I’ve read three of the five nominees for best novel, which is unusal. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy but don’t typically make a point of searching it out. This year, though, two of my favorite authors (Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson) both released novels. Plus, Cory Doctorow put out Little Brother, which I have been interested in reading about since Cory first mentioned it on The Well.
So I read all three (including the Gaiman and Doctorow books in the last month) and they are all excellent in completely different ways. ‘Graveyard Book’ is pure Gaiman, slightly scary and a bit arch with a humanist heart; ‘Anathem’ is pure Stephenson, voluminous, packed with hundreds of ideas, scores of which are fascinating; and while I haven’t read rnough Doctorow to know if ‘Little Brother’ is “pure Doctorow,” it was the most entertaining of the three, with a healthy dose of outrage and calls to action mixed in.
As to which one will or should win, I have no idea. I don’t know what sorts of books the Hugo people typically choose, and I’m not well-versed enough in science fiction and fantasy to intelligently compare these wildly different books.
All I can say is that I recommend all three — I’ll recommend the Doctorow book to almost anyone, the Gaiman book to people I know with a love of teen literature and scary stuff, and the Stephenson book to people I know who won’t be turned off by the length of the book and its digressions into alternate space-time reality theory.