Okay, I know who China Miéville is. But the only other name I vaguely recognize is Jack McDevitt, and I'm not even sure why. (Now I remember. It's because I've seen this cover many, many times.)
Usually, I at least have some clue about who I'm rooting for and which ones I'm interested in reading. But I was out of the new-book loop for much of last year, and now I have to jump back into it. Hence, the following research of three books on the list, for your enjoyment. Tomorrow will feature part two.
Among Others, Jo Walton
Morwenna's mother is crazy and does magic. How's that for a messed-up childhood? She reads to escape the crazy, as many in literature and real life do. One day her mom's dark magic cripples her and kills her twin. So Morwenna runs away to her estranged father (who sends her off to boarding school), and eventually dabbles in magic herself. But that means her mom is able to find her.
Just based on the summary, Among Others seems more like a fantasy than a scifi, which is unusual for the Nebulas. And according to many reviews, it's viewed similarly. In fact, the only scifi element I see is the exhaustive listing of popular authors in the genre, as this review mentions. I'd be willing to give it a shot, but with 17 authors named in Walton's first two chapters, I can see that kind of fangirl praise growing old fast.
Embassytown, China Miéville
Humans have colonized a new world and live beside its alien inhabitants, the Areikei. The world's ambassadors have to be physically altered in order to speak the language. Avice Brenner Cho has been off having space adventures, and can't speak Areikei, but she's somehow intertwined in their language anyway. She's a legend to them. Then a new ambassador appears and completely effs everything up.
(That's what the summary says. No joking.)
This seems very intriguing to me. Language is the main theme of the book: how it shapes cultures and how it can destroy them. But one particular review mentions Miéville's tendency to stall, to just kind of let the plot hang there while he's off doing other things. This was the same problem I had with Perdido Street Station: I couldn't finish it, because while the ideas were intriguing and it was well worded, there was little I actually cared about in the book. So, this appears to be more of the same for Miéville: brilliant ideas held together with a weak plot.
Firebird, Jack McDevitt
This is book six in the Alex Benedict series. A renowned physicist, who was working on alternate universe theory, disappeared forty-odd years ago. Alex discovers the physicist sent space-yachts out before he disappeared, and the space-yachts disappeared too.
I always think it's pretty cool when a series book is good enough to garner awards attention. That said, who's going to read all the books leading up to it if they're not really interested in the sixth one? Same goes for my reviewing it. Here, you can read this one if you like.