For the past several years, I have tried and failed to catch up on Nebula-nominated fiction. This ends here. In March, we will read at least one of the novels that could win what's arguably the world's most prestigious science fiction and fantasy award. Here are four of them, all from 2013.
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata
If I can just skip to the point for people who don't like to read longer reviews, you should go ahead and grab right now, especially if you're into intelligent, cynical military SF. ...The tone of the novel is set right from the very first paragraph:
"There needs to be a war going on somewhere, Sergeant Vasquez. It's a fact of life. Without a conflict of decent size, too many international defense contractors will find themselves out of business. So if no natural war is looming, you can count on the DCs to get together to invent one."
Hild by Nicola Griffith
Don't let the cover of Nicola Griffith's newest novel fool you. You won't find the typical medieval girl-in-a-dress novel. You'll read something completely different, otherworldly in its scope and beauty. ... In Hild, Roman roads crisscross the countryside. Fearsome sprites lurk in woods and water, and strange priests of the new god Christ, wearing long black skirts, roam the damp English countryside. Like salesmen, they promise regional kings victory in battle and many healthy sons if they simply renounce their pagan gods and accept baptism.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
What we readers come to suspect — and what we're finally told — is that Fern is a chimpanzee. Rosemary's father is a scientist studying animal behavior, and Rosemary and Fern were raised pretty much from birth to age 5 as twin sisters.
Fern believed she was human and, as Rosemary says, the mirroring went both ways. ... Fowler's smart and exquisitely sad novel provokes us to think about a lot of aspects of our relationship to animals that most of us would rather ignore. It also delves into other questions. Do animals think? Can they empathize? Do they have long-term memories?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Justice of Toren is a living ship far beyond AI, spending millennia carrying officers and troops for the Radchaai Empire's endless planetary annexations. Those troops are ancillaries — sometimes called corpse soldiers — reanimated bodies that now share a single consciousness and act as one. Breq was once the ancillary One Esk and the ship Justice of Toren.
But now, separated in a moment of trauma, she's autonomous. It's a condition so rare no one suspects what she is. ... Though framed like '70s grindhouse — there was a setup, and someone's out to clean the slate — things unfold studiously, reminiscent of the deliberation underscoring Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
Voting ends on Friday, March 7th at 3pm ET, and we'll start posthaste next week.