Hugos 2023: Best Novel

6) Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Nona didn’t want to be just good-looking and dumb; she wanted to be useful. She was dimly aware that she was not what anyone had wanted. This was why she had gone out and got herself a job, even though it wasn’t a paying one.

I completely bounced off the previous two books in this series, both of which were Hugo finalists. But to my surprise, I started off really enjoying this one, as the title character tries to put together her lost memories in a dangerous and violent society not too far from our own. But it lost me again at the end; once she returns to the world of Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth, it became boring and confusing, and also there’s a parallel narrative thread which wasn’t integrated into the plot at all, as far as I could see. You can get it here.

5) The Kaiju Preservation Society, John Scalzi

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The offices for KPS the name of the organization on the card Tom gave me were on Thirty-seventh, in the same building as the Costa Rican consulate, on the fifth floor. The office apparently shared a waiting room with a small medical practice. I had been in the waiting room for less than a minute when Avella came to get me to take me to her personal office. There was no one else in the KPS office. I guess they, like most everyone else, were working from home.

Very readable and engaging story which I read to the end, a parallel universe with Godzillas; but as usual with Scalzi, all of the characters sound exactly the same (and indeed exactly like Scalzi himself in real life) and the social commentary is paper thin. You can get it here.

4) Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The hob hauled in his box of tools and placed it inside the big doorway.

By a well-known gaming figure, this is about an Orc warrior who decides that she will set up a coffee shop in a fantasy city. There are hilarious capers as she encounters jealous enemies, magical interference with the brewing process (both positive and negative) and love. I honestly don’t think it’s very deep but it’s good fun. You can get it here.

3) The Spare Man, Mary Robinette Kowal

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Her grandmother had taught her that, when Tesla’s rage turned a room incandescent red, the best thing to do was to stay very, very still. The time her elementary school science teacher had marked her correct answer anout the most recent supernova as wrong “because it wasn’t in the textbook” had impressed in Tesla’s mind how effective that stillness could be. It was also the first time she used any version of “I want to speak to the manager” when she asked to go to the principal’s office in a voice that was, in hindsight, too cold and flat for a ten-year-old.

This was very interesting – a detective novel set on an Earth to Mars space cruise. Intricate plotting, lots of good stuff about gender diversity and invisible disabilities, and a very cute dog. And cocktail recipes. I was not quite sure about the ending, though. You can get it here.

2) Nettle and Bone, T. Kingfisher

Second paragraph of third chapter:

“I saw you,” said the voice. She squinted against the light and saw the speaker. A man. Perfectly ordinary looking, in the gray-brown garb that everyone wore, here on the edge of the desert. There was nothing that stood out about him, except that he was shouting at her.

As usual with Ursula Vernon, a cracking good read: it’s about a discarded princess who goes on an epic fantasy quest with a gang of unlikely henchbeings. Lots of funny lines and social commentary. Very enjoyable. You can get it here.

1) The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Melquiades claimed the mere thought such a thing might be possible was sacrilege: holiness could not reside in a flower or a drop of rain. Offerings to spirits were the devil’s work.

I thought this was really interesting, a reframing of H.G. Wells in the context of the historical Maya resistance to Mexican rule in the Yucatan. There was a twist three quarters of the way through that I should have seen coming, but didn’t. Not especially excited about any of these, but this one gets my vote. You can get it here.

2023 Hugos:
Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Graphic Story or Comic | Best Related Work | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist | Lodestar Award for Best YA Book | Astounding Award for Best New Writer

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (brief note)

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The offices for KPS the name of the organization on the card Tom gave me were on Thirty-seventh, in the same building as the Costa Rican consulate, on the fifth floor. The office apparently shared a waiting room with a small medical practice. I had been in the waiting room for less than a minute when Avella came to get me to take me to her personal office. There was no one else in the KPS office. I guess they, like most everyone else, were working from home.

Very readable and engaging story which I read to the end, a parallel universe with Godzillas; but as usual with Scalzi, all of the characters sound exactly the same (and indeed exactly like Scalzi himself in real life) and the social commentary is paper thin. You can get it here.