Hugo Best Novella Longlist Discussion Thread

By JJ: We’ve spent a lot of time over the last several months reading and discussing the Hugo Best Novella finalists. This thread has been created to give us the opportunity to discuss the rest of the entries on the longlist.

Please employ your best judgment, and use rot13 to encrypt anything especially spoilery, in consideration of those who may not have gotten to read all of the entries yet.

To make a JavaScript bookmarklet for your browser that handles rot13 – so that all you have to do is highlight some text and click the bookmark to encrypt/decrypt it — go here, click on the “file suppressed” message, copy the one line of code to your clipboard, and save it as the target/URL of a Bookmark/Favorite. (Thanks to Rev. Bob for the neat trick.)

[Second in a series. See also — Hugo Best Novel Longlist Discussion Thread and Hugo Best Novelette Longlist Discussion Thread.] 

34 thoughts on “Hugo Best Novella Longlist Discussion Thread

  1. Pasi Jääskeläinen’s train story and his other short fiction (originally published more than a decade ago in Finnish, I think) had a huge influence on teenage me and without them I might not have become an SFF fan at all. It would be fun to hear what people here make of it.

  2. For anyone here who’s interested, I own Genevieve Valentine’s “Dream Houses” on Kindle, and can loan it to anyone with an Amazon account (if you don’t have a Kindle device, you can read it using Kindle for PC or Kindle for Android). (I’m not sure whether it will let me lend outside the U.S., but I’m willing to give it a try). I’ll need your Amazon e-mail address: either rot13‘ed and posted here, or you can send it to Mike at the e-mail address on this page and request that he forward it to me.

  3. Aaron: I really loved Dream Houses.

    I loved it, too — so much that I’d really like to see her turn it into a novel. I’ll post my thoughts on it here later.

  4. Oooof. I’ve read exactly one of these previously (Unlocked). I really need to work on my short fiction reading list.

  5. “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” by Patrick Rothfuss

    This one was so extremely boring that it was impossible to read. Nothing whatsoever happened apart from a person walking around and picking up things. I tried to read it but couldn’t. Started to skip paragraphs. Then pages. Scanning for anything interesting. There was nothing.

    No, I’m not the only one with this opinion. My then roommate also just skipped out on it. I can’t see any reason to either vote or nominate this one.

  6. Thanks for doing this JJ (& Mike Glyer for hosting)! And for linking to things where you could. 😀

    I really liked Yesterday’s Kin. Sadly, I found Unlocked tedious and put it down after a short bit; I need to try it again.

    If course, “We Are All Completely Fine” is on my short list to read soon, so I can read Harrison Squared before Hugo voting next year. 😉

    Hmm, maybe I can download the ones that’re available, and read a few soon! Hey, wait, I have issue #1 of “Forever” on my iPad already (Ken Liu’s novella)!

  7. Kendall: Hmm, maybe I can download the ones that’re available, and read a few soon.

    This thread isn’t going anywhere! Not even to Disney World!

    It’s my hope people will take the opportunity to read some of the entries on the longlist, and comment here when they have the chance.

  8. Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) was on my nomination list last year. I don’t remember all of what I nominated for novella, novelette and short story but I do remember that one.

  9. I really liked “Yesterday’s Kin”, read the Rothfuss but didn’t think it was very interesting. I just bought a Kindle copy of the Valentine, since I’ve enjoyed 2 of her novels and it was cheap.

  10. Where the Trains Turn really didn’t do anything for me. The fantastical element didn’t make any sense to me whether as supernatural or metaphorical. Once the slow-burn nature of the story had revealed where it was going I liked it more, but I’d been put off by then. It was well written and there were some clever elements, but it lost me as a reader.

    On the other hand, I really liked Grand Jeté (The Great Leap). If I was going to be picky I’d say the SF element was a bit underdeveloped for my taste, but that was rather the point of the story.

    I’m working on Legion: Skin Deep. I enjoyed the first one, and so far I’m enjoying the second one, although I’m not sure it adds much to the basic idea from the first one.

  11. Legion: Skin Deep was better than expected, and he did expand on the core concept from the first Legion.

    The Regular was excellent. I think it’s at the top of my provisional list, with Grand Jete just behind.

  12. Thanks for posting these, JJ!

    I had read the Rothfuss from the library, and unlike everyone else, I really liked it. Perhaps it’s because I had read his other two books and wondered about this character. I would have nominated it. Also, Unlocked, though it was a bit of an info dump for Lock In, but it was well written and thought out.

    Of the others, The Regular really struck my eye and I would have put it first if I were voting. The Grand Jete didn’t really have a lot of SF in it and it was too depressing for me. I loved the train story, too. The Mothers of Voorhisville was OK, but I didn’t love it.

  13. Mark Kitteh: Where the Trains Turn really didn’t do anything for me. The fantastical element didn’t make any sense to me whether as supernatural or metaphorical. Once the slow-burn nature of the story had revealed where it was going I liked it more, but I’d been put off by then. It was well written and there were some clever elements, but it lost me as a reader.

