This month we continue our series on how voting and nominating WorldCon members view this year’s Hugo Novel Nominees. This Month is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books). For last month’s selection (a sad puppies slated work) Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books), search under this author.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books) is NOT on the sad puppies’ slate. Actually only two of the five nominated novels are sad puppy approved. Perhaps sad puppy concern is much ado about nothing.
I will start with a big thank you to Joe. The organizer of this group and the one responsible for allowing me to interview all these wonderful WorldCon voting members. Also thank you to the members that shared their insight and opinions so eloquently.
First we will look at the positive response to this novel, comprising about 25% of the group. Bill, after reading all the other nominees, believes that this work will be at the top of his Hugo award list. He likes politically based tomes and enjoyed this iteration of that concept. Though the book was, admittedly, not what he had expected, he had a pleasant experience and was very positive overall.
Another vocal supporter had much good to say about the concept and purpose to the book. In many ways his reasons for liking the book paralleled the reasons others disliked it. He felt it exemplified white privilege imposed upon black (or Goblin) society. He felt we need to consistently look at and focus on our societal problems with racism and sexism. He felt we should examine these problems deeply, while assuming ignorance. While agreeing with another reader that the work was truly a lecture, he asserted that it was “…a lecture we need to have…”
The rest of the group was solidly in full disappointment of the work. Several people actually opined that this kind of lecture and message fiction was the best possible justification for the sad puppies’ slate. Mike loved the story through to the middle and then it overcame him to the point that he observed he could now understand the sad puppy position.
Joe and Anne were the most vocal and most detailed in their difficulty with the novel. Joe actually read all but the last fifty pages and preferred boredom to being subjected to any more lecturing. He saw the work as an exercise in”anti-noir,” or the written equivalent of a jazz musician practicing scat. “I felt as if I was right there – and bored every second.” The story told us only that “sexism and racism equal bad with no depth or explanation.” For him there was too much cliché and too many incredibly lazy coincidences. He saw the main character as a cloying Dudley DoRight emperor.
The use of a formal or royal ”we” with an explanation that there was a plural and a singular of the word, without any example or further explanation was emblematic of problems throughout the story for both Joe and Anne. Anne observed, “The author translated into English – so translate it. Share the meaning with the reader.” Anne saw quality writing in dozens of disconnected chunks with no real effort at continuity or pacing. She felt the entire book could be summed up with “Because the emperor is right and he is a good guy.”
Other readers felt that the novel could have worked as an SF piece, on an alien planet discovering and trying to understand whatever racism and sexism was on that world. They didn’t see this as fantasy and they didn’t see the emperor as a half Goblin.
Just a thin smokescreen to address black and white, male and female, racism and sexism.
I am not going to add anything to the observations of these WorldCon members. I think they said it all – literally, all sides to the value of this Hugo-nominated work.
Next month we will see what they have to say about Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch) by Ann Leckie.