The best novels Hugo never liked

July 10th, 2007

The Hugo award has been around for 54 years now. In that time it’s generally been about the most reliable indicator of the best novels around. But there are still a few instances where everything fell over a little bit:

1959: A Case of Conscience (James Blish) beat Have Space Suit – Will Travel (Robert Heinlein). Probably not controversial to everyone, but having read both relatively recently it’s clear to me what the stronger work is. Conscience is an interesting examination of religion in the context of science fiction, but Space Suit has become one of the most loved SF books of all time.

1983: Foundation’s Edge (Isaac Asimov) beating 2010 (Arthur C. Clarke) and Friday (Robert Heinlein). Mainly notable for being the one occasion on which the three giants of SF were up against each other for the award. Sadly, all three were declining as authors, but Foundations Edge is a shallow, uninteresting work, while Friday, while flawed, at least provides some interesting food for thought.

2000: A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge) beat Cryptonomicon. Deepness is a good book, but falls short of the greatness of A Fire Upon the Deep (which won the Hugo in 1993). Cryptonomicon is a magnificent book, although only arguably SF in small parts.

2001: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire beat anything (well, A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin in particular). Sorry, I love the Potter books deeply. But they’re just not that good.

In a bit under 2 months we’ll know if I need to add another item to this list or not. I’ll post my thoughts on the novel race this year later this week.