    I just finished struggling through “Where the Trains Turn”. Like you, I liked where it ended up — but the “getting there” part seemed incredibly muddled to me. I felt as though the original Finnish story had been plugged into Google Translate and then fixed up a little bit, but not enough to make it a good story in English.

    Not being able to read the original in Finnish as my native language, I don’t know if my difficulty is just with the translation or with the story to begin with. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

    I wanted to like it. I still want to like it. I’m not sorry I read it, but I’d never have put it on my Hugo nomination ballot, and if it hadn’t been part of the Longlist, I suspect I would never have finished it.

    I still think there’s a good story in there — but that story is not the same as what was printed on the page. It seems a bit of a shame.

  14. I really liked “Yesterday’s Kin” — but I thought that it was a bit undercooked. I love the way she worked the science into the plot, and I love that the story took me places I wasn’t expecting it to go. But it really needed to be novel length; there were numerous parts that needed to be developed more fully. I hope that Kress will expand it to novel length, as she did with the novella “Beggars in Spain”.

  15. With regard to “Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome”, I would have told you that I’m not a fan of the World War Z type of multiple-person-account documentary. I went in a bit dubious and not really expecting to like it that much.

    I found myself wholly surprised (though after the amazing thing Scalzi did with Redshirts, I probably shouldn’t have been). I thought he did a fantastic job making the “voices” of each of the interviewees very individual, with their own distinct personalities. I actually enjoyed it, to my amazement. And I found that reading it right before Lock In gave me a background for the novel that made the backstory very seamless, permitting me to concentrate on the novel’s story.

    “Unlocked” is still not my favorite reading format, but I didn’t have to struggle through it nor did I resent the time I spent reading it — and that’s reasonably high praise.

    Between Redshirts, “Unlocked”, and Lock In, my estimation of Scalzi’s writing skills has risen significantly. He’s not just a one-note “Old Man’s War” book-type author (though, to be fair, Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream were good early indications of this).

  16. “Unlocked” was on my Hugo nomination list — perhaps because I hadn’t read that many 2014 novellas before nominations closed (and still haven’t). So were “Yesterday’s Kin” and “The Regular”, along with “Calendrical Regression” by Lawrence M Schoen, and “The Man Who Sold The Moon” by Cory Doctorow, from the fantastic Heiroglyph anthology.

    (Seriously: if you like Hard SF, if you can, get the Heiroglyph anthology from your library, or beg or borrow or buy it. I liked some stories better than others, but on the whole, it’s an amazing collection.)

  17. “The Mothers of Voorhisville” really didn’t work for me. As a disclaimer, it’s quite possible that the motherhood-related elements are extremely resonant and I just don’t understand that element. It was undoubtedly well-written, I liked the way various stories were interweaved, and I liked several of the characters, but I simply didn’t think the rather unexplored central SFnal element needed that length of treatment (I make it 37k words or thereabouts). I’m not really sure what sort of ending the story needed, but the one it got didn’t really do it for me – it felt rather rushed considering the slow pace adopted for much of the story.
    I’d place it above Trains so far. Dream Houses and Unlocked to come next, I think!

    @JJ re Trains – V’z gelvat gb qrpvqr jung rknpgyl qvqa’g jbex. V qba’g guvax gur vqrn bs gur zheqrebhf genvaf znxrf frafr gb zr, naq juvyr gur vqrn bs genvaf eroryyvat naq yrnivat obgu envyf naq gvzrgnoyrf jbexf va gurbel, vg qvqa’g fhpprrq va cenpgvpr va guvf fgbel.

  18. Mark Kitteh, I’m still trying to put my finger on what about “Trains” didn’t work for me. It may mostly just be that I found the translated phrasing very clunky (V zrna, JGS vf na “vzcertangvba fhofgnapr”??? gur genafyngbe pbhyqa’g unir obgurerq gb unir n angvir Ratyvfu fcrnxre ernq gur svavfurq genafyngvba naq cbvag bhg nyy gur ceboyrzf jvgu gur ireovntr?); but I also didn’t think that the chronology and the way the flashbacks were presented was done effectively. I also agree that the motivational aspects were perhaps not presented in a way to easily facilitate willing suspension of disbelief.

  19. I read Unlocked, and enjoyed it. The format was worked well for me, and was probably necessary for getting through such a big sweeping story in a relatively short length. I didn’t think it suffered for being a lead-in to Lock-in, either. This trying-new-things Scalzi is a very interesting writer.

  20. I bought Dream Houses, and then discovered that it’s reprinted in Forever issue two which can be had for the same price with two other good stories as well. Never mind.

    @JJ, Trains: yes, the sequence didn’t work for me because by the time it became clear what all the connections were I didn’t care. I can appreciate the value of a slow-burning story, but it either needs to be very good at the start or given you an “in”. For example, Grand Jete had the obvious human drama going on, and also introduced the SF element at a strategic point.

