Hugo Review – Best Novella – The Ice Owl

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I  am now on to the category of Best Novella.

This is my review of The Ice Owl by Carolyne Ives Gilman.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS.

Synopsis: Thorn is a teen-aged interplanetary drifter, currently residing in the city of Glory to God with her flakey mother, Maya. When her school is burned down, Thorn needs to find a tutor, and does so in the mysterious Magister Pregaldin who has secrets of his own, which seem to relate to the Gmintan Holocide. Thorn carries out her own quiet investigation into her tutor and is surprised by what she discovers.

Plot: I don’t think there really was a plot to this. Thorn finds a new teacher, discovers he has secrets, and tries to work out what they are.

Characters: Thorn seems to be somewhat of a child prodigy, and everything is seen through her viewpoint. We’re only given glimpses of the other two characters, her mother Maya who seems irresponsible, and the Magister who seems knowledgeable yet mysterious. Whilst our limited viewpoint leaves Maya and the Magister somewhat two dimensional, we get enough insight into Thorn to see how well rounded she is.

Scope: The universe seems pretty broad in scope, multiple planets, interplanetary travel, different classes, etc. The story seemed very narrow in scope, focusing on a period of a couple of weeks in this city.

Writing: Nothing registered as particularly brilliant nor particularly ordinary.

Pacing: The pacing seemed quite reasonable, a slow build up towards an expected climax which never eventuated.

Other Comments: After finishing the novella, I metaphorically scratched my head in puzzlement. It didn’t really seem to have a point, nor a satisfactory conclusion, nor any real significance. It felt like it should be the opening of a much broader scoped novel, than a novella. Perhaps there’s significant symbolism which went right over my head, but I didn’t feel I got a payoff from reading the novella.

Overall: I was pretty disappointed with this novella, it didn’t seem to go anywhere nor mean anything. I’d be curious to hear from others who rated it highly as to what they saw in it which I missed.

One Novella reviewed, five to go. Next: Kiss me Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal.



Best Novella Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Novella category for the 2012 Hugos are:

Countdown, Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Ice Owl, Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
Kiss Me Twice, Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s)
The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s)
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

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