My Hugo 2019 Favourites

Back in June I set myself the goal of reading as many of the finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards as possible, and in the end I was pretty happy with what I managed. So on the awards night at Worldcon I bustled into the auditorium, ready to cheer for my favourites… and not a single of my top picks won! I wasn’t too crestfallen, since I also liked the ones that did win, but it goes to show you how varied tastes are when it comes to awards. Apparently some of the categories were decided by a slim margin of votes, so there was stiff competition.

In light of this, and since everyone always talks about the winners, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a shout out to some of the finalists which didn’t win, but which I personally thought were fantastic.

If you want to see my full reviews on Goodreads you can click the title links:

Best Novel

The Calculating Stars won best novel – a well written, unique and very enjoyable book, even for the few quibbles I had with it.

Book Cover: Spinning SilverMy personal favourite for this category, however, was Spinning Silver – which is even better than Naomi Novik’s previous book Uprooted in my opinion. It’s thick with a moody, wintry fairy-tale atmosphere and full of great characters with unexpected gifts. I loved that the main character’s talent was being a good at numbers and making money (unusual in a fantasy), and how this tied in with the fairy tale elements, as well as showing what it would be like to be a Jewish money lender in a hostile town.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

Children of Blood and Bone was the winner of this category, which I sort of expected, and although I enjoyed parts of it, there were three other reads that vied above it for top place amongst the nominees for me, all of them 5-star reads in my opinion:

Book Cover: The Call by Peadar Ó GuilínThe Call is actually the prequel to the award nominee, The Invasion (which I haven’t yet read) but I’m mentioning it anyway since they’re in the same series. This YA dystopian novel is set in Ireland and has strong horror elements, and I was impressed by the sheer creativity of it. The premise was thrilling from the get-go, and the terrifying Sidhé world was captivating too. I didn’t expect to be this drawn in by this book, but it was so suspenseful it had me up late at night reading.

Book Cover: Tess of the RoadTess of the Road had an incredibly well-drawn main character with a heart-wrenching backstory. It explored society’s obsession with female purity and the double-standards that are so often applied in religious contexts when it comes to women, and in a very moving way. It was light on fantasy elements and had quite a slow pace, but it was so emotionally rich and engaging that I adored it anyway.

Book Cover: The Cruel PrinceThe Cruel Prince was my first ever Holly Black book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found it very entertaining and fun to read. I liked the less-than-perfect morals of its main character and the rules and tricks and political manoeuvrings of the fairy world, not to mention the sexual tension and the inclusion of one of my favourite romantic tropes: enemies to lovers.

I should also mention that I enjoyed The Belles, which was entertaining and had a rich and interesting world, and while it didn’t quite hit the same level as the others for me personally, it still got a solid 4 stars.

Best Short Story

I did enjoy the story that won this year’s short story category – “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” – but there were others that wooed me more, so I wanted to give them a shout out:

“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker – this was a haunting tale about the cost of magic that stayed with me and reminded me a bit of creepy Roald Dahl short stories I used to read as a teen. I expected it to win… but hey, the other contenders were good too.

“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander – this story was so very bizarre that it made me laugh out loud many times.  Admittedly it got a little strange at the end, but the beginning was so hilarious I was hard pressed choosing between it and The Court Magician when voting.

“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher – while not my absolute favourite, this story was cheeky and short and fun, so I thought it was worth a mention.

Dramatic Presentation

It turns out the only film I didn’t manage to watch won this category: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. From the images and clips I saw though it did appear to have some great animation.

Film Poster: Annihilation

My top pick ended up being Annihilation, just for the sheer creativity of the film, both in terms of cinematography as well as story. I tend not to be a fan of gory horror, and this had its fair share of that, but it also had moments of more concept-based, chilling, sinks-into-your-bones type horror that I’m more partial to. I’m being vague to avoid spoilers but there’s a scene where a monster starts making certain noises and… it’s just incredibly haunting.

Film Poster: A Quiet Place Film PosterA Quiet Place was also a great piece of filmmaking, especially considering it had a lower budget than many of the others. I remember the novelty of sitting in the cinema in near-absolute silence for long periods and enduring many suspenseful nail-biting scenes. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

Other Categories

My top choices didn’t win the best professional artist category (I was particularly impressed by Victo Ngai’s and Yuko Shimizu’s work) or fan artist category (I loved Sara Felix’s work) but all of the artists were amazing, and I was ooing and ahhing while leafing through the images in the voting packet.

______________

So those were my personal favourites, but I thought the quality in general of the nominees I read was high, and there were only a few I disliked. Having read many of them also made the award ceremony more suspenseful and made it fun chatting to other people about which ones were their favourites.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll attempt this kind of nominee reading again unless I’m going to another Worldcon, simply because I’m a slow reader and it meant I didn’t read a lot of other books on my to-read list these past months (and I don’t think a book has to be award-nominated to be worth reading – plenty of my favourites have never been nominated for anything), but I’m glad I did it, and it was a fun reading experience.

If you want to see a full list of this year’s Hugo finalists and winners, you can find them here on the Hugo website.

10 thoughts on “My Hugo 2019 Favourites

  1. Excellent post matey. I tried to read all the hugo nominees this year in me chosen categories and had a lot of fun following the awards ceremony. I never seem to pick the winners either. I am okay with that. This was me first year doing this but I do think I will continue with next years hugos too. Arrrr!
    x The Captain
    PS I thought the The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters was so weird and didn’t even finish it. Glad it made ye laugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Awesome you did it too, it really does make it fun to follow the awards ceremony (even if you don’t pick the winners 🙂 ). And that’s great you plan to continue, I think I’d be keen to as well if I wasn’t such a slow reader.

      And haha yes that Raptor Sisters story was definitely weird – I guess so much so that it made me laugh, though I can see why it might turn people off too.

      Like

  2. Oh no, I was hoping you’d get some predictions right! But that’s okay, what matters is that you had fun 😀 (Still can’t believe you got to attend, I’m soooo jealous *_*)
    Children of Blood and Bone was, however, a very hyped book so I’m not surprised it won (though all the others were very close as well). I’m surprised about Spinning Silver, though! I would assume it to be the winner as well.
    I adored Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse – it was so cute and funny and just huggable (if a movie can be huggable hahaha) The plot/twists weren’t enough for a lot of people, but they took me completely by surprise, personally. Not to mention the incredible artwork.
    Great post, Nicola! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sophie! Yes I certainly had fun, even if I learned I’m terrible at predicting winners 🙂 And yeah I wasn’t surprised about Children of Blood and Bone either, esp. since so it’s won other awards… but Spinning Silver not winning surprised me too! So I guess you can’t always go by the hype.
      I really must watch that Spiderman film, it sounds great. I made the mistake of judging by the trailer, which didn’t 100% sell me, so I didn’t make a big effort to see it… I obviously should have!

      Like

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