Steve’s Reviews of Hugo Award Winners - Novels

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In 2003, I made a personal project to read every single Hugo award winning novel.   I knew that I had already read a sizable number of them.  I also wanted to write my personal opinions of them.  All of the opinions below are entirely mine.

The project has been a surprise to me.  I was surprised at how good some of the novels are, and I was surprised at how bad some are.  Even more surprising was that widely known and popular authors have written some real clunkers which won the award.

I am also reading and reviewing the Nebula Award winners on this page. 

I am also reading and reviewing the P. K. Dick Award winners on this page.

I have started reading the World Fantasy Novel Award winners on this page

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Fifties and Before

1946 - The Mule – Asimov

Now part of the Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation books.  Nicely written and unexpected tragedy that is different than the other early Foundation novels

 

1951 - Farmer in the Sky – Heinlein

Quaintly dated, but typical Heinlein. Obviously written as a juvenal novel, but uses that as an excuse for some truly bad science.

 

1953 - Demolished Man – Bester

Fascinating mystery with a disturbing ending, discussions of identity and society.

 

1954 - Fahrenheit 451 – Bradbury

One of the classics, written more mythological than I remembered at first.  

 

1955 - They'd Rather Be Right – Clifton

Now titled Forever Machine.  Geeks invent computer, get chased by mobs.  Laughably bad writing and quaintly dated.  It does a little foreshadowing of the concerns in the 70’s that computers would take over people’s jobs.

 

1956 - Double Star – Heinlein

Kagemusha in space opera style.  Far better than 1951’s winner, but not his best.

 

1958 - The Big Time - Leiber

Locked box single room mystery for time travelers.  Not bad, but not much sci-fi

 

1959 - Case of Conscience – Blish

Jesuit biologist has to make a tragic decision.  Gripping and an excellent early first contact story.  I think religious issues are more pointed in this novel than Canticle for Leibowitz.

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Sixties

1960 - Starship Troopers – Heinlein 

Right wing politics with military trappings.  Excellent writing and more serious that 1956’s winner

 

1961 - Canticle for Leibowitz – Miller

Fiction as history, wonderful story of how history and society survive

 

1962 - Stranger in a Strange Land – Heinlein 

Back in the 60’s I am sure all the sex and drugs were shocking.  When I read this in the 70’s they were merely “naughty’.  Now it is oddly disappointing as a story with seriously sexist main characters.

 

1963 - Man in the High Castle – Dick

The only good alternate history novel written (and I include everything up to 2005  when I say this)

 

1964 - Way Station – Simak

Fascinating little story that has a surprise ending. 

 

1965 - Wanderer – Leiber

Humans get the shock of their lives when aliens first appear.  Ribald and silly, but a good quick read and has the biggest ships I have ever seen in sci-fi.  (Even bigger than the Death Star!)

 

1966 - And Call Me Conrad – Zelazny

Now titled This Immortal.  A fun read of a travelogue of an immortal guiding an alien around a devastated Earth.

 

1966 - Dune – Herbert

First and best enviro-fiction with enough subplots to tangle up even Tolstoy.  The best Herbert book.

 

1967 - Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Heinlein

I think this is Heinlein’s best novel, and a precursor to the cyberpunk movement.

 

1968 - Lord of Light – Zelazny

Human colonists become gods, and then fight with each other for centuries.  Fun read, but not terribly deep, and more like fantasy than sci-fi.

 

1969 - Stand on Zanzibar – Brunner

Near future novel which has a real surprise in because final twist is very modern even for today.

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Seventies

1970 - Left Hand of Darkness – LeGuin

I consider this the best of LeGuin’s novels, a tight and intimate study of gender and identity.

 

1971 - RingworldNiven

Fun romp to a giant hula-hoop with a murderous cat and a paranoid monster.  More juvenile than I remembered when first reading it.

 

1972 - To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Farmer

The first Riverworld novel, and I think the best of the lot.  Overall just an excuse to get characters from different historical periods to talk to each other.

 

1973 - The Gods Themselves – Asimov

Humans and aliens interact, but set from the alien’s point of view.  Not perfect as a study of non-humans, but not bad either.

 

1974 - Rendevouz with Rama – Clark

Probably the best Clark novel.  Mysterious ship appears, but humans are not sure what it means.

 

1975 - Dispossessed – LeGuin

A very good semi-satire of the Soviet/US relations, but I thought the ending was a little too easy.

 

1976 - Forever War – Haldeman

Wildly disappointing.  This book thinks a left wing spin on Starship Troopers means a lot of sex and drug references on top of a sledge hammer anti-war message.

 

1977 - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang – Wilhelm

Badly written post-apocalypso, with plot holes large enough to drive a nuke through.  The editors should have turned this down rather than publishing it.

 

1978 - Gateway – Pohl

Alien contact done well.  A little sketchier plot than I remembered, and the later sequels kind of detract from the grand mystery set up here.

 

1979 - Dreamsnake – McIntyre

Typically McIntyre plot, and she uses many of the themes in this book in later novels.  However it isn’t terribly deep and it is very predictable if you have read any of her other novels.

