Of all the categories, Best Novel is the one I’ve always followed closely and therefore feel most confident in judging. This is my expertise.
There’s no doubt that Ancillary Sword deserves a place on the ballot. It is the sequel to last year’s Hugo winner in this category, Ancillary Justice.
In fact, in his review, our reviewer thought it was better than the first book. The plot was definitely more linear in nature. But I have this thing about sequels, especially when the series is already getting attention.
Sequels build off of the first book, so for a Best Novel award, I almost always would rather see a standalone novel or the first book of a series win. Because the book has to stand by itself, it is easier to judge if it is truly the best of the year.
The Dark Between the Stars
The Dark Between the Stars shares many elements found in the epic fantasy sagas I love so much, although it is set in space. It is a well-written tale, and definitely the start of what could be a fun set of books.
If you like these kind of books, like our reviewer, it is worth picking up.However, it didn’t have anything that particularly set it apart. It’s readable, interesting, but not particularly memorable.
The Goblin Emperor
If you’re looking for something with nonstop action, The Goblin Emperor will not appeal to you. This is more of a character study and an exploration of a fantasy world. The plot revolves around court intrigue and politics, not battles fought in the street.
But if you can handle a book where the plot gracefully unwinds itself, this book is beautiful. After reading it, I gave it a 5 star review and placed it on my hugo nomination ballot.
Skin Game is pure entertainment. I read it, I laughed, I enjoyed myself. In fact, for hanging out in hammock and relaxing, this was a perfect summer read. I totally get why The Dresden Files have legions of devoted fans. If this book is any indication, the series is just plain fun. No wonder it’s a bestseller (the biggest popularity contest of all).
So yeah, I’m glad I read it and I gave it a 4-star review. But like so many other books I enjoy, this is a cotton candy book; yummy, but without much substance. I would be devastated if these kind of books didn’t exist, but I wouldn’t consider them award-winning quality. For those, I’m looking for a little more depth.
So although I’m not considering this for the Hugo Award, I’ll probably pick up other Dresden Files books in the future.
The Three-Body Problem
This book is extraordinary and if it hadn’t been on the ballot, I might have never picked it up. I grew up on fantasy and am sometimes leery of hard science fiction. I was afraid this would be too dense for me, but I loved it.
Combining elements of physics, cultural history and video games, it was a compelling plot. It felt completely unique while at the same time managing to have the elements that have always made science fiction fans adore the genre.
I know there are others in the series yet to be released in English, but the main story seemed wrapped up well and the uncertain ending was fitting.
My Top Pick:
I never thought I would read a book that would bump The Goblin Emperor from my top spot, but I was blown away by The Three-Body Problem. These books couldn’t be more different, and it’s extremely hard to choose between them.
My final choice, however, will probably be The Three-Body Problem.
The Hugo Awards are the most prestigious award in science fiction and fantasy and I’m excited to be voting and attending WorldCon this year. This analysis only considers the written work, ignoring other factors. I’ve shared my views on the Hugo Awards controversy separately.