the Little Red Reviewer

For those of you reading the Hugo winners . . .

Posted on: January 16, 2020

 

Award winning books must be the best books that were written that year, right?

right?

as anyone who has ever taken part in a “Read the Hugo’s” challenge,  this is not always true.

 

If you’re reading Hugo winners or nominees for Vintage month,  or ever,  I highly recommend tracking down a copy of An Informal History of The Hugos, by Jo Walton.   It’s a chunkster of a book, and not one that’s meant to be read cover to cover in one (or ten sittings),  the volume contains Walton’s “Revisiting the Hugos” series of articles she wrote for Tor.com,  along with a selection of comments and additional commentary for each year’s nominees and winners.   For a taste of what to expect, check out any of her original articles at Tor.com.

 

Like the Vandermeer edited Big Book of Science Fiction,  I’ve been flipping through Informal History,  stopping a pages that have book titles I recognize, to see what Walton thought of them.  What did she think of Dune? What did she think of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,  or Way Station, or Lord of Light, or Philip K Dick or Andre Norton?     It was super interesting for me to see where we completely disagreed on our opinions, books that I loved and she thought were just ok at best.

 

Her commentary isn’t formal reviews,  she’s talking about mostly if she liked the book when she was a teenager reading it for the first time, if it has re-readability, if it is print and/or available at the library, if it’s a title people are still interested in talking about.   Where applicable she gives a brief mention to the location of that year’s WorldCon,  who was nominated for different awards,  other notable works that were published that year,  and an invitation for people to suggest works that should have been nominated, but weren’t.   She starts at 1953, and goes all the way to the year 2000.   Yes, ok, this non-fiction commentary doesn’t totally qualify for Vintage Month, but I swear, while I was writing this blog post,  I only paid attention to the chapters that cover 1953 – 1979!

Just as the title suggests,  her articles are very informal.  This is all about revisiting the Hugos, not rereading them.  She’s writing the way she talks (i assume?) and shooting from the hip, and she’s honest about what works she’s never read, and which ones she has no interest in reading, and what  she remembers about the ones she has read. The articles are designed to be informative, and to foster conversations in the comments, these are not reviews.   She’s offering up her opinion for sure,  but then giving a jumping off point, and inviting people to discuss everything further.

She’s fostering discussion, and I love that!

 

 

Something I love about the comments that in the book (and surely there are hundreds more at the actual online articles at tor.com) is that depending on the year she is discussing,  she and commenters remember reading these titles as teens or young adults.   Sometimes the liked the books upon reread as adults,  sometimes not. I found those sections so heartwarming,  it was like eavesdropping on a book club’s private (but wonderful!!)  conversations.    Seriously tho,  go check out some of these columns at Tor.com.   Pick a year,  especially a year that you have read any of the winners or nominees,  and where the Venn diagram of your thoughts and Walton’s thoughts overlap.

 

Because now my brain is going in a million directions at once,  and I’m suddenly in love with the idea of revisiting, rather than rereading. . .

 

What award winning books have you read that you loved?  What award winning books have you read that you thought sucked?  (any award.  any genre. any year)

 

What do you think of volumes of commentary,  such as An Informal History of the Hugos?

 

Put on your science fiction travel hat, and go 50 years into the future.  A future version of Jo Walton is writing a new volume of “Informal History of the Hugos”,  and instead of focusing on 1953 – 2000,  it focuses on 2000- ? .   What would you want to see in that volume?

 

11 Responses to "For those of you reading the Hugo winners . . ."

Ooh I’d love to see her thoughts on Dune, Andre Norton, etc. I’ll have to look for this book. I like the casual, discussion related sounds of it too.

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Spoiler: She wasn’t a big fan of Dune. I nearly cried.

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Ooh, neat. I’ll have to check out some of these articles and/or the book sometime 🙂 I’ve been working my way through the Hugo-winning novels since 2012, (I’m in the 2000s now!) and I think the most interesting thing about going through them in order is the way many reflect or predict the cultural movements of the time. For example, ecological apocalypses become more common than atomic apocalypses in the 70s and free love disappears as a theme in the 80s…

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what you mentioned, is my absolute favorite thing about about reading them is order is the reflection of what’s going on in society, or what the author’s hoped would happen, or feared would happen. To the demise of my own enjoyment, i never seem to read anything in order.

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I bought the ebook of it, and pretty much DID read it cover-to-cover. That was a year ago, and I refer back to it occasionally, since it’s searchable.

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I can you see you reading this one cover to cover! Did you run into areas, where Walton loved a book that didn’t do a thing for you, or the other way around?

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Ah, Jo Walton is awesome, even when I don’t agree with her! (Walton thinks 1972 Hugo winner To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer is a great book. I HATED it, from beginning to end).
I have this book as my companion reading for my own Hugo project.

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I could barely make it through To Your Scattered Bodies Go. bounced right off of it!

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I like her reviews although I find her rather too fond of Lois Bujold And C.J. Cherryh. Both of whom I find unreadable.

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I’ve enjoyed most of the Bujold I’ve read. Bounced off all the Cherryh so far.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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