanton from Gollancz was nowhere to be seen on the Best Editor shortlist, although he was nominated outside the final five) but Best Fan Writer was an interesting one. David Langford wins this every year, more or less, and he pretty much deserves it. Ansible, SF's Private Eye, remains a vital component in any SF&F fan's weblinks. John Scalzi, although a very interesting commentator on the genre, lacks Langford's wry humour and good-natured view of the genre (Scalzi was beated by just one vote) . What did intrigue me was a closer look at the full nominees list, which revealed the presence of bloggers William Lexner and Jay Tomio. Perhaps a sign of things to come for the future of this category?

Overall, the Hugos have pointed me at some more books to read (I must confess to having never read Vinge, not even his classics) and some more films to check out so I suppose the exercise was worthwhile. And hopefully - budget willing - I'll be there in Denver in person to check out the awards next year!