The Captain’s Log – a song for a new day (Sarah Pinsker) – did this book deserve to win the Nebula?

Ahoy there me mateys!  The title of me post is not meant to be click bait but I am still not going to change it because it captures the conflicted feelings of the moment.  I just finishing reading the 2020 Nebula winner and I am not sure of how I rate this one.  Maybe writing me thoughts out will clarify things.

I previously read some of the author’s short fiction including “The Court Magician” (Hugo nominated 2019), “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” (Hugo nominated 2020), and “Our Lady of the Open Road” (Nebula winner 2015).  I had been meaning to read this novel and immediately picked it up once the Nebula winners were announced.  I did not know until the Acknowledgments of the novel that the “Our Lady” story was the impetus for this first novel.  Luce, one of the main characters, felt so familiar and that now makes sense.

This novel is a dystopian where the world has had a global pandemic and the result is that public crowds are illegal, most people stay in their homes and connect through virtual reality, and the Amazon-like business called “Superwally” controls the economy.  Luce is a singer whose fame was just taking off in the times Before everything crashed.  In the After she performs in illegal underground venues to small crowds who brave the danger.  Also in the After is Rosemary whose life changes when she quits Superwally to take a job as a recruiter for StageHoloLive where all entertainment is in VR and not live at all.  Of course the two characters’ worlds collide with unintended consequences.

I believe the characters are where the story shined.  I loved Luce for her artistic drive and how she treats other people in her life.  I know people like her in me real life and so she felt real and I related immensely with her character.  I was a complete fan of Rosemary at the beginning, only to flounder when she starts making horrible mistakes.  How she takes responsibility and grows from the experience gradually had me swinging back around to root for her.  But best of all was how the choices of both characters influence the other in terms of character growth and plot direction.

I also thought the writing of this novel was fantastic and evocative.  There were some issues though.  The beginning of the novel was a bit rough because the timelines were hard to follow.  They switch back and forth between Before and After but it was hard to judge how much time had passed.  Eventually both POVs take place in the After and that transition in time was confusing.

Another “problem” was that the story and world felt so familiar that the entire story could be happening right now despite the technology like advanced VR and self-driving cars.  It didn’t quite feel like a dystopian but it didn’t quite feel contemporary either.  I am still conflicted about that no matter how much I think about it.

Most of the recent award winners (Locus, Hugo, & Nebula) I think about and enjoy either showcase a) a different feel in terms of writing style, b) world building that feels new and exciting, or c) commentary on society structures and morays that provoke intense thought.  Pinsker’s novel didn’t do any of these things for me and frankly feels so realistic that I almost felt underwhelmed by a lot of it.  I am not sure if that realism is brilliant and thus should be award-winning or is getting more credit just because of the pandemic angle.  I also know the author is a talented writer and so feel like I don’t want to belittle her work.

Or am just being weird because of me background.  I am not a person for whom music is a key to their inner soul and being.  I love music and have favorites that speak to me soul but can (and have) gone though periods where I don’t listen to a single song for many months at a time.  Also I prefer recorded music in general.  Well except for the occasional symphony or opera.  I don’t have a good ear but I do have problems with unevenly mixed sound.  It just plain irks me and is a major problem at most live concerts I attend.  I also don’t like crowds.  This novel is absolutely excellent at discussing the realities of touring, music, and how live music can enhance the enjoyment.  I am just not in this group.  Strange because I absolutely love live theatre for many of the same reasons that people love live music.

The other issue about the novel unfortunately stems from comparison.  Ye see one of me favorite dystopian novels ever is station eleven.  It also has great characters, deals with performing, has a hopeful ending, and shows the before and after.  I just happen to think that it is also better written and structured.  That novel felt familiar, believable, and realistic in the same way Pinsker’s does but station eleven absolutely devastated me emotionally.  Pinsker’s never drew me in and I always felt outside of the story.  I don’t know if that is because of me relationship with music or because of the current pandemic or what.

I have also had a hard time tracking down other bloggers’ opinions on the Nebula winners.  Maybe because there was a virtual ceremony this year?  I was underwhelmed by the choices for the Hugos this year too.  I recognize the writing skill of song and enjoyed the story but didn’t really get what made it special enough to be the award winner.  Out of the Nebula nominees, I would have been much more satisfied if gods of jade and shadow would have won.  I am still conflicted about how to rate this one in me noggin.  Any thoughts from the crew?

Arrrr!

Goodreads’ website has this to say about the novel:

To visit the author’s website go to:

Sarah Pinsker – Author

To buy the book go to:

a song for a new day – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

16 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – a song for a new day (Sarah Pinsker) – did this book deserve to win the Nebula?

