Weighing the Hugo Nominees


A Hugo Report

All right folks, your time is running out. Ballots must be in for the Hugo Awards by 8 July. Tick! Tock!

I know, I know. You're having trouble making up your minds aren't you? Well, never fear, ole Taleswapper is here to help you out. I've gathered together some important data points that might help you make a decision.

First, let me help you by summarizing the books, because Lord knows there were an awful lot of pages to get through, not all of them available through the American market, either. In addition to the little Hugo Tales, I've written a one-sentence summary of each book. How can I distill the wit and wisdom of two thousand, eight hundred and eighteen pages into five sentences? Pure chutzpah, I tell you.

Summary

(If you're looking for funny summaries, maybe you should try "Titanic in 30 seconds (with Bunnies)")

Blurbs

If that wasn't helpful, perhaps you could decide based on the blurbs. There are a bunch of good blurbs on the backs of these books. Neil Gaiman said this about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last 70 years.
Which, you must admit, is a very nice thing to say. At least it's actually about the book; for The Algebraist, William Gibson had to say something nice about the author: "Banks is a phenomenon."

Which only makes me think of Kermit the Frog.

Well, Michael Swanwick trumps them both by complimenting the writer and the work. He has this to say about Iron Sunrise:

A carnival of ideas disguised as a space opera, a joyous romp through the toy box of the imagination by a guy who's universally acknowledged to be the Next Big Thing in science fiction.
However, let's face it, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Swanwick are fiction authors. They are paid to lie. It's their job. Perhaps we can put a little more faith in comments about River of Gods by the New Statesmen: "He will be discovered with shouts of joy."

That explains why the book store was so noisy when I stopped by. Apparently, though, The Washington Post Book World said this about Iron Council:

Compulsively readable ... There are scenes here that ... are impossible to expunge from memory.
Which begs the question: Are these scenes you really want trapped in your head for the rest of your breathing days? Also, two sets of ellipses in one quote are a bit hard to figure out how to take. I suppose that all of these blurbs are going to be pretty subjective, so perhaps we should move to more objective measures.

"Objective" Measures

Well, all of the books were too heavy for the kitchen scale and too light for the bathroom scale, so our first measure will need to be page count. In the editions we bought, Iron Sunrise easily wins the brevity race at 355 pages, but if you're into a long slog, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell blows the others away at 782 pages. River of Gods tries to catch up, but even with a tacked on glossary and track list only comes in at 583 pages. Iron Council (564) and The Algebraist (534) fill in the gaps.

Finally, we did some high-faluting technical analysis of the text to rank the books by lexical density and readability according to the Gunning-Fog index. I took a long paragraph from page 325 of all the books except Iron Sunrise. For Iron Sunrise, I moved to page 326 because 325 was so barren. I typed these paragraphs into the textalyser tool.

My selection of pages may have affected the outcome, because Iron Sunrise came in as the most lexically dense at 94.1%. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell trailed the pack at 69%. The middle ground were taken up by Iron Council (80.7%), River of Gods (87.8%), and The Algebraist (88.5%).

I'm not really sure what the Gunning Fog index is, and I can't be bothered to look it up, but Iron Council had the highest score at 10.7. Of course, it's possible that a low score is what you want, so you should go for Iron Sunrise at 5.2. The others cluster around 7: River of Gods at 6, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at 7, and The Algebraist at 7.6.

Conclusion

So there you go, for what it's worth, etc. I don't think we can really conclude anything from this analysis except that it's really important that you think for yourself and go out there and vote. Otherwise, I'm going to be the one picking your Hugo winner for you, and you don't want that.

I suppose that I should make one final note: Two of the books share the word "Iron" in the tile, and two of the authors' names are derivativations of Ian. If you're looking for something unique, then, I suppose you only have one choice.

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