OK, we are on to the novellas, and at least I’ve already read one of these and know it is good.
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment) – I was liking this one, even though it was set in yet another virtual reality / computer game world (I feel like half the stories so far have been like this). It was well-written, I was really enjoying the characters, the main female character was a heap of fun – and then we had the plot twist, which trashed the only female character in a way that was basically a cliché cake filled with cliché whipped cream and cliché jam, with cliché icing on top. It certainly doesn’t deserve a no award – it’s a well written and enjoyable story, but boy, that annoyed me. And it’s doubly infuriating because the author didn’t have to do that – he was clearly capable of more interesting things. Gah.
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com) – I’m afraid I just found this one boring and far too predictable – the dialogue, in particular, I felt like I had read many times before -and I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I gave up at the 38% mark. This might be unfair, but if you can’t hold my attention for the whole book – and I really did try to give it a fair shot – you probably don’t deserve my vote on the ballot.
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon) – Surprisingly, I really liked this one. I say surprisingly, because the opening scene had the heroine being tied down and tortured by the villain of the piece, and this was described (mostly in anticipation) in more detail than I, personally, needed. And then it turned into a kind of ‘last survivors after a terrible, world-ending thing’ sort of story, which is also not my style. But somehow, the focus in the end was on building and reconstructing and trying to find a way to survive as a community, and it was interestingly character-driven, and actually rather lovely and inspiring in some ways. A worthy nomination, I feel.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com) – Another good story, and unexpectedly peaceful. I don’t know how to describe it without massive spoilers, but I liked it very much. I liked the main character and her sense of self, particularly.
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum) – Look, I love Bujold’s Five Gods universe, and this is no exception. I like Penric, and I like the way he tries to treat his demon like a person, and I like Desdemona, too. Very happy to see this on the ballot.
I’m not quite sure what my final ballot order is. Probably Penric, then Binti, then Slow Bullets, then Perfect State, then No Award, but I’m just not sure. I loved Penric’s Demon, but I’m not sure that Binti isn’t the better book.