  1. Great post! Honestly this doesn’t necessarily sound like a book I’d choose as a winner either- reading about music also does not appeal to me much. I’m glad you liked the characters at least! Hopefully next year will have more exciting titles for both the Nebula and Hugo. I haven’t seen as much excitement for them this year but would like to read along more in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad the blog inspired me to read more of nominees and that other bloggers do the same. It is enriching to see which stories work for other readers and why. Much like yer posts about the women’s prize. I don’t think I would ever want to read all of the women’s prize books cause I think the time crunch would stress me out. But I do think next year I will pick a good sounding one of the list and try it. I have no idea what books from this year could possibly by nominated for the nebula and hugos. This year has been so weird, I am not even sure I have a good idea of what has been published. But it sure will be interested to find out.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, one of the best things about book prizes in general is seeing so many people reading and talking about the same set of books, with all different opinions on them! It creates a space for community and discussion, which is a beautiful thing. You’re right about the time crunch though, especially with any prizes that have a large number of novels. I love the Women’s Prize but it can feel like a big commitment; I’d never be able to keep up with all the prizes that interest me, and it’s tough to choose. Some years things line up just right though, with timing, easy access to books, and a list full of titles you’re excited about, and it’s great to jump on board then! Hopefully the next round will be more exciting for the Nebula and Hugos, this has been a very strange year all around. And of course, I’d love to see your thoughts on any Women’s Prize titles you might pick up next year! It’s always a good time, comparing thoughts. 🙂

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  2. I do want to read it, but haven’t yet. I also have wondered how much of this winning was due to the RL pandemic mirroring the book’s plot. But since I haven’t read it I feel like I can’t really judge.

    I remember reading the blurb for the book and thinking it sounded an awful lot like “Our Lady of the Open Road,” which enjoyed but didn’t love, and that’s one reason I haven’t picked up Song For a New Day yet.

    I was hoping Gods of Jade and Shadow would win, also. I really enjoyed that book.

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    1. I thought the short story was interesting but didn’t love it either. I don’t know if I would have picked up the novel had I known it was an expanded version of that story. Actually I be glad I didn’t know because I did read it and have been thinking about it a lot. Just not for the reasons that other crew members do. Glad to hear ye agree with me on who the winner should have been. Arrrr!
      x The Captain

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  3. I liked this book a lot, gave it 4 stars, but I’m not surprised to see it win the Nebula as it’s a SFWA award and Sarah does a lot with the organization so she’s pretty popular there and awards almost always end up being influenced by popularity.
    All that being said, I did love this book. Sarah is also a musician and I think that comes through in almost all of her work, but especially this one. I also read this before the pandemic so it seemed slightly more futuristic at that time (now it just feels like reality). I don’t think this is supposed to be very far in our future (it’s a near future sci-fi) anyway. I enjoyed what she did with the corporations merging and taking advantage of people being stuck home to create new products because all that felt like exactly what would happen and in some ways a lot of stuff she wrote about here came true which was kind of wild. I will say that Sarah herself never thought of this as dystopian until someone pointed it out to her and I think she reluctantly agrees that it’s dystopian (but still hopeful so maybe dystopia-lite lol). Definitely not what someone looking for an actual dystopia would probably classify as such though.
    I agree that at the beginning the time shifts kept throwing me off!
    Anyway, I do love Sarah’s writing and the more I think on this one the more I appreciate it from when I had read it last year. She has a new book coming out next year as well, I already pre-ordered that one. 🙂 Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank ye so much for this fascinating comment. It was excellent to get yer viewpoints about having read this before the pandemic and liking music the way ye do. I don’t know much about SFWA or the author so that insight was interesting too. I have to admit that the way corporations handle entertainment did feel real and had interesting connotations. The First Mate and I had many debates since I read this book about the merits of live music v. recorded, film v. live theatre, and our preferences for each. I didn’t know that she had a new book coming out so I went and looked it up. This is the we are satellites? I would read something else by her. Though I think I will read reviews of it first.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t even think about live vs recorded music. You’re right in that they both have merits but live shows can be so awesome. Last year we went to see one of my favorite EDM performers live in a little club and you wouldn’t have thought it would be any better live because it’s EDM but it was such a good show, the crowd was giving off so much energy!
        Yes, We Are Satellites is the new one. I know Sarah’s stuff verges to the more literary side of things but I really love her writing (I’m not usually into thinking too much when I read but you can’t help it with her work). I’ll probably have a review of it go up after it comes out since I have the new one on pre-order. 🙂

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  4. Pft, I’m down with this title. You shouldn’t have to apologize! This doesn’t feel like click bait, but instead like you have real passion to share! It made me dive in deeply. 🙂

    I’m sorry this didn’t work for you. Have you read other Nebula book nominees to compare? I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January and loved it, but didn’t expect it to win for the 3 reasons you mentioned above — I liked the unique world-building, but portals are not that new. There’s no real commentary on society at large and the writing style isn’t unique. But it’s still fun.

    I wonder if due to COVID it was harder for people to read this year? I saw a huge decline in bloggers reading in Feb-April. That’s prime Nebula reading time!! Plus pandemic-based Sci-Fi? Yeah, I bet people who hadn’t read the book voted for this because it’s “timely”.

    I definitely want to read Song for a New Day now, however. Music is key to my life and I feel so weird not playing all the time. Perhaps I’ll find depth to it your theatre brain didn’t? 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear me post title made ye excited. I cannot wait for ye to read this book and share yer musician viewpoint! Do it! Out of the six nominees, I completely read three of them, abandoned two of them, and have no interest in one of them. While I do think gods of jade and shadow deserved to win, I would have understood if a memory called empire had won instead. I didn’t finish it but it did hit all three of the things I think an award winner should do. I just couldn’t get into it for those reasons. I wouldn’t be adverse to trying it again but as a mood reader have no urge to do so at this point.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually loved this, but I didn’t expect it to win. I thought Ten Thousand Doors would win, honestly. But I see your points, and it’s hard to beat Station Eleven, imo😁

    Liked by 1 person

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