Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Andre Norton Awards: How Shall I Vote?

Today is the deadline for voting on the Andre Norton Awards. It's a particularly tough field this year, and they've changed the rules so we're no longer ranking books, but must vote only on one; so I'm going to muse aloud about it till I reach a decision.

Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
Man, this is good. Technically post-apocalyptic fiction, it reads like realism, not SF. No zombie hordes, no Sufficiently Advanced Technology, and an underclass POV that is neither romanticized nor polemicized.

White Cat, Holly Black (McElderry)
Woman, this is good! Biggest kick-in-the-head ending of the decade, and Portrait of the Wizard as a Young Con Artist. Not what you expect from a title referencing the literary fairy tales of the Cabinet de Fees.

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press; Scholastic UK)
Having jumped out of the airplane in Hunger Games and free-fallen through Catching Fire, we now land splat. Braced for a happy ending, we instead get a realistic one. That is praise, not blame! Alas, Katniss is unconscious at too many important points, rendering this book weaker than either of the preceding ones. Nice to have one strong contender out of the running. (But it stands a good chance of winning because a lot of SFWA members who don't normally read YA will have read it.)

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, Barry Deutsch (Amulet)
A graphic novel set in an Orthodox Jewish enclave. Floating witch, talking pig, knitting troll, and spot-on character dialog and dynamics, particularly between Mirka and her siblings. Strong contender, but this is only part of a story. Mirka needs to use that sword and have repercussions from some of her choices in the next book - of which there is no sign on the web page. I've bookmarked the page and will be on the lookout. I hate to knock this out for being Vol. 1, but the impression is strong enough I'm gonna have to. Rats. No, wait, eliminating books from the running is a good thing.

The Boy from Ilysies, Pearl North (Tor Teen)
Was not in the library and I wasn't on the ball enough to get it ordered from my local indy in time. I hate making choices through inaction, but I've done it this time.

I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett (Gollancz; Harper)
Workmanlike Pratchett, not his best work but that's a pretty faint damn. Still, it's enough to deny it my vote.

A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
I pounced on this as soon as it came out, and unlike some people I'm not worried about Gen. We've been shoved completely out of his POV in this and King of Attolia specifically so we'd be worried about him, but I don't believe for a moment that he's getting off on being king. Turner did an excellent job of pulling our attention right away from Gen and still keeping him the central figure in the series. But is this more impressive than what Black did in White Cat and Bacigalupi did in Ship Breaker? These three are seriously neck-and-neck.

Behemoth, Scott Westerfield (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)
Sequel; and points for surprising me on what hatched out of the eggs. (I was certain they were dragons.) Lots of steampunky goodness + extrapolating from real political history rather than mythic political history = win. But something weighs less than the three others still in the running in the scales of my head. I can't define it, but I need an excuse to eliminate something. Okay, that's a relief.
No Award - nonsense! Anybody who votes for "No Award" in a year like this one is a sorehead.

Hmm...I'm not sure how much having rankings would have helped to whittle down the field. These three are just too darn good! But I continue the mental weighing, and find that I'll have to vote for Gen because I love him; and because the entire audience loves him enough to be terrified at the possibility that he might become corrupted and stop deserving our love. My emotional investment in the protagonists of the other two books ended shortly after closing the book. I'll read the next Curse Workers story and be interested to see how the closing dilemma is resolved, but I'm not on tenterhooks for it.

Also - apologies to those of you who cannot see Bruce in the header. This appears to be an Internet Explorer problem and Damon and I (by which I mostly mean Damon) haven't been able to figure out how to fix it. The blogger templates are handy, but the code is full of redundancies and hard to troubleshoot. If anybody who isn't using Explorer also has a black header instead of Bruce, please let us know.


  1. I followed you over here from MTS2, but I think I've seen you post on Pubrants before. I'm Sunbee on MTS2. Would boys who like Kenneth Thomasma and Madelaine L'Engle among others like your books? I'm always looking for more books for my sons.

  2. Hi! Thanks for tracking me down. I feel a little more justified for the time I spend on that newsgroup now. Yes, I have posted at Pubrants a few times, though I'm not a regular - I read it, but I don't comment a lot.

    My fantasy's not as mystical as L'Engle, but look at the descriptions in the "About my books" link and see if any of the plots sound intriguing. Although most of my protagonists are girls I've never seen the "boys won't read about girls" principle in action and I think it's a myth, or at best an outdated truth. Since Thomasma writes about historical Indians, try them with *11,000 Years Lost.* These are middle-grade books, and you don't say how old your sons are, but I don't think my style is any harder than L'Engle's.

    See you round.

  3. I have not read any of these, but I am going to start on Thomas Westerfeld's steampunk alternate history right away.

  4. Leviathan was my vote for the Norton last year. (It went to the one I couldn't bring myself to read past Ch. 2.) Westerfeld is excellent. If you really like steampunk, also try out Art Slade's Hunchback Assignments (which really ought to be filmed in anime) and Phillip Reeves's Larklight series; which has space pirates and fish swimming in the ether.

  5. Peni, I'm no longer on Internet Explorer. Too many problems. I see Bruce fine but what is he in?

  6. Okay, you remember how when they fixed our porch a few years ago they dropped a column and it split into seven pieces? They glued it back together in the side yard, and the picture is Bruce inspecting the work.

  7. I read Leviathan and liked it well enough that it inspired me to begin one of my most ambitious projects ever: a juvenile that begins with the famous football game in No-Man's Land on Christmas Day, 1914, near Armentieres.

    A British private, a German private, an American spotter pilot grounded in the area, a Red Cross ambulance driver, a Belgian farmgirl, the secretary to a Turkish diplomat, all between 17 and 19. I haven't yet decided who will be the male impersonator.