Best of 2014: Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice
One of the most important “Best of” lists appeared today, Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice. Over the past several years, this has been a great indicator of the eventual Hugo and Nebula slates. These choices are all by SFF reviewers, true genre-enthusiasts, and they tend to be tapped far more into fandom than the Mainstream Lists I’ve been collating earlier. As such, this list will factory heavily into my 2015 Hugo and 2015 Nebula predictions.
Along with io9.com, Tor.com is also one of the more viewed SFF websites, and posts like this organize and focus the Hugo and Nebula conversation. It was last year’s list that crystallized Ancillary Justice as a leading Hugo and Nebula contender, and look how that played out.
So, how do things break down this year? Tor.com asks each of 11 reviewers to list 2-3 books, so here’s the list ranked by number of mentions. For simplicity, I’ve only listed novels; the broader list includes collections and graphic novels.
The Goblin Emperor, Kate Addison (on 3 lists)
The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman (on 2 lists)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (on 2 lists)
Fool’s Assassin, Robin Hobb (on 2 lists)
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
Smiler’s Fair, Rebecca Levene
Nigerians in Space, Deji Olukoton
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor
The Fever, Megan Abbott
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
The Echo, James Smythe
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
The Burning Dark, Adam Christopher
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
Heap House, Edward Carey
Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
The World Exchange, Alena Gradeon
All Those Vanished Engines, Paul Park
And the list is filled with other short mentions (books that almost made the reviewer’s Top 3).
This is a broad list, and we can see the particularly likes and dislikes of the various reviewers emerging. That’s why the “multiple mention” authors are the most important; that shows strong, broad sentiment for specific works.
Addison’s strong showing is the biggest take-away here. At least for this group of reviewers, that’s the book that has emerged as the “must read” of 2014; I’ll be moving Addison up in my Predictions accordingly. Likewise, City of Stairs showed well, and I think both books now have an excellent chance of making the Nebula and Hugo slate.
Hobb did well, and she probably deserves a Hugo/Nebula for the scope of her long and important career. These kind of epic fantasy novels, though, have historically not grabbed Hugo or Nebula noms. But is that changing? Last year, Wheel of Time fans ran a successful campaign to get Jordan onto the ballot. Could something similar happen for Lev Grossman’s now completed Magicians trilogy? The popularity and critical sentiment seem to be there for Grossman, and I have to imagine the Magicians would have a serious shot at winning the Hugo if it were nominated.
My current Hugo and Nebula favorite, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, didn’t do as well, with only one mention. Other potential candidates like William Gibson’s The Peripheral or Peter Watts’ Echopraxia didn’t get any love. I’m surprised no one even mentioned Andy Weir’s The Martian, given its runaway success in 2014.
We’re moving ever closer to awards season, and lists like this are going to set the tone for the debates we’ll have in 2015. So, did Tor.com do a good job?