RogerBW's Blog

Hugo 2019: Novelette 05 July 2019

These are my thoughts on the Hugo-nominated novelettes. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho: not in the voter packet, which is weird as it's freely available on-line. The story of an Imugi trying to become a dragon; and of course about self-discovery. It's rather splendid, and much more effective than Sorcerer to the Crown.

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly: a baker has found a way of making pastries that summon memories, and effectively uses this to rebel against the Evil Duke… even though his wife is a food taster. A very enjoyable conceit but harnessed to a tediously straightforward plot; I kept waiting for the Evil Duke to be revealed as something other than the stock villain he's introduced as in the first paragraph, and he wasn't.

“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory: meteors hit Earth and turn out to be full of seeds for invasive alien species. There's some speculation on the bowerbird, reward-seeking behaviour, and just what's going on, but the protagonist's gayness seems incidental (just a handy way of getting his father unhappy with him), and there are no actual answers to the SF puzzle part of the story.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander: elephants are the successors to the Radium Girls, and there's a three-way split in the narrative, and it's hard and tedious work to get through even if the points it's making are good ones. I think I can see what Bolander's trying for, but the structure of this feels desperately sloppy.

“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer, has the narrator compiling a book about ghost stories and, inevitably, having her own ghost-story experience. Doesn't quite achieve what it seems to be setting out to achieve, or really anything else. (And there's no explicitly fantasy or SF content, though it comes close enough for me.)

“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller: this is the only one I've read before (in last October's Clarkesworld). I may like this more that it deserves because it has an actual conclusion, which too many modern stories don't, but I still love it.

My voting order:

  • “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller
  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (eventual winner)
  • “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory
  • “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

All the top three seem to me like worthy winners.

See also:
Clarkesworld 145, October 2018

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