So, in one corner we have one of the giants of Canadian literature, writing one of his most indelible characters. In the other, we have a Canadian protagonist, if not author, in a science fiction setting after an unimaginable attack on the Great Lakes area. It's a hard pick, but if I'm going strictly on which book I'd rather read if I sat down right this very minute, I'd take the last entry of Jenny Casey's adventures. Wheeling and dealing for land in Quebec is entertaining. But the world Bear creates pulls me in deeper.
These books have a core similarity. Bujold almost always has what would be the conventional end point of a story at about the midway point, and the rest of the book explores the repercussions. In a similar, but much darker way, Octavia Butler has been taking us through the implications of her world book by book in this trilogy, and Imago is perhaps the most troubling of the three. And that's saying something. I so enjoyed Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, and am sorry to see it go out so soon in this competition. But the unease of Butler's worlds, and the way that has stuck in my mind, mean that this one goes to her.
Winner: Caliban's War
I found Dreamsnake curiously unfinished, as though it were meant to be the first book in a series that never followed. It's interesting, but unsatisfying. Caliban's War, on the other hand, was thoroughly satisfying science fiction. We centre around four characters this time, all trying to hold things together in the midst of attacks that are coming from unknown quantities, with the threat of something truly alien threatening everything human,while the humans can't put interplanetary troubles aside enough to look at it directly. No question here which wins.
Winner: The Magician King
Well. This isn't a competition at all. One of the books I liked most this year comes up against one I felt was at best mediocre. If you can't guess which way that goes, let's just say that The Magician King hit all my sweet spots, as well as including some truly difficult material in a way that I spent a lot of time thinking about, and ended up deciding I liked a lot. There's a line in The Magician King that has stuck with me since I read it. I barely remember That Night.
Turing and Burroughs by Rudy Rucker vs.
In The Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne Valente
Winner: In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Phew! This is an easy part of the round! Almost everything in this edition, with the exception of the Bujold/Butler showdown, has been a simple choice. This one is the same. I didn't like Turing and Burroughs very much, and while I couldn't keep hold of all the story threads in the second book in The Orphan's Tales, the overall shape lingers in my memory with a pleasing cinnamon smell. Valente is wonderful at enchanting her readers, and this was no exception.