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Eighties

1980 - Fountains of Paradise – Clarke

I can’t understand why Clarke won for this one.  It is a competent book, but not much else.  My favorite part is his satire on the Earth's religions reaction to first contact.

 

1981 - SnowqueenVinge

The fairy tale recast as a sci-fi.  Nicely written plot and characters

 

1982 - Downbelow Station – Cherryh

Turgid and frequently confusing plot connecting several other novels in Cherryh’s universe.  It is nearly unreadable in sections.  An editor should have taken a scalpel to this one.

 

1983 - Foundations Edge – Asimov

Asimov should have left well enough alone.  This turns the historical-style sci-fi of the Foundation series into a potboiler space opera with grand politics.

 

1984 - Startide Rising – Brin

My favorite of Brin’s novels, and a nice introduction to the Uplift universe.

 

1985 - Neuromancer – Gibson

Amazing how this novel did NOT age well.  I am sure it was good when it kicked off the cyberpunk movement, however now it reads like watching “I love the 80’s” on VH1.

 

1986 - Enders Game – Card

1987 - Speaker for the Dead – Card

I have to review these two together.  Card’s short story versions of these books were FAR AND AWAY better than the novelizations.  I felt like the editor called in a romance novelist to ghostwrite the short stories up into novels, the padded text is so obviously different from Card’s writing.

 

1988 - Uplift War – Brin

Another good Brin, but not as good as Startide Rising.  

 

1989 - CyteenCherryh

Much like Downbelow, her writing is turgid and almost unreadable at times.  I am surprised that she didn’t win for the “Fading Suns” series, but did win with these.

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Nineties

1990 - Hyperion – Simmons

Canterbury Tales does Sci-Fi, with very interesting characters and plot twists.  Now that I have read the 2nd half, I found this book to be a very good read, with very interesting technologies. 

 

1991 - Vor Game – Bujold

Now collected in the book Young Miles.  Interesting main character, silly plotlines, with plot holes big enough to jump a fleet through.

 

1992 - BarrayarBujold

The story of Young Miles mother, who has to cope with sexism.  Almost as implausible as Vor Game, but with a more interesting lead character.

 

1993 - Fire upon the deep – Vinge 

See Also Deepness in the sky.  This time the space opera plot is interesting and the alien plot is totally annoying.

 

1993 - Doomsday book – Willis

A time travel novel that completely misses the point, and on top of that has a character who is female and yet accepts every possible degradation from males to validate her existence.

 

1994 - Green Mars – Robinson

The sequel to Red Mars (see Nebula awards page), however it is just more of the same, not much new happens.

 

1995 - Mirror Dance – Bujold

Another Young Miles story.  This time his clone-brother learns to like Miles after a bunch of pointless rescues and improbable twists.

 

1996 - Diamond Age – Stephenson 

A charming story about a girl learning from a very special book.  It kind of loses it's way at the end, but it was a fun read.

 

1997 - Blue Mars – Robinson

The sequel to Green Mars (see above), however it is just more of the same, not much new happens.

 

1998 - Forever Peace – Haldeman

Surprisingly good retake on the future of war, and an honorable follow up to the disastrous Forever War, but not a sequel.

 

1999 - To Say nothing of the Dog – Willis

Time travel humor story that barely covers the real intent of the author.  This is a person trying to boast how much she knows about the Victorian period.  I am amazed at how badly the jokes are written.

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2k and Beyond

2000 - Deepness in the Sky – Vinge

This reads like two novels that an editor should have cut apart.  The first contact story has the most interesting point of view I have ever read, the space opera story is dull.

 

2001 - Harry Potter & Goblet of Fire – Rowlings

Kids’ stuff, not much else, certainly not worthy of a Hugo.  On top of that, this should have been on the fantasy lists, not the sci-fi lists.

 

2002 - American Gods – Gaiman 

Slow starting but interesting characters make the story work.  It would have been better as a graphic novel.

 

2003 - Hominids – Sawyer 

An attempt to render life as a Neanderthal would live it.  But the Human part of the plot isn't interesting and involves an unnecessary rape scene.

 

2004 - Paladin of Souls - Bujold

Boring little melodrama about a middle aged woman trying to get her boyfriend back.

 

2005 - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Clarke

Fantasy title, but a much better one than the recent fantasy books.  A sort of duel between two wizards develops in Victorian times.

 

2006 - Spin - Wilson

Soap opera set over 300 million years, and about 1/2 as interesting.  (somehow I read Camouflage, but it is a Nebula winner instead)

 

2007 - Rainbows End - Vinge

Vinge combines cyberpunk and a senior-citizen moment.  Surprisingly good, only a few Vinge digressions.

 

2008 - Yiddish Policemen's Union - Chabon

Not sci-fi, and not fantasy.  Just a detective novel set in an alternate world.  An O.k. read, but it doesn't belong on this list at all.

 

2009 - The Graveyard Book - Gaiman

Not bad for Gaiman, but it’s still a book for kids

 

2010 – The City & the City – Mieville – Tie

Weird murder mystery set in a divided city, with an oddly disappointing ending.

 

2010 – Windup Girl – Bacigalupi – Tie

Post-cyberpunk novel with some disturbing predictions.  Good read

 

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