First Hugo Novel Nomination review by WorldCon voters/nominators:
(Orbit UK/Roc Books)
This month, we have the first of a series on a focus group of readers consisting of WorldCon members who vote and nominate the Hugos.
Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots, 587 entries, range 212-387)
This is a Sad Puppies recommended nominee, Skin Game, by Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books). We will have the other nominees over the next three months. The 2015 Hugo Awards will be presented at: Sasquan, Spokane, Washington, USA, August 22, 2015 with hosts, David Gerrold and Tananarive Due.
At the onset, the group discussed what a “Hugo worthy” novel was. The generally expected responses came out; well written, exciting, balanced and the like. The most interesting comment came from “Mike” who reminded us all that the Hugos were about improvement. To him that meant that a Hugo worthy novel should “…explore F&SF in a new and interesting way”. “Jason” preferred a “more literary” bent to a perfect Hugo. “Joe” mentioned that he felt that a mid-series novel can be problematic, but insisted that this was his (the reader’s) fault for not being familiar. The author certainly intended that readers be familiar with the entire series. “Anne” felt that anything in this particular series was Hugo worthy. Everyone agreed that the religious (mostly Christian) aspects were appropriate to the story and not over the top.
Then we got under the epidermis of Skin Game.
“Joe”, and if I am honest, I too, found similarities between this piece and Larry Correia’s Warbound, also part of a series. He was not impressed with the work and also felt it fell below his threshold for a Hugo vote. He also felt this was a fun urban fantasy, but not an important work.
“Anne” had a competing reaction to the discussion thus far, and a strong one. She absolutely loved this book as well as all the previous fractions of the series. Her knowledge of the work bordered on encyclopedic. To be honest, she has an amazing ability to remember her readings and has amazing insight into the works she reviews. She could, and did, answer all questions posed as to this volume and the rest of the series. Even to the point of discerning what volumes others read when they could not recall. As I said, amazing. She is definitely in support of this entry. The recurring characters, location in our hometown (Chicago– though admittedly imperfect in execution), real and imperfect characters, loyalty within and outside friendships, Queen Mab, all together in a entertaining, exciting fun, urban fantasy made it just right for her.
One member expressed that he simply did not care for Skin Game. “Anne” needed to know why, and asked what it was that the reader disliked.
The member queried back, “Why do you care?”
“Anne” replied, “Because I love this book and I want others to share in that enjoyment”. That is a reader all writers wish to acquire as a fan.
As stated above, “Mike” liked the work and felt it was worth his effort. But it didn’t rise to Hugo Vote getting level for him either.
“Jason”, although he enjoyed Skin Game and felt it was great fun to read, he didn’t see the writing as Hugo caliber or literary enough to deserve an award this year.
The rest of our group was similarly inclined. Skin Game was fun and amusing. It was well written, easy to follow and an enjoyable read. But perhaps not special enough to warrant a vote, though most felt that its place on the ballet was deserved.
Skin Game has fans. Any book that can evoke the response that “Anne” rendered has to be a great book. Writing should induce emotion of all kinds. Great writing does this. I saw that Skin Game is great writing. Perhaps not the novel of the year, this time.