The Hugo Awards 2016 Finalists: Best Novella

The Hugo awards are consider the most prestigious sci-fi awards, but it has been marred by controversy for the past two years. Two regressive groups exploited the weaknesses of the voting system to dominate the majority of the nominees despite commanding less then 15% of the total votes (you can read more on George R.R. Martin blogpost [here]). This year only the most extreme of the two groups used slating, but their nominations still dominated the finalist list, and their picks include their favorite stories, as well as stories added to vilify the award (including erotic stories and my little pony TV episodes). They also added a couple of already popular stories that would have made it anyway, so that they could claim they made it only because they were included in their slate. As a result of the controversy some authors declined their nomination and new ones were added in their place.

This post is intended to help you navigate this mess, and I will constantly update it to reflect the current nominees. I hope you’ll find it useful. Comments are welcomed, but please keep it civil!

Best Novella

While this category was almost entirely dominated by the slate, the finalists are all decent, and at least one is definitely Hugo worthy (the one that I nominated, ;-P). It is sad that many more worthy stories did not make it because of the slate though.

The novellas are listed in my order of preference.

    

Binti
by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor)
A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.
Hugo worthy? Yes! It is one of the best and original story I have read in a while. It does not come as a a surprise that it managed to make it to the finalist even if it was not on a slate. This was one of my nominations.
Was it part of a slate? No, this is the only novella on the finalist list that was not part of any slate
Buy: [Amazon]

Penric’s Demon
by Louis McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
Lois McMaster Bujold is an established well-known award winning author, and this latest work does not disappoint. While it is set on the world of the five gods, it can be fully enjoyed as a stand alone novella.
The book is the story of Lord Penric that, on the way to his bethrodal, comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, “master of all disasters out of season”, and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric’s life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
The novella is quite entertaining, and a fun read, perfect to fill a long commute or a short airplane ride.
Hugo worthy? Yes (borderline). This is my #2 choice.
Was it part of a slate? Yes, but the author was nominated and won multiple awards previously, so she would have probably be nominated anyway. It is hard to tell. She did ask to be removed from the slate [link].
Buy: [Amazon]

Slow Bullet
by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)
This latest story by well-known author Alastair Reynolds is another fine example of a fast-paced, action oriented space-opera, the genre this author is mostly known for.
At the end of an inter galactic conflict, Scur, a conscripted soldier is captured, tortured, and left for dead by a renegade war criminal. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers, the combatants from both sides of the war, are waking up from hibernation far too soon… or is it? Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
A very enjoyable and entertaining book, a perfect read for the beach.
Hugo worthy? Yes (borderline). This is my #3 choice.
Was it part of a slate? Yes, even if the author requested to be removed [link].
Buy: [Amazon]

Perfect State
by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
Sanderson is a well-known writer, but I never read anything he wrote before. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but I was not too impressed by Perfect State. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, the story while not completely original is entertaining and fun to read. Still, it does not stand apart as a Hugo finalist should.
In this cyberpunk matrix-inspired story, God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys, at least in the virtual personality tailored world every human is immersed in since birth. He has defeated all virtual foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai’s world. Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date. Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal, a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man of one world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman of another world?
Hugo worthy? Yes (borderline). This is my #4 choice.
Was it part of a slate? Yes, even if the author requested to be removed [link].
Buy: [Amazon]

The Builders
by Daniel Polansky (Tor)
This is the story of the Captain and his company, that fought for the losing monarch in the battle of the two twin brothers. After that, for the Captain’s company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the score.
I am not a big fan of stories featuring anthropomorphic furry characters, and dark and gritty war stories, but despite that I still find it enjoyable. You may like it more than me if you are more into that genre than me.
Hugo worthy? Yes. Even if this is the story I liked the least, it is a good story, and it is well-written. I am listing it last because it is not the type of story I usually enjoy.
Was it part of a slate? Yes, even if the author requested to be removed [link].
Buy: [Amazon]

Relevant links

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