So, I’ve now read five of the six World Fantasy Award nominees. I don’t get to vote, btw; I just get to listen to the panel of judges announce the winner and explain why they picked it. But I like to read the nominees anyway so I can be either outraged or pleased. Maybe I’ll go ahead and get the other one, too, just to have read the complete set.
Two components: Is it great? Is it innovative? Is it “important”, whatever that means? That’s one. And, Do I personally like it? That’s two. Kinda hard to separate the two, but I’ll try. Working from bottom to top:
1) Zoo City . . . not really my cup of tea. It’s a noir-ish cyperpunk-ish near future thing. I didn’t really care about the characters and the author didn’t linger on the aspects of the world that interested me most. I’d have kinda liked a different story set in that world, like about the initial appearance of the “animaled” and more about the link between crime and spirit animals and way more about the “Undertow”. But I did like the way the story worked itself out and I honestly did like the ending very much. Plus, no question, the writing is good and the world is really weird and interesting. I don’t read enough SF these days to be really get why this book stood out for readers, though. For me, not one I’ll ever re-read.
2) The Silent Land . . . I liked this a lot. I do like a horror element sometimes, especially when it’s creepy and suggestive rather than gory and splatter-punk-ish. But . . . I honestly did think it was too obvious what was going on and for me, figuring it out too early did interfere with the creepiness and suspense.
3) Redemption in Indigo . . . again, I liked this. I like the fairy tale / folk tale thing, plus I like a story with a redemption theme. I appreciated the skill with which this story was told, but for me it wasn’t too absorbing, I think because of the distance imposed by the omniscient narrator.
4) Under Heaven . . . I loved this! I loved the language, the style, the beautiful evocative Chinese setting, the characters — especially the female characters. Wonderful book! But I really, honestly do think the book should have been expanded into two books rather than cramming all that stuff into the epilogue. So for me, the pick of the bunch is —
5) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which is probably the best book I’ve read this year. Wonderful style, great characters, absorbing story; yes, okay, you do know sort of what’s coming at the end but seeing how it happens is still gripping. Loved it! Sequel’s just as good! I personally thought it was so good it went right off the top of the scale. Obviously, it’s got my vote. Now just waiting to see what the judges think . . .