Reading for the Hugos 2016: Three novels, one of them graphic 8/25

A few weeks ago, I came upon several mentions of The Gracekeepers by Scottish author Kirsty Logan while preparing a Station Eleven readalike list for work. It turned out the audiobook was checked in at the library, so I figured I’d give it a chance while waiting for my other holds to arrive. It wouldn’t otherwise have been my first choice: the cover art on the American edition alone, although lovely, didn’t really suggest that I was the intended target audience, but I decided to give it a try regardless. And so very pleased that I did. I adored this book.

The plot of The Gracekeepers admittedly moves quite slowly and Logan leaves quite a few elements of her world only vaguely explained, two things I noticed criticized by reviewers on Goodreads but which worked well for me on both counts: Yes, the plot develops slowly, but Logan’s prose is so lush and gorgeous I really didn’t care. And, yes, there are elements of her world that Logan never fully explains, but I actually love that kind of worldbuilding. A world with vague hints of the alien and fantastic goes much further with me than a world in which everything is fleshed out in detail.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

I also enjoyed Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel Signal to Noise, which I felt was a solid debut, with good plotting and a novel take on some classic themes about adolescent friendships spinning out of control and the regret that later comes with mature reflection. As far as reading it with next year’s Hugos in mind, unfortunately, it reads a lot like a YA novel. That, for me, is most definitely not itself a criticism, but YA novels just don’t do well among Hugo voters.

Finally, I finished The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, which is quite a tome by graphic novel standards, nearly five hundred pages in length. Scanning through the reviews, the book seems to have evoked strong feelings on both sides of the spectrum. Some of the criticisms do seem justified – the one major female character is a fairly textbook manic pixie dream girl, and the book can get a bit navel-gazey at times – but I love graphic novels that take on weighty themes like this one, and I’d still place it among the better graphic novels I’ve read this year.

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