Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

The winner of the Hugo award for best novel of 1961 (the year I was born), I found this an interesting novel that is hard to categorize. Is it post apocalyptic science fiction? Black comedy? Does it make a statement about where the world may have been headed during the cold war (and maybe in the future)? Is it for or against religion?

Written in three parts, each separated by several hundred years but taking place in the same location, it is a long and sweeping novel. I'll need some time to absorb it.

Recommended, even for non-fans of science fiction. But be prepared to look up some Latin words and phrases.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: A Case of Conscience by James Blish

This was the Hugo award winner for best novel of 1959.

I was familiar with Blish through his novelisations of Star Trek episodes, but hadn't read any of his own original writing.

This is an interesting novel where the main character is a Jesuit priest who is one of a group to visit a planet with intelligent alien life. The aliens and their society raise religious, moral, and philosophical questions that the character struggles with. It also depicts an interesting vision of a post cold war 21st century Earth.

I found the latter half of the novel less interesting than the first, and the ending not particularly satisfying, but enjoyed it overall.

Hugo Winner Book Review: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Another Hugo award winner by Robert A. Heinlein, this was best novel for 1960. I had read it before, but read it again for this Hugo award reading spree.

This is Heinlein's best known novel, and was made into a Hollywood film in 1997.

Less so than some of his early novels, like Beyond This Horizon but more so than his juveniles like Double Star, the book promotes Heinlein's political views and beliefs about the military. The Wikipedia article has good coverage of the novel and some of its more controversial elements.

While I strongly disagree with many of his political beliefs, it is a well-written gripping story. Good science fiction is often controversial and encourages the reader to think, and Heinlein certainly was one to encourage people to think.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: The Big Time by Fritz Leiber

This book marks the tenth novel in my quest to read all of the Hugo Award winners.

The Big Time was the winner of best novel for 1958. I found this book a little difficult to read and hard to follow. All the action takes place in one small location over a continuous period of time. Without giving away any spoilers, I thought the concept of the novel was interesting -- and it had a lot of similarities to Asimov's The End of Eternity, which was published three years earlier.

Incidentally, this novel won for 1958 and the last one I reviewed here was for 1956. There was no Hugo winner for best novel in 1957.

I'll get an opportunity to read another novel by the same author when I get to the winner for 1965 and will give him another chance.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: Double Star by Robert H. Heinlein

Winner of the 1956 Hugo award for best novel, this is classic Heinlein in his prime, during a period when he won six Hugo awards over a period of 15 years.

I'm was astonished to find that I had never read this one before. I finished it over a period of a couple of days, reminding me that good fiction can be a joy to read.

It is not a deep novel or one that makes you think, but it has a gripping plot, fine characterisation, and all the hallmarks of his best works including some references to things that would appear in later novels.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: They'd Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley

This book won the Hugo award for best novel in 1955. It has been described by some as the worst book to win the Hugo award.

It has an interesting plot concept, some moments of good prose, and presents some unique ideas, but I found it very uneven and hard to get through in places, and left me feeling unsatisfied when I finished it.

By the standards of the science dime fiction pulp magazines of the 1950s it would have made an interesting story, but it pales in comparison to later novels by the top of the field like Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Continuing with my review of Hugo award winning novels, this was the winner in 1954.

What can I say about Fahrenheit 451 - hasn't everyone read it? I've probably read it a dozen times over the years and reading it again was a pleasure. The novel is a classic and an example of some of Bradbury's best writing. It is also the only novel he considered science fiction (he considered The Martian Chronicles to be more fantasy that science fiction as it features a romanticised version of Mars that could support human life). Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that the novel is more relevant today that ever before, and presents a future that bears many frightening resemblances to where the world is headed today. I would consider it required reading for any fan of science fiction or just good fiction writing in general.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hugo Winner Book Review: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

This book won the first Hugo award for best novel in 1953. I found the novel difficult to get through, although about half way through I found it easier going. It uses a writing style that features long passages of dialog as well as some unusual ways to present characters who are communicating by telepathy.

All told, I was undecided whether this was an uneven novel that was hard to read, or if it was a groundbreaking book with a unique and innovative writing style - maybe both. I can see how it influenced later science fiction novels in the detective and cyberpunk genres.