  21. I just finished reading “We Are All Completely Fine”, and I would say these things about it:

    1) I liked it, even though Lovecraft and Horror really aren’t my thing;
    2) The story is relatively interesting;
    3) The story switches back from first-person to third-person repeatedly — except that the first-person passages aren’t coming from one of the characters. It’s as if they’re coming from a global “we” — except that the global “we” tense just doesn’t work, at least for me.

    For a long time, I thought maybe the first-person speaker was actually an additional unidentified character which would be revealed at the end — but no, it’s not. It’s just a global “we”, but not coming from any of the characters (this “we” refers to all of the other characters in numerous places as if they are someone else). This switching tenses back and forth — when the first-person tense is not even coming from a character — just didn’t work for me at all, and it kept throwing me out of the story.

    So… if you like Lovecraft and/or horror, and can get past the omnipotent first-person tense, you may enjoy this story. I’m tempted to have a go at the novel set in this universe, Harrison Squared — but if it pulls this global first-person shit too, I probably will not be finishing it.

  22. My library has ordered “Legion: Skin Deep” for me, but it’s not here yet, so I checked out and read the first in Sanderson’s series, “Legion”.

    I would tell you that urban fantasy is not my thing — but I really liked this story. The protagonist, a sort of ad-hoc detective, has 50-some “aspects” — hallucinatory characters, which only he can see, each of which has a fully-realized personality. He does not suffer from dissociative identity disorder (otherwise known as multiple-personality disorder). He interacts with all of these characters — and they interact with each other. Each time he takes a new case, a new character aspect materializes — one which has the requisite expertise(s) to help solve the case (whether that expertise includes fluency in a foreign language or specialty knowledge on a specific subject).

    The pages flew by. I enjoyed this story so much — it’s what I wish Skin Game would have been.

    I highly recommend this series to anyone who thinks that the above story premise sounds interesting.

  23. “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” is one of those marmite stories, I think. Rothfuss says in the foreward not to read it without first having read his Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear), because otherwise there will be a lot of context missing and the story will be hard to understand. So I went in expecting to bounce off the story, since I intend to read the books at some point but am too busy with 2015 novels to do it right now.

    However, I actually ended up enjoying it. It’s very strange — it’s not actually a story, it’s more a vignette, “7 Days in the Life of…”. And it’s very, very off-kilter fantasy. If you think you might enjoy something very different than the usual story, you may want to give this one a go. And if you’ve read and enjoyed The Kingkiller Chronicles, you will very likely enjoy this one, too.

  24. @JJ: I’ve only read the first chapter or so (the sample before buying), but Harrison Squared starts in first person from Harrison’s POV. I just flipped to half a dozen random spots for you; I saw “I said” in every instance. So I believe you’re safe to read H^2. 😉

    The global first person plural sounds like a very odd device. Maybe just an unnamed group member speaking for the group?

    Like I need another book, but Legion sound cool. 🙂

    I haven’t read the Kingkiller Chronicles yet, so I’ll skip TSROST. But I missed the beginning of the marmite/vegemite discussion, so . . . what the heck is a “marmite story”? sorry, sometimes I have to skim comment sub-threads around here. 😉

  25. @JJ: I see another Legion story: “Legion and the Emperor’s Soul” – not sure if this is one of the other ones with a different title in the U.K. (it’s from Gollancz), or if it’s a third book in the series. FYI in case you hadn’t seen that.

    Amusingly, when looking for Legion by Sanderson, I found a book by that name by Leo Champion and Cedar Sanderson. It turns out she has cover design credit, which made me roll my eyes; I’ve never seen a cover designer listed as a primary contributor to a book on Amazon before. A bit of a stretch (and a cruddy cover). /snark

  26. @Kendall, without going back to double-check, I think a “marmite story” is one that one either loves or hates, without reservation, and with no middle ground. I understand marmite (the spread) is like that. (I’ve tried marmite once. I hated it. My husband tried it. He liked it. But then, my husband likes beer….)

  27. @Cassy B.: AHA! Thanks – that makes perfect sense. Nice shorthand, actually!

    Also: Beer? Yuck. 😉 I’ve always said it’s an acquired taste, but one I’ve never acquired (and see no point in acquiring). I prefer a good mixed drink, preferably on the sweet side. 😉

  28. “Legion and the Emperor’s Soul” appears to be two stories collected together – “Legion” and “The Emperor’s Soul” (2013 Hugo Novella winner). I think I prefer Sanderson when he’s working at short lengths.

    I finished Dream Houses a few days ago. In line with what I was saying about the timing in Trains and Grand Jete, I was getting restless at perhaps two-thirds of the way through when the story intensified significantly, and it ended very strongly. Having now gone back to read Aaaron’s review I think I’ll just say he hit it on the nose. I’m debating where I’d put it vs The Regular – I liked them both for very different reasons.

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