18 November 2012

A Double-header Master of the Precious/Gravity Well Post-strava-ganza

For those of you hop-ons who haven’t been a part of a Master of the Precious ceremony yet, it’s pretty simple.  Each decade (with the exception of the 2010’s, but they haven’t closed out yet), some author has one the Hugo Award multiple times.  Until now, SF has suffered over the indecision regarding which of the author’s titles was the better book.

After reading through each decade, I alone have acted as the supreme arbiter of taste and reason.  Much as I do in the case of the three Deathmatches, I bring the world the most important answers. 

After that, I think I’ll throw in the Gravity Well too.  Why not.

The 1980’s brought us a near-record number of repeat winners.  Somehow I was able to procrastinate this long without talking about any of these so here goes, the ultra-super-mega MoP showdown featuring C.J. Cherryh, David Brin, and Orson Scott Card.  Some of these comparisons will be easier than others and I’ll start with the easiest.

C.J. Cherryh:
1989 – Cyteen

This one is a no-brainer.  Do I need to justify it?!  Alright then…

Cyteen is now one of my *all-time* favorites.
Cyteen scored of the few perfect HEP scores of 25 that I have ever given out.
Cyteen is a million times more compelling.
I actually cared about Cyteen’s characters whereas I can’t name very many from Downbelow Station anymore.

When it comes to C.J. Cherryh’s Hugo winners from the 1980’s:
Cyteen is clearly the Master of the Precious.

And while I still admit Downbelow deserves a re-read, I have to say it:
Downbelow Station is just a stupid, fat Hobbit.

David Brin:
1984 – Startide Rising
1988 – The Uplift War

This one is a bit harder.

The goofy factor is a tough one, but I think I have to give it to the Dolphins of Startide Rising.
Future-gadgetry, alien-ness, and all-around coolness of stuff is really hard to call.  The Orca was pretty BA in Startide Rising, but that’s about the only thing that clearly surpasses Uplift War.  So I’m giving that non-category to The Uplift War.
HEP scores are tied!
The tie breaker has to go to The Uplift War for the more intense depiction of another species struggling with the most horrific and depressing aspects of the human condition, if you can call it that anymore.

I really hate to have to call this one, but you know I must.

When it comes to David Brin’s Hugo winners from the 1980’s:
The Uplift War is the Master of the Precious.

Which of course means (and no one is allowed to be mad at me for saying this):
Startide Rising is just a stupid, fat Hobbit.

Orson Scott Card:
1986 – Ender’s Game

And the hardest of all.

Ender’s Game wins on HEP scores.
Speaker for the Dead was clearly more intellectually stimulating.
One time when I was listening to Ender’s Game, I was so impressed that I was pounding the passenger seat in the car.
Another time when I was listening to Speaker, I actually said, “wow” all extra breathy and reverentially (to be fair, then I asked myself, “did I just say that?”).

This is starting to feel like comparing apples and oranges.

I listened to both of these as audiobooks and while both were pretty high quality, Ender’s Game was the clear winner.
Ender’s Game had more of a page-turner factor.
Speaker for the Dead kept making me think of the Foundation series.
Speaker for the Dead elicited very strong emotions.

Hey people.  I don’t know how to do this so I’m gonna call it like this: in the future, if I’m going to pick up a OSC title to re-read, it is very unlikely that it will be Speaker for the Dead.

Before I say it, know that these are two very different books and very hard to compare.  Nevertheless, I can’t have history waffling over this for centuries so here goes.

When it comes to Orson Scott Card’s Hugo winners from the 1980’s:
Ender’s Game is the Master of the Precious.

Insert frantic qualifier:
Speaker for the Dead is just a stupid, fat Hobbit.

##    ##    ##

So, I normally dedicate an entire post the Gravity Well Award, but this one is a little more clear cut than is usual.  As you know, this can mean different things in different decades but the winner of the 1980’s Gravity Well covers just about any possible meaning.

There were a number of titles that were pretty hard-hitting or gritty or depressing or philosophical or depressingly philosophical or hard science or (what you might call) hard theology or just plain difficult to read.

Only one title captured all of that.

Cyteen, as you know, destroyed my precious reading schedule (though it may have had help from my stupid training schedule and I think I might read it faster next time).  Maybe less theological discussion than others, but certainly as emotionally draining as anything I’ve ever read.  There are few books that I can confidently place within my top-5 of all time, but this is one of them.

I still can’t get over the concept of tape sessions and deep sets.  I actually regularly refer to really thorough examinations/investigations of any kind as deep sets now (even if only to myself).

Slavery, cloning, sex crimes, murder, planetary sabotage, genetics, raising a horse, children in live-ammo military training.  I’m not sure I can even think of everything that qualifies this one, but man.  Just…man…

I’d be happy to admit that there were actually quite a few titles from the 1980’s that would have been fighting pretty hard for the Gravity Well.  The 1980’s, apart from being the decade of the 600+ page book, was also the decade of debilitating tension and anxiety.  SF was really livin in the 80’s.

Still, Cyteen was really something else and I have no trouble naming it, The Gravity Well.

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