Hugo Finalists 2019: Novellette

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Below are the Hugo Novelette finalists! There wasn’t as much overlap with the Nebulas as there was in the short fiction category  before, but be sure to check out the new stories by Zen Cho, Daryl Gregory, Naomi Kritzer, and Simone Heller.  You really don’t want to miss these!

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)

4 out of 5 stars

This was a sweet story about perseverance and how to not lose sight of your goals and dreams. Cho’s writing is crisp and very endearing to read. It is both a lovely fable and a deeply personal story of seeking fulfillment from the tasks that do not seem to yield fruit straightaway. It also leads into deeper themes of identity, person-hood, and fate, which were welcome depths.

A truly wonderful read!

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)

5 out of 5 stars

This was outstanding. There’s so much to gush about on this story, but I think what really stands out is the structure & pacing. We have characters who literally are eating dinner for 75% of the story, but I felt as anxious as if I was reading a car chase through most of it. The weaving of baking/pastries through this entire piece was marvelously well done.

It has been awhile since I’ve read something where I want to seek out what else the writer has done.

“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)

5 out of 5

What happens when instead of an explicit alien invasion, you have an implicit one? Such is the case when LT as a boy witnesses a meteor shower to end all meteor showers, which seed the Earth with new strange and versatile species. What happens after that is the slow progression of LT’s life and how the world is shaped by these alien plants as they disrupt everything.

Gregory’s writing is poetic throughout and by far has some of the most beautiful passages that will hold a reader’s attention until the last sentence. Taking on the minutiae of botanical references, microbes, and anthropology on a grand biological scale, this was clearly meticulously researched and a labor of love. That love is felt throughout this piece and makes the ending all the more poignant.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)

4 out of 5 stars

This was an incredibly engrossing read. Bolander remixes history a bit to connect the Radium Girls and the execution of Topsy the elephant. The prose is extremely poetic and enigmatic. I could not help, but feel pulled along through the elephant’s expansive and deep feelings of oppression, betrayal, and justice. I’m also a sucker of reading non-human POVs.

It’s hard to exactly describe what this little book is, but it encapsulates a lot of what is currently going on in our society and how humanity often sacrifices everything in the name of profit. Overall, this story is one that I will continue thinking about in the coming weeks.

“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)

4 out of 5

This is a moving, quiet story about grief, loss, and the paranormal. Kritzer has lovely way of writing narrative reflection, while also building exposition and tension. The reader follows an academic, Leah, in her journey of doing doctoral work and later research after achieving her tenured status, all based around the idea of ghost stories. Her mother lives with her for a time, but slowly deteriorates to dementia and dies after years of Leah taking care of her. And then it get’s interesting…

In some ways, this short is a meta-narrative on the concept of story, specifically ghost stories, but it is also an unpacking of what the dead leave behind and how a person deals with those realities. Excellent little story!

“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

4 out of 5

“Just remember, beyond the darkness, worlds are waiting.”

We come upon a beaten down caravan of what seems to be lizards or something close to lizards. One of them, Mink, is given the task of dispelling ghosts that haunt the landscape of wreckage of a post-apocalyptic landscape. The issue is when Mink goes to rid a dome of a particularly persistent ghost.

This was a beautiful story. Heller paints a picture of survival, hope, and wonder. While a bit slow in starting and somewhat confusing in who/what we are following as a reader, this all peels away the deeper and deeper you go. We are pushed into knowing more about this bleak world Heller has created and the hope that is waiting to be found and fostered therein.

Her prose is a pleasure to read, poetic even, in places that rend the heart. Following Mink is a never dull and the internal conflict that is drawn out from her willingness to seek what is better, against her tribe’s traditions shows a wonderful tension. Overall, a truly unique piece.

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