My tour of dual Hugo and Nebula award winners, part I

For those out there who don’t know, there are two major awards for fantasy and science fiction literature. (If the phrase “fantasy and science fiction literature” annoys you, feel free to replace it with the popular “weird ass dragon and robot crap.”) The two awards are called the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, or more aptly, the Hugo and the Nebula (Take it easy, Locus Award. You’re like the D-League of Fiction Awards. Better than you are given credit for, but not the big stage). The Hugo has been around since 1953 and is voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) and the Nebula has been around since 1965 and is voted on by the members of the Science Fiction Writers Association. As with any award, politics and favorites and deals surely go into who votes for what novel and who gets nominated, but every few years come books that are so good both awards voted them top novel. The list of these books is as follows:

1965/66: Dune by Frank Herbert
1969/70: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
1970/71: Ringworld by Larry Niven
1972/73: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1973/74: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1974/75: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
1975/76: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
1977/78: Gateway by Frederik Pohl
1978/79: Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre
1979/80l: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
1983/84: Startide Rising by David Brin
1984/85: Neuromancer by William Gibson
1985/86: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
1986/87: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1992/9e: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
1998: Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
2002: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2004: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2007/08: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
2009/10: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

This summer, I decided to read as many of them as I could, considering the ponderous amounts of time I have. So far, I’ve finished Dune, The Forever War, American Gods, Ender’s Game, and Speaker for the Dead. I’m currently on The Left Hand of Darkness.

Ranking them:

Dune
The Forever War
Ender’s Game
Speaker for the Dead
The Left Hand of Darkness (yet unfinished)
American Gods

Of these books, I think Dune was the most enthralling. Dune had the broadest scope, by far, and the concept-of the Muad’dib and the spice were amazing ideas. The story tells of a Messiah type coming into his own amidst a massive political struggle on a remote desert planet. It gave us this amazing image, which in the book, at least, left my heart racing:

God, that movie was awful. I mean, Jesus. The thing was so much better in my imagination. It’s hard to believe that was taken seriously at any point in cinema, Amiright?

The Forever War was an amazing commentary on the price of war, using time as a realistic and just metaphor. The sorrow you feel for Mandella when he must leave the last person he knows is one of the most powerful feelings I’ve felt when reading.

Ender’s Game left me speechless. The power of the final scenes, the poignancy of his personal emotional climax takes the story to a new level. It’s the first book I tell newcomers to read.

American Gods was the best idea of them all, and nothing came close. It features a world where the human Gods take human form and wander the world, living off of the devotion to them. Traditionally, these have always been deities. But as we move into the modern era, these gods become modern ones, like technology, television, and media. The story follows the final battle between the old gods and the new. Sounds great, huh? But Gaiman, who is an amazing writer, moves away from a physical, exciting confrontation for a most emotional one. Well it works on some levels, it just didn’t have the finishing power of an Ender’s Game or a Dune.

When I finish The Left Hand of Darkness, I’ll write up a review.

Thoughts on any of these novels?

Check out part two!

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Posted on July 21, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In no particular order:

    Well Neuromancer by William Gibson is one of my favorites. It kind of created the whole idea of cyber chic that really got popular in the 90’s culminating in the Matrix. It’s a very tight novel, only like 300 pages. Its dark and cool and unsettling. Opening sentence really sets the tone. “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”

    Ringworld is a terrific adventure. Maybe not super deep in the sense that you are trying to figure out what’s going on all the time.

    The biggest thing I remember from Dune is how good I thought the world building was. I was excited because the factions and places seemed so real that I wanted to learn more about them after each book in the series was done.

    I love pretty much everything Gaiman is written starting with Neverwhere and Sandman but I will admit that American Gods has some flaws. Shadow never gets fleshed out as well as I think a main character should, or maybe a “normal” person (even a convicted felon) was just a less interesting narrator in the midst of all the interesting characters and asides in the book. However, I love the road trip aspects of the book and the way each placed was touched by the Gods of the different peoples of America.

    I read some of Clark’s Rama books and 2001. Some weird ideas about aliens and uncomfortable sex scenes are what I recall from when i read it as a teenager.

    I’ve read a lot of Bujold’s stuff, mostly her Miles Vorkosigan series. She creates very intriguing characters and plots but her work has some formulaic/predictable aspects to it. I’ll have to read Paladin of Souls to see if it was nominated on the strength of her work as a whole or if it is really her magnum opus.

    Connie Willis writes hilarious science fiction. Lots of references to literature and genre fiction. I would recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog over Doomsday Book though.

    Anyway, glad you are book-blogging. Looking forward to your review of Left Hand of Darkness!

    • Thanks for the comment. My brother has been talking up Neuromancer for a while… he’s gotten me pretty excited about it. And after reading that opening line, I’m stoked to read it.

      Completely agree with you on American Gods. Every page gave me a deeper sense of awe regarding the world, but some of the characters, Shadow especially, and the tricky plot undermined it.

      Thanks for your input on all the other stuff. Gives me a reason to be excited to read them other than the award. Regarding my next book, I had to change it up- my brother is reading LHoD. I discuss it in my second post on the topic, and now I’ll be reading The Windup Girl, followed by The Left Hand of Darkness.

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