Hugo 2019 Novelette Nominations

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” by Zen Cho

Best Novelette nomination and Winner

Sweet. A touch uneven but a solid heart. Chinese dragons, karma, transformation, all rolled in to a modernized version of a traditional morality tale. Perhaps a little more modern than I like my stories, but I’m definitely not unhappy to see it was the winner.

Four pearls

A short sequel was posted online, but is no longer available as she is planning to self-publish a collection of shorts.



“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly

Best Novelette nomination

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections

This was an unexpected pleasure, right up the pleasure center of anyone who tends to mix their food and literary metaphors. A chef and her husband are co-opted into service of a traitor king. Part of the enjoyment is–like a multi-course meal–the suspense in the ending you surely know is coming.

Four and a half amuse-broches.



“The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer

Best Novelette nomination…

“It feels like ghost stories should mean something, but it’s not at all clear what. I managed to get about a hundred pages out of the question, “What do these mean, anyway?” when I wrote my doctoral dissertation to get my PhD in Folklore, all without reaching an actual conclusion.”

Again, not what I expected, but a very interesting discussion of stories, meaning, and of course, the author’s own experience. Presumed fictional,, but has the ring of emotional truths.

Four easy ghost stars.



“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory

Best Novelette nomination

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth

I’m a huge fan of Daryl Gregory, to the extent of adding physical books to my space-constrained shelves, but this one underwhelmed. I thought it surprisingly simplistic for what he is capable of. I could have also been looking for the darker undertones present in his other works.

Three stars.



“When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller

Best Novelette nomination

A really solid science fiction tale. A ruined planet where a desert people know how to survive, but not much else, and are afraid of the ghosts in the ruins.

“It made me understand, more than anything else, that there was no way for me to go back down and sit it out. To wait for another plan, a miracle, a change of rules, would have been madness.”

I would have been hard pressed between this and ‘Temporal,’ but I might have chosen this, partially for the unexpectedness of the ending.

Four and a half stars.



The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

Best Novelette nomination

Book Details

Not touching that story with a ten-foot pole, although I do enjoy Brooke Bolander. Animal triggers.


About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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19 Responses to Hugo 2019 Novelette Nominations

  1. cathepsut says:

    I am pleased that If At First… won! I cried like a baby at the end, when I read it last year! This story went an very unexpected way! Silly, cute and lovely.

  2. cathepsut says:

    Turns out I read all of these. And mostly enjoyed them, with the exception of Bolander, which I DNFd at 21%. Horrible and depressing. Plus I didn‘t like the writing.

    Maybe I should have a go at this year‘s nominations after all!

  3. Melora Campbell says:

    I really liked “The Thing About Ghost Stories” — I’ve never read her before. She did the dementia aspect very well and it made me cry.

  4. pdtillman says:

    Carol, I think I’ll switch to reading about the short-form award nominees/winners here! So much handier — & they won’t disappear!

    Sorry I didn’t squirrel away a copy of the Zen Cho sequel, which I think was even better than the first. Well, I’ll just have to buy it when she publishes her collection.

    Fully agree with both of you re the Bolander thing, which I avoided. Gah.

    • thebookgator says:

      Very annoying on the short-form awards, no? It’s why I decided to copy Dennis’ handy links here.

      I appreciate Cho’s sequel but somehow it didn’t feel like new ground, just emotionally satisfying. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  5. pdtillman says:

    Well, I’m almost sure I saw your review of “Do Not Look Back, My Lion,” by Alix E. Harrow, a Hugo nominee for best short story. Now I can’t find it. So, since this is a Hugo post:
    DNF, abandoned as unpromising. Bad Emperor, tough mom. Kid going to war: “A soldier does not ask for a good Life, only for a good Death,” Talaan intones. Blah blah blah.

    • thebookgator says:

      Hm, I might have added/looked under the premise that Harrow is an interesting writer, but the whole ‘war’ thing (of which a surprising number of authors who I seem to like for other reasons have dabbled in) is not my thing these days, for obvious reasons. Def. did not read it either. Good for us.

      • pdtillman says:

        Hi Carol.
        When/if/already you start on the 2020 Hugo noms, here’s a winner:
        “The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim, a 2020 Hugo nominee for Best Novelette. Outstanding story, that you are best going into cold, I think. 4 stars or better,

        Incidentally, I was thinking back to when I started this stuff, something over 60 years ago. Pretty much zero (obvious) women writing then. Of course they were, just hiding. Not that I would have partic. noticed when I was 12!
        So, some things change for the better. Some not.

        And, so far, the latest Strahan opus, “Made to Order” is shaping up as one of his best:
        The Vina Prasad opener is killer! Online reprint at Tor. Woot! Should be a win for her next year….

      • thebookgator says:

        Thanks for the link! I think i’m on hold until hotter weather, but we’ll see. I’m back to work, so that’s taking time 🙂

      • pdtillman says:

        Work! Imagine that! I do miss the paycheck….
        Hotter weather? Where are you? (not that its any of my business) North Pole? Southern Hemisphere?

      • thebookgator says:

        Midwest. I was thinking of July/Aug when the humidity/heat drives us all into air-conditioning. 😀

      • pdtillman says:

        Heh. We had one of our (very few) shorts-weather days yesterday here on the Calif coast. I’d like more warmth, actually. Altho, in our one or two-day ‘heat waves’, it does get very warm inside, upstairs!

  6. pdtillman says:

    Oh, and a kitten for you. Triplets!

    ❤️ 😻 😻 ❤️

  7. pdtillman says:

    Mountain lion kittens. Such odd little heads, with the ears ticking out to the side! Santa Monica Mtns, just W of LA. Dad had to cross a 10-lane freeway to meet up with Mom!

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