Shiver me Timbers! The 2020 Hugo Finalists – Part Two – Novelettes

Ahoy there me mateys!  A short while back, I wrote a post discussing me initial thoughts on the 2020 Hugo awards.  At that time, I had read none of the works in the novelette category.  I have since remedied the situation and so here be mini-reviews of the novelettes and me pick for the 2020 winner.

The novelettes are from the list as published on with the quoted descriptions taken from the publisher where possible.  Click on the story title to read the novelettes themselves.

Best Novelette

First sentence “This is a love story, the last of a series of moments when we meet.”

Thoughts: This was a weird story with a cool concept and alien artifacts but I didn’t really like it.  I did sympathize with the main character’s sadness though.

  • “Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey (Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue, September/October 2019)

First sentence “When I wake, I am curled up as small as a seed.”

Thoughts:  Goodness this was interesting.  A human girl is always in pain and her only relief comes from those times she turns into a wolf.  But the wolf causes damage to other people and there is a price to be paid.  How can the girl resolve the two sides of her being?  This was satisfying.

First sentence “It was a nice enough cabin, if Zanna ignored the dead wasps.”

Thoughts:  I loved this one!  A murder mystery writer goes to a remote cabin to finish her novel and things go wrong.  I was not expecting the ending at all.  It was grand.  The author was nominated for a Hugo last year in the best short story category last year.  I really need to track down her novel.

  • Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin (Forward Collection (Amazon))

What will become of our self-destructed planet? The answer shatters all expectations in this subversive speculation from the Hugo Award–winning author of the Broken Earth trilogy.

Thoughts:  I usually love this author’s work but I didn’t like this one from the very beginning and it was abandoned half way through.  I didn’t like the tone or the use of second person.  I was bored.

  • “For He Can Creep”, by Siobhan Carroll (, 10 July 2019)

A dark fantasy about Jeoffry, a cat who fights demons, a poet, who is Jeoffry’s human confined to an insane asylum, and Satan, who schemes to end the world.

Thoughts: This style was not for me even if I adore cats.  It was sort of tedious to read.  I did enjoy the final poem.

  • “Omphalos”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))

First sentence: “Lord, I place myself in your presence, and ask you to shine your light into my heart as I look back upon this day, so that I may see more clearly your grace in everything that has happened.”

Thoughts:  This was very well-written but a bit too philosophical for me.  I enjoyed that the main character was a female archaeologist and the discussions about measuring time through artifacts.  This is about what happens to faith when scientific advances keep occurring.

Now listen up me hearties, the decision has been made:

Hoped for Winner: In terms of fun it would be “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, by Sarah Pinsker but when I really sit down and think about it, I do think “Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey speaks to me more in terms of thinking about it after the fact and it’s themes.

So there ye have it.  Me Hugo thoughts and wishes for novelettes.  Not a great bunch for me overall.  I will keep y’all posted as I continue readin’ through the nominees before the winners be  revealed on 8/02/2020.  In the meantime:

Always remember:

Q: What do pirates and pimps have in common?

A: They both say “YO HO!” and walk with a limp!

Hardy har har!

x The Captain

14 thoughts on “Shiver me Timbers! The 2020 Hugo Finalists – Part Two – Novelettes

  1. Holy buckets! You read ALL the novelettes so quickly! I’m impressed. How do you acquire the majority of your books? I tend to use the public library system, so I find it hard to get books from the current year quickly.

    I hope that your guess is correct! I’m sorry that, overall, this wasn’t a great set for you this year. It sounds like they won’t all be up my alley either. The only one I already have is the Jemisin. Though… I do love how she uses second person in most of her novels. I’ll be reading that soon.

    How does the Hugo team define Novelette?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the novelettes and many of the short stories are free online. I do get most of me books from the library or eArcs these days. I tend to buy only the books that I will reread over and over. There are some authors that I support by buying their books outright. And occasionally I let meself go to library sales. But given how I am still trying to trim down and purge, I am not allowing meself to go back to those sales any time soon.

      Hugo definitions:
      Best Novella: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.
      Best Novelette: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words.
      Best Short Story: Awarded for science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words.

      A novelette is weird to me because I personally feel it is a short story. But whatever, I get they try to have distinctions. Plus it is good for the author’s to have another chance to have their work get recognition.

      This year is not really a win for me in terms of the Hugos but given how much I like much of the non-popular stuff that be okay. I still like to play along – to a point.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Great Purge is a slow process in this house. I get all these warm feelings of nostolgia and… yeah, it’s not easy. Plus with all the donation sites closed, I don’t know what to do with the things I want to purge! Um, hide them in the basement? Who knows.

        I’m glad that the Hugos have firm definitions of what fits into each category. The Hugos are… well, I don’t like all their award processes, we’ll just put it that way. This helps a lot.

        Do you see out nominated books on NetGalley when the list is published? My library’s ebook selection is difficult to access in the current environment due to how many people are requesting books. I’m often not that patient. XD I’ve given up on NetGalley, but I’m willing to explore again if I can find novellas and novelettes!


  2. I need to read more of Pinsker’s work (including this novelette). I’ve really enjoyed what I have read of hers.

    Of these, I have read “For He Can Creep,” which I thought was kinda odd, and I listened to the audio version of “Emergecy Skin.” I don’t know if I would have liked “Emergency Skin” in a paper or ebook format, but I really liked the audio. It was narrated by Jason Isaacs, and it made the second person POV work so incredibly well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit that I had to look up Jason Issacs. I recognized him once I saw him. He does have a good voice so I can see how that would improve the novelette. Not that I am going to go back and listen to it though. Glad to hear someone else thought the cat story was odd. The little blurb made me excited. Alas.
      x The Captain


      1. I don’t blame you. I enjoyed listening to the story, and I’m not planning on going back to listen to it again either. Audio did seem to be the best way to enjoy that story, though.

        And yeah. That cat story was weird. It also made me feel like I was missing something huge because I couldn’t figure out who the humans were supposed to be.


  3. I haven‘t looked at the awards lists in detail, despite reading most of the Nebula and Hugo shots and novelettes of the past two years. I might have another look after all. Had a quick skim over your post — don‘t want to spoil myself — and I think of those I only read Emergency Skin so far…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard such good things about that title including yer review. I need to get to it one day. Once i clear out the 18 of the 20 in 2020 books and the 16 arcs. Sigh. And I just requested the sequel Koli book cause I couldn’t help it.
      x The Captain


  4. 🤣 They should also ask “where’s the rum gone?”
    I need to track down some of these stories, Pinsker’s and Gailey especially. I like Chiang’s stories, so might give this one a chance too. Thanks for the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

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