Despite being a fan of Science Fiction I’ve found it a little hard to read new stuff, if you go into bookshops they have the same old stuff and Amazon is rubbish for browsing. So during my holidays this year I tried a new Tactic – I got hold of the 2008 nominees for the Hugo award. It turns out that the 2009 nominees are still only available in hardback and I had to carry around (well wheel around at least) these books so I went for last year’s versions. The books were quite interesting and in no particularly order I thought I would share my thoughts on them. Ratings are out of five with 1 being glad to finish the book and 5 being something I’d recomend my wife to read!
Rollback by Robert J Sawyer. I’d give this one 1/5 as it is a bit too derivative for my tastes being based around the SETI project. The twist is immortality treatments but I didn’t find the characters compelling or rounded.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon. I rate this as 5/5 though it is not really Science Fiction. The characters are well rounded and you really root for the anti-hero at the end of the film and the book just drips atmosphere throughout. It does have a slightly regrettable tendency to drop it lots of yiddish (? – I’m not even sure that is or was a real language…) words that you don’t know the meaning to but it isn’t half as bad as that as brasyl.
Brasyl by Ian McDonald. I’d give this as 2/5 it starts very well with three overlapping and complex storylines but the author has swallowed a Portuguese dictionary and a Caporea manual and proceeds to litter the book with jargon. There is a glossary at the end but this is a novel not a textbook and if you need a glossary it is a sign you have gone too far. The ending is unsatisfactory – I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened at the end.
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Technically this wasn’t a 2008 Hugo Nominee but this is the first in a trilogy for which the last one was nominated and I wasn’t going to read the last one first! This book is pretty good but owes a very large debt to Robert Heinlen’s Starship Troopers though I think overall it does a better job, the Saving Private Ryan/Killzone 2/X-men 3 parts where everyone except you dies repeatedly gets a bit tedious though. Overall a 3/5 then.
Finally we have Halting State by Charles Stross which despite being littered with references to obscure streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow (perhaps to demonstrate that backgroound research had been carried out?) is actually really good. It has a complex plot which neatly extrapolates currently technology into the future and is exciting up to the end the characters are well written though not quite as dramatic as the ones in the Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Overall a 5/5 for this one.
So if I were awarding the 2008 Hugo award I would give it to Halting State as it is much more like Sicence Fiction that the Yiddish Policeman’s Union which is more of a thriller in an alternative future.