The Novelette and Novella are the ugly step children of the Hugos, novelette being a long short story, and a novella being a short novel. Nonetheless, they are often have the most diversity in offerings of the categories.
Again, beware spoilers in main reviews.
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock
An alien stripper finds pleasure from an anthropomorphized T-Rex.
This is exactly what it says on the box. Don’t expect high art, or even consistency, but somebody had fun writing this, and the feeling of exuberance is mildly infectious. It knows exactly what it is, and met on those terms, it’s pretty enjoyable.
Not good, but silly fun.
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
A driver takes an alien and his human interpreter for a drive around America.
There is not really a lot to say about this. While well written, it does not feel like it achieves it’s own goals. Throughout the book, and even with a full explanation at the end, we never really get a good feel for the aliens or the differences in the way they think and exist. Similarly, despite the presence of the alien guide, we never really get much insight into people, either from his learning about humans, or in contrast to the aliens. Without these insights, this is a slight story about a road trip that transitions into a soft alien invasion.
An average road trip story that was trying to be something more.
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
An old woman want to enjoy her tomatoes, and the weirdness of the desert won’t let her.
This is what I wanted out of a Hugo nominee. It starts off as a simple story about an Abuela, living in the desert, who discovers that someone is stealing her much coveted tomatoes. Right from the beginning the Abuela Harken is an amazing character, full of practical knowledge, and reserves of determination, even as she acknowledges that she is past her prime. As the world slowly expands out to encompass a weird desert of train gods, magical coyotes, and of course powerful old women who wander out into it, it all feels perfectly natural, and Vernon never makes the mistake of trying to explain too much.
The climax is the weakest part of the story, but it’s a dip from excellent to very good, before an excellent denoument.
Brilliantly written tale of a grandmother doing right in a strange desert, and tomatoes.
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
A princess and her servant try to protect her people from their occupiers, and their occupiers from their kingdom.
This is fantasy comfort food. A couple of well drawn characters, an interesting magic system based around semi-sentient jewelry and the mechanics of jewelry making, and a heroic plot. What sets it apart is the framing device – a travel log of the area written several hundred years after the main story, which gives the whole story a sense of tragic inevitability.
A solid fantasy story that is just a little bit better than it needs to be.
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
A shape shifting boy with power over bones is pressed into service to investigate a mine accident.
More a mood piece than anything else, and the mood of an alien desert is strong. Unfortunately it feels alien for aliens sake a lot of the time, with too little explained to be satisfying. Also the second person narration is a huge distraction from the story, with no narrative purpose.
A weird west story with too much emphasis on the weird.
The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
A story about a worker in the hotel where a group of astronauts going to Mars are staying.
It’s OK for science fiction to focus more on the fiction rather than the science. While this is a slice of life for a hotel worker when a group of Mars astronauts are staying, helping out her sick mum and trying to piece together who her father is, what it is really about is how science and exploration can provide meaning to anyone and everyone, and are valuable not just for the discoveries they make. It’s a shame that such a valuable message is undermined by a hanging plot thread about an air crash that skirts close to scientific conspiracism, though this was almost certainly a deliberate contrast.
A simple slice of life with a strong message about the intrinsic social value of discovery and exploration.
- The Tomato Thief
- The Jewel and Her Lapidary
- The Art of Space Travel
- You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay
- Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex
- Touring with the Alien
Notes: The Tomato Thief stands heads and shoulders above the other works in this category, then the next two are solid stories.