Reviews of Hugo Nominees

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Hugo Nominees 1998

  • Forever Peace, by Joe Haldeman (Ace hc, Oct 97, $21.95, 0441-00406-7)
  • Frameshift, by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor hc, Jun 97, $23.95, 0312-86325-X)
  • The Rise of Endymion, by Dan Simmons (Bantam Spectra hc, Sep 97, $23.95, 0553-10652-X; Bantam Doubleday pb, Aug 98, $6.50, 0553-57298-9)
  • Jack Faust, by Michael Swanwick (Avon hc, Sep 97, $23, 0380-97444-4)
  • City on Fire, by Walter Jon Williams (HarperPrism hc, Jan 97, $22, 0061-05213-2; Harper pb, Jan 98, $6.99, 0061-05442-9)
  • 'The Funeral March of the Marionettes,' by Adam-Troy Castro (F&SF, July 1997)
  • 'Ecopoiesis,' by Geoffrey A. Landis (SF Age, May 1997)
  • 'Loose Ends,' by Paul Levinson (Analog, May 1997)
  • 'Marrow,' by Robert Reed (SF Age, July 1997)
  • '...Where Angels Fear To Tread,' by Allen Steele (Asimov's, Oct.-Nov. 1997)
  • 'Moon Six,' by Stephen Baxter (SF Age, March 1997)
  • 'Broken Symmetry,' by Michael A. Burstein (Analog, Feb. 1997)
  • 'Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream,' by James Alan Gardner (Asimov's, Feb. 1997)
  • 'We Will Drink A Fish Together...,' by Bill Johnson (Asimov's, May 1997)
  • 'The Undiscovered,' by William Sanders (Asimov's, March 1997)
  • 'Beluthahatchie,' by Andy Duncan (Asimov's, March 1997)
    The ubiquitous first published story in this category this year goes to Mr. Duncan, who turns in a marginally sfnal but otherwise entertaining tale of a recently deceased blues guitarist getting a guided tour of Hell, including some of the surrounding towns like the one in the title, and then going off on his own and causing all kinds of trouble. Told with a generous amount of southern swagger and sensibility, this is the only short story entry to weigh in at more than 10 pages, which allows Duncan enough time to tell his series of events in more than rapid-fire episodes. Not much of a point overall, but some interesting juxtapositions, and certainly worth keeping an eye out for the author's future work.
  • 'Standing Room Only,' by Karen Joy Fowler (Asimov's, Aug. 1997)
    It's now an accepted fact that many SF writers seem to have this predeliction for the Civil War, and enough of these stories are being published that the chances of at least one of them making it on to the Hugo ballot are pretty good these days. This entry doesn't even seem to take the alternate history angle, but is merely a retelling of events leading up to Lincoln's assassination told from the viewpoint of the daughter of Mary Surratt, the boarding house keeper who ended up executed with the rest of the conspirators. At the end, the narrator is left outside of the Ford Theatre, in sort of a surreal scene in which one could possibly infer that no one could get into the building to assassinate Lincoln at all, but the story ends before the reader can find out. Well written, well paced, but not SF in the least.
  • 'Itsy Bitsy Spider,' by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov's, June 1997)
    The art of the short story seems to have taken a turn this year, such that many of the nominees are not really SF stories at all in the classic mode, but just little sketches about one aspect or another of seemingly everyday events, usually in the future. Even the formerly off the wall James Patrick Kelly has succumbed with this uncharacteristically evocative tale of a daughter seeking out her estranged father after the death of her mother, only to find he's being taken care of by a robot who looks just like she did as a girl. Kelly doesn't really have a point to make, but relies on the introspection and re-examining of the narrator's relationships with both her parents to provide the real drama of the story. Nicely done, rising above the rest in a fairly weak category this year.
  • 'The 43 Antarean Dynasties,' by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, Dec. 1997)
    Okay, so 10 out of 15 previous Asimov's short stories by Resnick have been nominated for Hugos, so what does that prove, we know the guy is popular, we know the guy can write, but this little throwback of a story as written by some no-name wouldn't have garnered more than a moment's attention. Earthlings are the easy target in this tale as an Antarean tour guide takes a typical Earth (i.e. American) family on a tour of some of the remaining architectural wonders of the ancient civilization on a planet of Antares. The tour guide longs for a return of the days of glory, the tourist family are bored silly. There are some potential themes to be explored there, but in the space of 15 or so pages it's just a nice vignette and not much else.
  • 'The Hand You're Dealt,' by Robert J. Sawyer (Free Space, Tor hc, Jul 97, $24.95, 0312-85957-0)
    Although Sawyer can write about anything and make it compelling, if not necessarily believable, he takes a bit more of a leap than usual in this tale, which like any story which hinges on the phrase "incestuous pedophilia" is a little difficult to judge objectively. Central to the plot is the idea of professional soothsayers, who tell a person at the age of majority exactly what to expect from their life, based on a reading of their DNA. What doesn't appear to have occurred to anyone prior to this is that these soothsayers don't seem to have any obligation to tell the truth about what they find. And soothsaying your own family members isn't a problem, either. A clever little murder mystery, but a little too coincidental for my taste.
  • 'No Planets Strike,' by Gene Wolfe (F&SF, Jan. 1997)
    The title comes from Hamlet, and Wolfe adds some bio-engineered circus animals and throws them onto a planet where those that arrive aren't allowed to leave, and combines it with some heavy allusion to the story of Christ, to make an interesting but mostly meaningless mishmash of elements that don't really have any purpose for going together. Told from the point of view of a talking donkey, who doesn't let on that he can talk until the pseudo-Baby Jesus is born, the story suddenly starts throwing nativity references at you about two-thirds of the way through. Prior to that, he's dwelling on the so-called Beautiful Ones, the indigenous race of the planet Sidhe who get along with everybody but have fairly strict immigration policies, such that when the animal's human leader tries to sneak off planet he's discovered and executed. Wolfe's prose is typically mellifluous, and it wouldn't surprise me if he wins on that alone.