My tour of dual Hugo and Nebula Award Winners, Part III

In a long belated post, I’m continuing my tour of novels that have won both the Hugo and the Nebula award, continued from here and here. Since I last posted, I’ve finished two books on this list and started a third. I finished The Windup Girl, and not long after that I read both Paladin of Souls and The Curse of Chalion, the book before it in its series. I’ve now started Doomsday Book. Reviews follow:

The Windup Girl By Paulo Bacigalupi

On a scale of 1-10: 8

In this book, which takes place in a future following what I can only describe as an environmental apocalypse, Bacigalupi creates one of the most diverse and well realized speculative worlds I’ve ever read. The entire story takes place in one city in Thailand, and the storyline weaves through characters in all strata of the city, including a chinese immigrant, a foreign corporate agent, members of the extremely powerful environmental ministry, and the titular character, a genetically engineered humanoid organism named Emiko who exists as a type of prostitute, loyal to her master (I envisioned her as an obedient female equivalent to Jude Law’s character in A.I.). These characters are all striving for their own goals, are all well developed, and the storyline, if complex, moves quickly. Biological disease and the collapes of electricity have brought on the bio-punk world, with dominant interests scrabbling for control of seed that can survive the disease-filled world. Within it all, the innocuous actions of Emiko, a frowned upon and illegal Japanese implant, bring the city to the edge of disaster.

The first half of the book was pretty slow, to be honest, as Bacigalupi throws the reader headfirst into the world, and I had to spend the first 50 pages or so just fighting to stay afloat. But once the characters get settled, and their motivations are clear, (around the 40% mark on Kindle), it really gets going. A series of scenes, following the effects of urban civil war on common civilians that falls from roughly the 70-85% mark, were some of the best written scenes I’ve ever read. Seriously, they were awesome. No one has captured the side effects of urban warfare like that before. Read the book just for them. Without giving much away, alot of the scenes involving Emiko had a real Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for all you Dick lovers out there (that was weird to say)) feel, except with more focus on Emiko’s fight for survival. Her character’s arc is especially awesome. And, once again, the world is awesome. I’m not going to get into a deep thematic discussion in a quick review, but the depth is there, and it touches on many aspects of the human condition, including acceptance, survival, and lust.

Dual Review: The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls

Curse: 7

Paladin: 6

Paladin of Souls won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. The Curse of Chalion was nominated for, but did not win, the Hugo Award. That being said, I liked The Curse of Chalion better. Although they both take place in the same fantasy world, I would not consider them to be part of a typical series. None of the main characters in The Curse of Chalion even appears in Paladin, although the main character of Paladin and a couple other characters appear as secondary characters in Curse. The world is based off of mideival Spain, and the arc of Curse, from what I’ve read, seems to be based off of the lives of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the unifiers of Spain. And I really liked the first half of Curse, which follows the rise of Carazil, a man of the court who, through an unfortunate and malicous turn of events, has spent the last three years as a slave on a galley. The plot builds with political intrigue between dueling camps, building up to a climax that, well, left me flat. Magic had appeared throughout the story, and I thought it was well laid out and explained, though a strange twist midway through took the magic to a bizarre place. But I dealt with it for the writing (which seriously was great, at all times, in both books) and great pacing until the climax, which seemed to involve some sort of magical tumor filled with an evil demon and a lost soul that was growing in a man’s stomach. I’m not kidding. Other than that, and a faint Deathly Hallows unneeded resurrection element (what? He’s dead, and he’s talking to Gods, but now he’s alive again?), I really enjoyed the book (read it in two days), and enjoyed its thematic discussion of free will and sacrifice.

Paladin of Souls bored me, to be honest. I was never able to get into it, beginning with the Canterbury Tales reference(?) and continuing through Ista’s weird voyage across the world. I won’t discuss much more of it here, as it is certainly better than I’ll describe it here, but it wasn’t for me. The one thing I will discuss is the dialogue. For the most part, I liked it. It was real and genuine and all that. But alot of the times the characters seemed childish as they spoke, making cheesy jokes and overreacting to pretty boring statements. That being said, Bujold can really write, and I understand why her audience loves her.

Next: Doomsday Book

The rankings (On a scale of 1-10)

Ender’s Game: 10

Dune: 9.5

Forever War: 9.5

The Windup Girl: 8

American Gods: 8

Speaker for the Dead: 7.5

Paladin of Souls: 6

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
1979/80: 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

1992/93: 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



Posted on January 3, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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