For those of you who may have missed the announcement the following books are up for the award for the best novel:
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Since I have read four of the five books here I figured I’d give my thoughts on them and who I would like to see win the award. The only book that I have not read is The Fifth Season, I’m not a huge fan of N.K. Jesmisin’s work so I didn’t read this book, I think she writes very well so I have no issue or anything with her inclusion, I’m not just not a fan of her previous works so gave this one a pass.
Fair Warning: I am going to try to keep these spoiler free, but there are some things that I won’t be able to avoid if I want to give my feelings and reasons for why I feel this way.
I’m going to do this list from least favorite to most favorite, and the first book I’m going to start with is Seveneves.
First off let me say that I was not a big fan of this novel and would have rather seen another book in its place. This book is huge, as are all of Neal Stephenson’s books and it’s not huge for good reasons. You literally could take out several hundred pages of the book and publish it as a how-to on setting up a space station. Not only that, but the second part of the book where they fast forward 1,000 years was not only unnecessary but the conflict involved could have been so easily avoided. I’ll admit that while I was reading I was really hoping that they would fast forward and show their return to Earth, but I think that it would have been a better novel all around if it didn’t do that. I’m going to get into a bit of a spoiler here so be warned, by the end of the first half of the book they get down to the last seven women alive, one who knows how to reproduce people in a test-tube, so to speak, and six other women. One of the women has shown herself to be completely willing to do anything at all to be the leader and kill/defeat everyone else and another who has been deceitful throughout the entire novel. So, naturally they let these two women clone themselves and modify themselves however they see fit and unsurprisingly the conflict at the end of the book has to do with the people who those two women created.. I have a little bit less of a problem with them allowing the second women do it but the first women literally used amputation on her enemies to not only subjugate them but to also use it for food. I mean seriously, you want this woman to be one of the founders of a society??? ugh, I could go on but I won’t, this book just doesn’t deserve any of my praise nor any more of my time.
I would say my next least favorite of these books would be The Aeronaut’s Windlass, don’t get me wrong I actually quite enjoyed this book, and I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher (and Harry Dresden), but the other two books where really good. Also, another thing that hurts this book is that it is book 1 of a series while the Ancillary Mercy is book three of a series and Uprooted is a standalone novel, so they both come to a conclusion and don’t leave a whole lot of loose ends. That is hard to compete with as book one of a series. That being said this book is not without its flaws, the first one being my own personal preference and that is that I really like my books to contain a lot of magic (though Ancillary Mercy contains even less magic than this book). I guess there are magical type weapons in the story but to me they almost seem more like science than magic so, it doesn’t interest me a ton. The second thing that I don’t like is that the humor in this book falls a little flat to me. I think that Jim Butcher tried to make the cats kind of like Bob from the Dresden series and doesn’t really succeed, he does seem to capture the attitude of a cat fairly well though. Another thing that didn’t like was that while there are a lot of conflicts and fights in this book I never feel like any of the main characters we meet are ever in any real danger, yes they could lose the battle or the fight, but it doesn’t really feel like that’s going to happen at all. That’s all the bad things, the good things are that this book is quite action-packed, for book one there isn’t a lot of time spent on data dumps for the reader to learn the history or learn about the world. There are your typical characters, rich but good-hearted, not so rich but talented and from a good house, rich and arrogant, good-hearted “sea” captain. You get what you would expect from a Jim Butcher book, lots of action enjoyable characters and a good pace, but it would never be mistaken for epic fantasy.
My next favorite would be Ancillary Mercy, it only edges out Aeronaut’s Windlass by a little bit because both were quite enjoyable. The thing to note the most about this series is how it handles genders, the author really never tells you who is male or female and he/she are used interchangeably. From my understanding this is done partly because the pov is from a “ship” and they don’t take particular note of that and also because society is so advanced that this is a non-issue. For me it drives me nuts, I could not care less who is male or female, I don’t care if the main character is male or female nor do I care about the same thing with the villain. What I do care about is creating a mental picture of a character in my head and that’s incredibly hard when I don’t know the gender, also it’s distracting when he and she are used interchangeably, if there is a long stretch where someone is referred to as a female and then someone calls them “he” it takes me a minute to realize they are talking about the same person and that ruins the flow of my reading. In spite of that I did enjoy the series, I struggled through the first book and almost gave up on the series after finishing it, but I’m glad I pushed through and kept reading. I read this book quite a while ago so I am struggling to pull up any details, but I do recall it was fairly well paced and plenty of conflict to go around. I also like the way that the main character angles thing to save the people she/he cares for. This book is left open-ended, which I normally do not like but I thought it worked really well for this series and it doesn’t seem like it was just done as a ploy to allow the author to revisit the series later.
To me, the best book by far is Uprooted, I put off reading this book because I was not a big fan of her Temeraire series and came into the book not expecting to like this one either and boy was I wrong. I enjoyed just about all aspects of this book, I thought the villain in the story was pretty original and enjoyed the confrontations with it. I couldn’t stand the prince, he’s a bit of an idiot, but he is supposed to be perceived that way so I guess that worked. The magic system is pretty cool too, I really like that it worked one way for the Dragon and another for Agnieszka, you can just feel his frustrations that the things she is doing are working and he has no clue why. I think the author did a good job with the relationship between Agnieszka and Kasia as well. Everyone just knew that Kasia would be the one selected by the Dragon as an apprentice so it came as quite a shock when that doesn’t happen and it put a strain on their relationship, but Agnieszka doesn’t let that stop her from helping her best friend when she gets taken. I really liked how the friends still cared deeply for each other even though they had plenty of reason to drift apart and even hate each other. All in all I thought this was a great story and would recommend it to anyone looking for a book to read and would be the book I vote for to win.