First Monday Book Day – Awards Season

The World Science Fiction Convention has come and gone in the past month which means one big thing to me. Hugo Awards. I like the Hugos because they are far enough into the year that most everything they recognize is widely available. Lots of people have lots of very valid criticism about the nominating and voting process for these awards (both are done by fans and convention-goers only), so “Hugo Award Winner” doesn’t necessarily correlate to “Absolute Best Stuff Out There”, but it’s a nice place to start for those who haven’t read every bit of sci-fi published in the last year.

Other big awards that have lead me to really good stories in the past are:

Nebula Awards

Locus Awards

World Fantasy Awards

That’s a lot of reading, and I won’t pretend that I got through everything on all those lists. Instead we’ll start with the Hugos and maybe fill in some editorializing about things I enjoyed that missed out.   As always, where I can find material freely available online, I've provided a link.


The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere (John Chu) – Hugo Winner. A love story in a world where every time someone lies, they are immediately drenched with water.

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love (Rachel Swirsky) –Nebula Winner. I really liked this story, the gimmick of the story almost wears thin, but it fits the events that put the whole thing in motion. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and WFA.

Selkie Stories Are for Losers (Sofia Samatar) – My favorite of the four. The narrator’s mother was a selkie, a seal who was trapped in human form when the narrator’s father stole her coat. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and WFA.

The Ink Readers of Doi Saket(Thomas Olde Heuvelt) – Nominated for Hugo and WFA. Set in a village in Thailand where all the wishes that are set in the river during a festival are collected. A good enough story.


Effigy Nights (Yoon Ha Lee) – Her collection Conservation of Shadows was incredibly good. If you like this story, get the book, because every single story in there I liked.  WFA nominee.



The Lady Astronaut of Mars (Mary Robinette Kowal) -  Hugo Winner. You should read anything by Robinette Kowal, this is a good story about an aging astronaut having to revisit old disasters.

The Waiting Stars (Ailette deBodard) - Nebula Winner. From the same universe as “Immersion” (my favorite story from last year’s awards), deBodard is amassing a bunch of these really powerful pieces about alienation and culture. Another really good story.

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling (Ted Chiang) - I love Ted Chiang’s stories. He always does an amazing job of weaving technology and memory together. This story is very good, but I can see why it didn’t win.

The Exchange Officers (Brad Torgersen) (link goes to a .pdf) – I struggled to finish this one. Especially as it was in a category with three writers that I knew and had enjoyed in the past, this one felt as though it didn’t belong.


The Prayer of Ninety Cats (Caitlin Kiernan) - Nominated for Locus and WFA.  A story of fear and illusion framed by a movie that tells the (fairly graphic) story of Elizabeth Bathory.


Equoid by Charles Stross - Hugo Winner.  This is pretty good horror. It uses Lovecraft as a jumping off point, but it will turn your stomach and sets up a pretty good monster. My only quibble is that it’s clearly a part of an existing universe (Stross’ Laundry series) and so it’s not self-contained like some others on the list.

Wakulla Springs (Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages) - Set in a Florida swamp over several generations. Nominated for nearly everything (Hugo, Nebula, WFA, Locus).

Six-Gun Snow White (Catherynne Valente). I have loved Valente’s work before this (“Silently and Very Fast” was one of my Hugo favorites a couple years ago) and this transposition of Snow White’s story to the American West is a pretty good story. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula, WFA, Locus - Winner of Locus Award.
(Not freely available that I know of)

The Butcher of Khardov (Dan Wells). A character study of a monster. The butcher’s motivations won’t really surprise you too much, but Wells does a pretty good job of telling the tale in an entertaining fashion.
(Not freely available)

The Chaplain’s Legacy (Brad Torgersen) (link goes to a .pdf) - Liked it fine. Didn’t surprise me much, though there were some scenes that were nicely executed. A chaplain who averted the destruction of the human race is called back into negotiations with an alien race.


The Weight of the Sunrise (Vylar Kaftan) - Nebula Winner.  Didn't get to read this, but I will sometime soon.


Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie) -

This won everything it was nominated for (Hugo, Nebula, Locus). I finally got a copy that I hope to get to this month. Everything I’ve heard has said this is very very good, so I’d recommend it based on that alone. If you read it in September, then we’ll have something for sure to talk about in the next Book Day post!

The Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson) -

Enough has probably been said about this. If you feel like 10,000 pages of fantasy might be up your alley, this will scratch that itch.

Neptune’s Brood (Charles Stross) -

I don’t know Charles Stross’ work at all (save for his story in the novella category), but this was nominated for a Locus and a Hugo, so I’ve been tempted to check it out.


