Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword is my pick for first.
Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor puts me in a quandary as to which book should be second place.
The Three Body Problem showed me lots of new ideas. It had the coolest attack on a boat in the Panama Canal ever. I can’t say enough about Liu’s ability to craft a compelling, sympathetic antagonist. I also loved the obnoxious, get-things-done, cut-to-the-chase cop, who was mastermind of the coolest attack on a boat ever. I squirmed and squealed over the weirdest alien biology that I’ve read about in ages. But Three Body was bogged down with too much exposition (at my most charitable I call them love letters to physics, computer science and Sim City) and hampered with a protagonist who was too flat and too passive.
Right now, it feels like Three Body is edging out the other two because in spite of its flaws, the ideas were as fresh as Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, and I want very much to know what comes next. I have to rate Skin Game higher than The Goblin Emperor because it is so accessible and because Butcher’s book is so much fun with the second-best dog scene in urban fantasy to date. (The first-best dog scenes are pretty much any featuring the “attack poodle” in Kate Daniels series by Illona Andrews.)
Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars and my voting will reflect that. I feel that The Dark Between the Stars might work better as a screenplay for a miniseries or television show, but I was unable to connect to the characters and there was too much telling and not enough showing in the early chapters. So I didn’t finish it.
I’m highly pleased with the Hugo novel nominees. I was able to finish all but one. Unfortunately, I’m finding that in the other categories, many of the nominees aren’t holding my attention because of basic flaws in the writing craft and lack of fresh ideas. More about that later.