Our ways to be saved

So I bought myself a support membership for the 2016 World Con. With membership comes voting rights for the Hugo Awards, arguably the biggest genre literary award going. Member perks also include a voter’s packet with digital copies of a swathe of the nominated works. All for the tidy sum of 50 USD. Not the hugest bargain, but nothing to turn your nose up at either.

Voting closes 31 July, so I thought I’d take a wack at chronicling my way through the nominees. I’ll be concentrating mainly on the novel and short fiction categories, but I might dip into some of the others if I get the time.
I’m shooting for short, daily posts here, with longer reviews when I finish the novels (and maybe novellas).

My Hugo odyssey started with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. Today I reached the end of the 200-odd page excerpt provided by the publisher. I’ve already ordered a paper copy of the book, which should give you some indication as to how much I’ve enjoyed it so far.

The cover for the Macmillan hardcover, which I’m coveting something fierce

It’s a tight, traditional fantasy, both in terms of language, structure and setting. I’m purposefully keeping away from discussion and promotional materials concerning any of these works until I finish them, but I get a sense that this might be marketed as YA. The age of the protagonist (late teens), the relative simplicity of the language (not a knock on Novik’s prose, which is lovely), and the lack of plot sprawl all echo more the classic fantasy I grew up on, more than the modernist/post-modernist/new-new-wave strain(s) I expected to find on a major awards ballot in 2016.

That’s not to say Uprooted is a trifle, far from it. From the start, Novik gives us a seventeen year-old protagonist who acts her age. That is: rash, headstrong and occasionally stupid. Even though Agnieszka’s placed into situations against her will, Novik always leaves her with enough agency that the story never feels like a retread of the classic chosen-one tropes. It easily could have been, though it’s only now, taking a small step back, that the thought had even struck me, such is the subtlety and deftness of Novik’s craft.
I’ll have more on this particular book as I go along, but I might hop on to some short fiction or novellas while I wait for the paper copy to arrive.


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