The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker). I'm two-thirds of the way through this book right now, it seems as though it's a bit longer than it needs to be, but the title characters are interesting. Nominated for Locus, WFA, Nebula.

Stranger in Olondria (Sofia Samatar). Sounds interesting, and I really liked her short story, so I might get around to this one.  Nominated for Locus, WFA, Nebula

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman). I wasn’t impressed. But then I haven’t connected with Gaiman in the couple of chances I’ve afforded him. Nominated for Locus, WFA, Nebula. Winner of Locus award.


That might get us started for some discussion.  What have you been reading?

25 thoughts on “First Monday Book Day – Awards Season”

  1. Holy bookmark! First Monday comes on a Monday this month!?

    I guess there's a new Bookmarm in town.

    For my part, over the past month or so, I've plowed through Guy Gavriel Kay's masterful historical fantasy novel, Under Heaven (so good I bought two copies, albeit about 6 months apart) and the last (mercifully) volume in the Robert Jordan epic Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light. I found this volume...tolerable. I probably will have to re-read the whole series in order to stitch back together the full story and, particularly, the last three books, which were only partly written/outlined by the time of Jordan's death.

    I've sinced moved on to (re-reading) from Minnesota's own Lois McMaster Bujold's oevre, this time the collection of novellas, Miles, Mystery and Mayhem, containing Ceteganda, Ethan of Athos and Labyrinth. Not her best works in the Vorkosiverse, but Ceteganda was plenty fun.

    1. Part of the experience of reading the final Wheel of Time book is the realization that it actually finished. A day that seemed it would never come.

      My brother currently has my copies of volumes 10-13, but once I get them back, I would contemplate a re-read of the series. (I re-read 1-12 when Towers of Midnight came out, but didn't start over for the last one).

  2. Just finished Pale Fire (started on Wednesday, so a much better pace that G. R. or U.).

    I started by going back and forth between the Cantos and the Notes, then finished the Cantos, then finished the Notes.

    Good read. Now I need to plumb the Interwebs for what was obvious but that I missed.

    During commercials: Peter Oborne's Wounded Tiger, a History of Cricket in Pakistan. A fitting read in that I just added the Willow channel to our Comcast for a trial month. So far == wicket heroin.

    On deck: Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, 1084 pgs., natch.

    1. I've said it before, but Against The Day is my favorite Pynchon. To the point where I'm almost tempted to tackle it again, seeing that you're reading it. Enjoy. And please, feel free to discuss with me at any point along the way/when you're done.

      1. Just wondering after G.R. what is a reasonable reading rate to expect, book-lbs/week? I just checked and the print is small also - natch.

        1. It moved at about the same pace as GR for me, but that might not mean much to you, as you're faster than I was. I remember longer stretches of readable pages.

    2. Har. Nabokov said in an interview that Kinbote committed suicide after finishing the book.[10] The critic Michael Wood has stated, "This is authorial trespassing, and we don't have to pay attention to it,".

      Authorial trespassing - It's like Shakespeare saying years later after writing MacBeth, I meant to call him Ned Blackwell.

      1. Thoughts on Pale FIre, separated by section (I read each in sequence, occasionally referring backward to the poem from the commentary section)

        Foreword SelectShow
        Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos SelectShow
        Commentary SelectShow
        The book as a whole SelectShow
        1. First blush comments:
          A difficult work to read. Other N. works are well-blended, WYSIWYG (Pnin, Lolita, Invitation to a Beheading), this one is forced.

          The thing about whether to go back and forth from dialogue to notes, O.K.

          I liked: poesy, depiction of N.E. collegia. I didn't like the work for me as a reader to have to figure it out.

          1. Agreed on most of these. I liked the requirements on the reader a little more.

            Additional shout out to the choice of title. "Pale Fire" (from Shakespeare, for the reflection that is moonlight) is about perfect.

  3. I'm reading Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned which I'd picked up at this year's library book sale. Also, I received the book The World's Shortest Stories -- Murder. Love. Horror. Suspense. from a friend of mine, after he thought of me when he saw it. It's a collection of Fifty-Five Fiction stories; I guess he'd read my Play with the Prose entries on my blog.

  4. Two of those (Chu's and Heuvelt's) were in the Tor bundle advertised last year.

    I blitzed through Alastair Reynold's Blue Remembered Earth. Set in 2160, it is a more positive take on the future than his other works. I enjoyed it immensely and am waiting for the sequel to be available in mass-market paperback.

    To hold me off until then, I took on Neal Stephenson's Reamde. Only a bit over 1000 pages. So far good but I have another 500 pages to go.

  5. In addition to my Hugo reading, I worked through a few books in August.

    This is Not a Novel by David Markson
    This book is brilliant. It's experimental in that it states its intentions early on to create something that has no plot, no characters, no setting, no passage of time. "Writer is weary unto death of making up stories." The amazing thing is that Markson pulls it off. I would have read this in one sitting if I could.

