Locus Award Winners 2021

Today the Locus Awards were announced. A full list of the winners and finalists can be found here. I’m going to briefly touch on the winners, and also compare these winners to this year’s Nebula Winners, since I didn’t get a chance to cover them.

Here are the Locus Winners in each category:

Science Fiction Novel: Network Effect – Martha Wells

Fantasy Novel: The City We Became – N.K. Jemisin

Horror Novel: Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Young Adult Novel: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking – T. Kingfisher

First Novel: Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger

Novella: Ring Shout – P. Djèlí Clark

Novelette: The Pill – Meg Elison

Short Story: Little Free Library – Naomi Kritzer

Anthology: The Book of Dragons – Johnathan Strahan

Collection: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories – Ken Liu

Magazine: Tor.com

Publisher: Tor

Editor: Ellen Datlow

Artist: John Picacio

Non-Fiction: The Magic of Terry Pratchett – Marc Burrows

Illustrated/Art Book: The Art of NASA: The Illustrations that Sold the Missions – Piers Bizony

Normally I would start these types of posts off by talking about the novels, but since I’ve been talking about the short stories a lot, I’m going to start there instead. The winner in this category is Naomi Kritzer’s Little Free Library, a charming tale about a library literally leading to a fantasy world and the strange interactions the librarian has with a denizen of this other world. Little Free Library didn’t get a nomination for the Nebula Award, and that award went to John Wiswell’s Open House on Haunted Hill. Open House was one of my favourite stories of the ballot, and one of only two short stories nominated for the Locus, Nebula and Hugo award this year. In my last post, I wondered if Open House would win all three awards, but now we know that the answer is no. Little Free Library is a very worthy winner, and I’m interested in seeing how it goes at the Hugo Awards. I think the ballot for the Short Story Hugo Award is super competitive this year; especially now that it has two winners of other prestigious awards on it.

Unlike the Nebula and Hugo Awards, the Locus Award has five different novel categories, and I am happy for all five winners. Elatsoe (Best First Novel) is the one I’ve most recently read, after wanting to check it out for a long time. I haven’t had a chance to rave about this book yet, but it is so good. Very much a young adult book, but full of such amazing worldbuilding and great characters. Also manages to have teen heroes without resorting to the ‘adults are useless’ trope, which can risk breaking the suspension of disbelief. Also, ghost trilobites are so cool. Not that ghost dogs aren’t – there was such a good ghost doggy in this story and I loved him – but I like trilobites.

The winner of the Best Science Fiction category is Martha Well’s Network Effect, the fifth book in the acclaimed Murderbot Diaries series and also the winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It’s also a contender for the Hugo Award, and I feel it has a good chance at winning all three now. Murderbot is an amazing character that everyone seems to love, myself included. Network Effect isn’t the first entry in the series to have been recognized. The first entry, All Systems Red won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for best Novella in 2018, and the second novella, Artificial Condition won the Hugo and Locus awards the following year. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the plot of Network Effect as much as I liked the plot the four novellas, but I loved all the character moments and action scenes Network Effect treats us to, and I’m glad that Murderbot’s first novel-length book is getting so much love. I’ll touch more on what I loved about Network Effect (and best Fantasy Novel winner The City We Became) when I do my Pokémon themed Hugo Nominee reviews.

The last story I really want to talk about is Best Novella winner Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark. The description interested me, but I wasn’t prepared for just how freaking creepy this book is. I heard someone singing the little nursery rhyme that the baddie Butcher Clyde sings, and it made me shudder. PDC has written a tale of visceral gore and eldritch horrors that also examines the horrors of slavery and racism. The concept – that Lovecraftian monsters have infiltrated the KKK – may seem like it would trivialize the very real horror that is the KKK in the 20s… but no, it doesn’t. Not with P. Djèlí Clark running the show. This is one of the best horror stories, and one of the best historical fantasies I have read in a long time. It is genuinely horrific. I attribute that to P. Djèlí Clark’s writing, but since I listened to the audiobook version of this story I also have to give huge credit to narrator Channie Waits. She did an excellent job portraying the dialects used, and in conveying the terror and pain our protagonist Maryse feels. Ring Shout has now won both the Nebula and the Locus award this year, and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t also take out the Hugo.

The Locus Award puts out a huge ballot every year, and I see a lot of titles on the list that often don’t make it onto my radar in any other way. I’m excited for the winners and nominees that I did recognize, but also looking forward to discovering some gems that I haven’t encountered before. I am also getting more pumped for the Hugo Awards, which would normally be just around the corner, but this year has been pushed back until December. You can look forward to reading more reviews from me before then.

Happy Reading,

~ Lauren

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