One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was about my thoughts on every Hugo Award winning novel. I didn’t write much about any of the books, I just placed them into categories. Now, I’m going back through each of those categories and giving some more in-depth thoughts on the books. This post is about the books I didn’t really like. I read these because they had won the award, not because I enjoyed the story or style. Here you go:
A Canticle for Leibowitz (1961) by Walter M. Miller Jr.
This book is divided into three parts, and while I really liked the first, it went downhill after that. I think the main reason why this book didn’t resonate with me is that it was really written for a different time. It was right as the Cold War was escalating and the threat of nuclear war was hanging over everyone’s head. If I look at the book from that perspective, I get why it was so impactful. However, I didn’t read it during that time period. I read it about 50 years later, and it just didn’t have the same impact. I understand the message of the book, but it was too heavy handed for someone who has never had to experience that level of dread.
The Snow Queen (1981) by Joan D. Vinge
I really don’t remember much of this book. I read a plot summary to refresh my memory, and while I remember reading the book, I don’t remember anything else. The summary didn’t help me much at all. That may be why I put this book in this list. It’s just so forgettable.
Neuromancer (1985) by William Gibson
I think this was the first Hugo winner I read, before setting my goal, solely because it won the award. I remember it sitting on a bookshelf at my parent’s house and thinking that it looked interesting. Once I saw the cover blurb stating that it was a Hugo winner, I started reading it. It’s okay. This is one of those books that I think won the Hugo because of the influence it had on the science fiction genre, and not because it was great in and of itself. This book created cyberpunk. It created an entire subgenre of science fiction, and while that’s fantastic, I’m more likely to re-read Neal Stephenson than William Gibson. The biggest problem I have with Neuromancer is that Gibson was too focused on the writing and the story suffers because of it. Gibson is great at painting with his words. Many times while reading this book I was swept away in the language, but then I had to go back and separate myself from those words in order to understand how the plot was moving forward. It’s tough to read a book that way.
Cyteen (1989) by C.J. Cherryh
I’m not a fan of Cherryh’s writing style. This was the first Cherryh book I read, and I really wanted to like it. I had heard great things about it, and I really tried to give it a chance. I was probably about a quarter of the way through the book when I realized that it was going to be a chore to finish it. The pace was slow, I wasn’t interested in all the politicking, ambition, and intrigue that formed the foundation of the plot, and above all, the characters were unsympathetic and I came to hate every one of them. Even Justin, one of the protagonists, who had some horrifying experiences that should have led to, at the very least, pity, was obnoxious and whiny. I was kind of hoping that every character would die before the half way point and the novel would start over with a new cast of likeable people, but no such luck.
Spin (2006) by Robert Charles Wilson
This was another book that was largely forgettable to me, so I had to read a synopsis to refresh my memory. I remember that the ideas in this novel were solid. The time dilation aspect was interesting, and the potential solutions to the problem were well thought out and interesting. I think the main reason that I forgot the book was that the ending was just mediocre. It didn’t seem like many of my questions were answered, and those that were seemed a little contrived or incomplete. Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, I just didn’t think it was that good either.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (2008) by Michael Chabon
My first thought when finishing this book was that it was very, very Jewish. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it to be heavily influenced by Jewish culture, I think I just didn’t realize how immersive that culture could be. That’s also one of the reasons why I’ve included the book here. I liked the book. I actually liked it quite a bit, but I’m not sure I could read it again. I liked the characters and I thought the story was great. I had a hard time keeping up with some of the language that’s used, but it wasn’t a hindrance to understanding, it just made it hard to be enveloped by the world. I just don’t have the background to catch everything that’s there.
Among Others (2012) by Jo Walton
I actually enjoyed reading this book quite a bit, but I have no desire to read it again. One of the main reasons that I put Among Others in this list is that I’m not really sure I’d call it science fiction or fantasy. It has some fantastical elements in it, but they’re small, subtle, and somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not they actual happen or if they’re just in the narrator’s head. I liked the book because it’s a love letter to science fiction. It was interesting to hear different authors and novels mentioned in the book. I had read some of them, I hadn’t read others. I really disagreed with some of the narrator’s opinions on certain authors, while I was intrigued by her description of those I hadn’t read. The pace was really slow, which fit the story very well, but made it difficult for me to really get into it. I was also kind of disappointed with the ending. The conclusion was appropriate and fit the rest of the story pretty well, but it wasn’t as satisfactory as I hoped it would be.