This year, I decided to read all of the 2023 Hugo novel nominees. The nominees were:

  • Nettle & Bone — T. Kingfisher
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society — John Scalzi
  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau — Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Spare Man — Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Legends and Lattes — Travis Baldtree
  • Nona the Ninth — Tamsyn Muir

I had read the Scalzi and the Baldtree already, and was reading the Moreno-Garcia when I decided on this course.

I hadn’t thought that highly of “Kaiju.” I have read a fair amount of Scalzi’s work, and enjoyed quite a bit. But that book wasn’t his best, in my view.

“Legends and Lattes” was really good. That was maybe my favorite book of the year, leading into this.

“Doctor Moreau” was really good, though a bit too romance-oriented for my tastes. But so well-written!

Having decided on reading these books, I knew I’d want to read the two precursor books for “Nona,” so saved that for last. After finishing the Moreno-Garcia book, I read “Nettle & Bone,” which had been the Hugo-winner. I enjoyed that book, for sure. It was a little bit… light. Serio-comic, but engaging.

I then read “The Spare Man.” It’s a mystery novel, set in a fairly distant future. Right up my alley. I haven’t read any of Robinette-Kowal’s books before — in fact Scalzi is the only writer on this list I had read works from, previously. This was a good, not great novel.

Then I moved on to the Tamsyn Muir books. I’m not really someone who can just jump to the third book in a series. No matter how stand-alone the novel is, supposedly, I know I’d be constantly asking myself… “Should I know this character?” “If I’d read the previous book(s), would this make sense?” “What am I missing because I didn’t read the other book(s)?” Same reason that I can’t start a Netflix series, or whatever, except with Season One.

So I read, via Audible, “Gideon the Ninth,” the first book in the Locked Tomb series. And damn, that is a fine book! “Gideon” is the best novel I have read since… well, I don’t know the last book I read that is its equal.

I went straight into “Harrow the Ninth.” Let me say this, first: I have written stories, unpublished, featuring a protagonist named Harrow going back to maybe 2017. So when I heard that there was a well-regarded novel whose protagonist was named “Harrow,” I was not inclined to like that book.

But “Harrow” is very good. If I hadn’t read “Gideon” first, “Harrow” might be my favorite of all of these books, described here. It is very good. Not quite “Gideon”-great, but very good.

I read all of these books on Audible except “Kaiju,” which I read in hard-cover. That’s a bit of challenge for the Muir books, given the number of characters and the depth of the narrative. They are complex books, told complexly. But the narrator on Audible, Moira Quirk, is damned good. I’m not sure how I would feel about these two books, having read them in printed form, relative to the audiobook. I would definitely encourage anyone reading them in audio form, to refer to the Dramatis Personae as a list or photo on their phone as a reference. I was late to this realization, and suffered for it.

But. They. Are. So. Damned. Good. Read them, if you haven’t.

I’m currently reading the actual 2023 Hugo nominee, “Nona the Ninth.” I can’t wait to read more from all of these terrific writers.

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