    "You can actually draw so beautifully. Why do you spend your time making all these queer things?
    Picasso: That's why."

    How to Catch a Coyote by Christy Crutchfield
    This wasn't an easy read for me. I had to sit down and think about it afterward. Not because the subject matter was disturbing or difficult, but the way the book was put together.

    It's the story of a family, we're introduced to Daniel first, but there's also his mother, his father and his sister. The book moves back and forth in time, so I found myself often checking the timeline laid out in the first chapter to see what had happened and what had yet to happen.

    The writing is straightforward, which managed to sneak up on me a little bit, because each section felt like I was getting it, and I was following everything. The family is poor and Daniel is going to be the first to finish college. The family has a history that's not helping in any way, all alluded to in the first chapter. The rest of the book carries us through all those events, and we get a real sense of all of these characters and how they struggle against those stumbling blocks.

    I think the word I'm looking for is spare. The book is spare, but then you look back at it once you're done and it manages to add up to something that carries real weight.

    Authority by Jeff Vandermeer
    Book 2 in his trilogy (Book 3 comes out next week). This book made book 1 better, I thought. The premise of the trilogy is that something (it's still not clear what) has taken over a significant part of the southern coast of the US. It is contained, but within that containment, the environment has been radically modified. Book 1 (Annihilation) followed an expedition into Area X. Book 2 follows the scientists and bureaucrats at The Southern Reach (responsible for the study of Area X) as they deal with the results of that expedition. Lots of detail early on this book, but it settled in and delivered a pretty good story. I'm excited to read the conclusion.

    Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones
    Shane Jones always creates a surreal world that is very ... visual. In this book, there is a village where everyone has a certain number of crystals within them. When the crystals run out, they die. Remy (the main character) and her family are overshadowed by grief and death, while their village is being consumed by either the nearby city or the sun (or maybe both). Everybody wants the crystals that the village mines, but for very disparate reasons. It's about addiction, or grief, or growing up.

    Beneath Liquid Skin by Berit Ellingson
    I liked quite a few individual sentences in this book. Often I liked those sentences more than the stories themselves. My favorite stories were the longer ones, "The Tale That Wrote Itself" about a farmer who writes a story that only contains truth, and "Still Life of Hypnos" about a man obsessed with decomposition.

    Throne of Blood by Cassandra Troyan
    Didn't like it. If poetry uses grotesque imagery and challenging language, I wish that the theme it tries to convey was a little less self-centered.

  6. I was on vacation a lot in August, so I picked up The Passage by Justin Cronin as a beach read. It’s your basic story about a post-apocalyptic wasteland swarming with mutant vampires. I’d actually heard a lot of praise for it, including that it was considered to be a “literary” take on genre fiction, which sounded very intriguing to me. But after reading it, I really don’t understand the hype. There really wasn’t anything literary about it. It had all of the tropes and cliches that you would expect from any other genre novel, the writing was proficient but not especially stylish, all of the characters only existed in service to the plot, and nothing about it was particularly challenging or cerebral. It was also about 400 pages too long. It was pretty darn entertaining though.

    1. Note: I don't think there's anything bad about genre fiction. I enjoy it a lot. It's just very different from literary fiction. I'm not sure why so many critics conflated them in this case.

    2. I read The Passage a while ago, and I agree with pretty much everything you say. Maybe only 200 pages too long, but definitely nothing amazing. If you ignore the praise it got for whatever reasons and just read it, it's enjoyable enough.

      I picked up the sequel, The Twelve, off the bargain rack this weekend. I'm expecting more of the same tropes and cliches, so I probably won't be disappointed. I'll fill you in next month.

  7. I read Shot All To Hell on the plane over. It's a mostly well researched account of the James Younger gang's attempt to rob the Northfield bank. I can't really recommend the book as I wanted to discard it well before the gang even reaches Northfield.

        1. Heh heh heh. I think they are trying to shift to paying in store credit.

          coinkadinkly, he and I have been having a tête-à-tête today on the BF about the evils of teh Amazon.

  8. I read Ham on Rye in about 3 days. There wasn't really a plot, per se, just an account of how Henry Chinaski (a thinly veiled Butkowski I assume) grew up. Still, a good insight into life in the 20's and 30's.

    I'm about half way through Elmore Leonard's Fire In The Hole collection, the title story of which is the pilot episode of "Justified". I'm definitely liking his style. His reputation as a short story master is well-earned.

    I'm definitely going to seek out more from each of those authors.

    1. Mr. Leonard is getting put on hold. I just got an email from the library telling me my copy of "I Am Zlatan" is available.

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