Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nebula Awards Shortlist

If you are interested in fiction that stretches the imagination, you'll be keen to hear that nominations for the Nebula Awards were announced this week. For over 40 years, members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have voted annually on the best of their genre in the categories of novel, novella, novelette, and short story: in 2000 they added an award for best script.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy genres often get unfairly typecast as all about space ships and dragons. There are certainly lots of great stories that fall into those categories (as their many fans will tell you) but what is often overlooked by non-readers of the genre is the power of Science Fiction and Fantasy to ask interesting questions about the world around us by speculating about worlds that could exist or creating rich otherworlds that couldn't. For fans of the genres and those who haven't tried them before, these award nominees are a great place to start.

This year's nominees in the novel category are:

Among Others (M)
by Jo Walton

"Startling, unusual, and yet irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead..." - Publisher

Embassytown (M)
by China Miéville

"China Miéville doesn't follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer-and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field-with Embassytown , Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language. When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties-to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her." - Publisher

Firebird (M)
by Jack McDevitt

"A new Alex Benedict novel from "a master of describing otherworldly grandeur." ( Denver Post ) Forty-one years ago the renowned physicist Chris Robin vanished. Before his disappearance, his fringe science theories about the existence of endless alternate universes had earned him both admirers and enemies. Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath discover that Robin had several interstellar yachts flown far outside the planetary system where they too vanished. And following Robin's trail into the unknown puts Benedict and Kolpath in danger..." -Publisher

God's War (M)
by Kameron Hurley

"On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on-- there's not a chance in hell of ending it. Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war-- but at what price? The world is about to find out" - Publisher

Mechanique: a tale of the Circus Tresaulti (M)
by Genevieve Valentine

"Come inside and take a seat; the show is about to begin... Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, but while the Circus is performing, the world is magic. That magic is no accident: Boss builds her circus from the bones out, molding a mechanical company that will survive the unforgiving landscape. But even a careful ringmaster can make mistakes. Two of Tresaulti's performers are entangled in a secret standoff that threatens to tear the circus apart just as the war lands on their doorstep. Now the Circus must fight a war on two fronts: one from the outside, and a more dangerous one from within." - Publisher

The Kingdom of Gods (M)
by N.K. Jemisin

"The incredible conclusion to the Inheritance Trilogy, from one of fantasy's most acclaimed stars. For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameri's ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war. Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties. She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves. Yet her duty as Arameri heir is to uphold the family's interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for. As long-suppressed rage and terrible new magics consume the world, the Maelstrom -- which even gods fear -- is summoned forth. Shahar and Sieh: mortal and god, lovers and enemies. Can they stand together against the chaos that threatens? Includes a never before seen story set in the world of the Inheritance Trilogy." -Publisher

Past winners of the Nebula Award for novel include Frank Herbert's Dune (M) (which won the inaugural), Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon (M), Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union (M) and Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear (M). This year's winners will be announced in May at the SFWA annual conference.

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