Impressions of the Nebula-nominated Novelettes

Whew!  I barely made it, but I finished the last of the 2014 Nebula nominees for best novelette with a few hours to spare, and got my votes in before last night’s deadline.  So what did I think of the novelettes? Hmmm . . . a real mixed bag, in my opinion.

I enjoyed two of them quite a lot.  One I liked, but not as much as the first two.  Two others I didn’t care much for, but I could appreciate the craft—they just weren’t my kind of story.  And the last one?  Well . . . I simply couldn’t finish it, no matter how hard I tried to slog through it—believe me I tried several times.  But as time wound down, I realized that if I disliked the story that much, I certainly wasn’t going to vote for it, so it didn’t matter if I finished it.  That says something, too, because I hate to leave a story unfinished, even if I don’t care much for it.

I don’t tend to be a big fan of Richard Bowes’ work, but I thoroughly enjoyed his “Sleepwalking Now and Then.”  Sort of a ghost story, sort of a mystery, this story was sumptuously written with an engaging premise and a neat narrative voice.  Nicely done.  The other story that I really liked was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i.”  This is a vampire story on the surface, but really it’s a tale about wartime collaborators.  It’s set in Hawai’i, so perhaps I liked it so much because I lived in the islands long enough to fully appreciate the way Ms. Johnson thoroughly captured Hawai’i in her subtle descriptions.  The story was moving and the ending powerful (even if a bit ambiguous).  If you haven’t already guessed, one of these two stories got my vote.

I also enjoyed “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado, mainly for the way she constructed and told the tale.  Unfortunately, the “secret” of the main character’s ribbon was supposed to be shocking (I think), but I wasn’t surprise at all.  I’ve seen the idea before in a book of “scary” stories for kids, no less.  The story lost points there, but the writing was exceptional so I could mostly overlook that and enjoy the tale.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the Nebula nominated novelettes, I suggest you check them out.  You likely won’t like them all—you might not even finish them all—but you might find a great story among them.

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About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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