John W. Campbell Award Review

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.

Having finished the Hugo categories, I’m now reviewing the nominees for the John W. Campbell Award for the Best New Writer.

This is my review of all five nominees. It’s a bit briefer than I’d like, due to time constraints, but such is life.

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.


Mur Lafferty

“The Argument Against Louis Pasteur” was the only story included in the Hugo Voter Packet, and I was disappointed with it. It seemed to be based around the premise of intelligent bacteria, of which the majority may have been killed by pasteurisation, but to truly be safe, one required a much  more complicated klein bottle, which the bacteria couldn’t navigate out of. The story didn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything for me, and I didn’t enjoy it. Perhaps I’m lacking a solid grounding in chemistry, physics or the process of pasteurisation which may have made the story much more comprehensible to me.


Stina Leicht

“of Blood and Honey” was the work included in the Hugo Voter Packet, and I really enjoyed reading it, despite being a little dissatisfied by the ending. Set in Northern Ireland during the 1970s (the British occupation and IRA guerrilla warfare) it tells the story of Liam, who is unknowingly half fey, who gets caught up in both the British / Irish conflict and the Church / Fey / Fallen conflict.  Leicht cleverly weaves a fey story into the historical conflict, showing us what it was like to be Irish in those times with the Catholic / Protestant tensions. I’m not normally a fan of character driven stories, but this one had enough interesting plot to carry it, and I was engrossed until the end. This seems to be a prequel, or introductory novel, introducing the characters and back story for future works, and I do hope this will be the case, as I look forward to them. This is definitely a contender for my Hugo vote.


Karen Lord

“Redemption in Indigo” is a novel I’ve wanted to read for a while, after hearing about it on a couple of different podcasts, and I was very pleased it was included in the Hugo Voter Packet. This is a fantastical tale of Caribbean mythology and revolves around our heroine, Paama, who starts out having fled from a gluttonous idiotic husband and ends up holding a powerful mystic artefact, involved in a power dispute between various djombi (the undying ones). I must admit I kept reading djombi as zombies, not helped by the undying reference, which kept distracting me, as they were nothing like the western shambling undead we’re familiar with, and more fey like. I was unwilling to put this down once I’d started reading it, and read it in a single sitting, which is probably an indication of how much I enjoyed it. This is likely to be my top contender for the Hugo vote.


Brad R. Torgersen

I’d already read “Ray of Light” in my Novelette reviewing, and enjoyed reading “Outbound” and “Exanastasis” as well.

Outbound follows Miroslaw Jaworski who’s evacuated from an Earth orbiting station just in time, as it is destroyed, and Earth rendered uninhabitable shortly after, when war breaks out. Despite the factions involved in the war being destroyed, their automatic weapons continue to wage war, destroying any human habitations in the Solar System. Miroslaw and a few others flee out of the solar system, towards the Juiper Belt, following the path taken by the Outbound decades or centuries before. It was well written and paced, with a satisfactory ending, and I enjoyed reading it.

Exanastasis is set millennia after the events of Outbound. The Earth has recovered and the inhabitants of the Kuiper Belt have sent a ship to investigate. AIs remain however, the same ones who were involved in the war, and they resurrect Atreus into a clone body. Atreus is not too happy however, as it was those same AIs who assassinated him after a disagreement millennia ago. Whilst I enjoyed this story, it was a bit more character driven than Outbound, and I didn’t like it quite as much.


E. Lily Yu

I’d already read “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” in my Short Story reviewing and had wondered what other works by Yu was like. I found out with “The Transfiguration of Maria Luisa Ortega” and “The Lamp at the Turning”.

The Transfiguration of Maria Luisa Ortega was a very short story (550 words) toying with the concept of what would happen if swearing transformed the swearer into a creature (eg starfish / mollusc / etc) and there were wandering priests able to remove the curse. Interesting and quirky, but over before I could really enjoy it.

The Lamp at the Turning is a sad short story of a sentient street light in unrequited love with a human it sees passing twice day. It explores how a street lamp would feel and express emotions, and how this would be interpreted and received by both the human and surrounding street lamps. A quirky character driven tale which didn’t do much for me.


So that’s my Hugo & John W. Campbell reading done. Next, my Hugo vote!



John W. Campbell Background Material:

Short listed in the Best New Writer category for the John W. Campbell award are:

Mur Lafferty
Stina Leicht
Karen Lord
Brad R. Torgersen
E. Lily Yu


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