The Math and the Rankings Behind the Challenge

At some point during every book, you check how much longer you have to go before it ends. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad and you’re forcing your way through, or if it’s good and you want to enjoy it as long as you can. You always check. Of course I’m going to do the same thing with the challenge. But to do that, I’ll need to do some math. Simple math, really — maybe a little algebra, but nothing too difficult. But with something this big, I’ll need to set minor checkpoints to ensure that I’m keeping pace for that August 11th deadline.

Ten books in four months. That’s the goal, basically. Once I finish Sanderson’s The Way of Kings — ETA: April 20th — I’ll be continuing in earnest on Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, which I’ve already read to the one-quarter mark. That gives me around sixteen and a half weeks to read an estimated 4,451 pages. <Does MATH> That’s a required pace of 270 pages per week or 40 pages a day. That’s not a lot for some. But in my case, it equates to me, a day-job desk jockey, starting the Pacific Coast Trail tomorrow.

Book Author Series # Goodreads Ratings Goodreads Score Pages
All the Birds in the Sky Charlie Jane Anders  –  13,852  3.58  320
The Fifth Season N.K. Jemisin  1  18,969  4.32  468
The Obelisk Gate N.K. Jemisin  2  8,546  4.38  448
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Becky Chambers  1  16,113  4.18  518
A Closed and Common Orbit Becky Chambers  2  3,978  4.41  365
Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee  1  2,602 3.96 384
The Three-Body Problem Ken Liu/Cixin Liu  1  35,129  4.00  400
The Dark Forest Ken Liu/Cixin Liu  2  12,852  4.38 512
Death’s End Ken Liu/Cixin Liu  3  7,405 4.48  604
Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer  1  1,824  3.97  432

Now, it is very important to note that The Three-Body Problem and The Fifth Season are both past winners of the Hugo Awards (2015 and 2016, respectively). So they already come highly recommended.

And here lies an interesting comparison. The nominations are only compared to the small group of peers from the same year. And it is (usually) mandatory that one is declared as “The Best”. But what if that one year just wasn’t that good. Sure, one book was decidedly better than the rest of its class, but what does that mean? Maybe it won because the competition was lacking. Could it have been the king of the mud?

By comparing two past Hugo Best Novel winners with the batch from this year, the real standard of quality is approaching an even more absolute definition. We’ll have a perspective that couldn’t be obtained were this challenge to only pertain to the 2017 novels.

Each books will be evaluated using three separate methods. There are pros and cons to each method but together they hopefully give the best overall impression of my thoughts.

The first will be to give it a score on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best. Because nominations are considered to all have a high-degree of quality, there likely won’t be any scores below five. But you never know.

The second measurement ties in closely with the first: A simple ordered list from worst to best. This guarantees there will be no ties. No matter what happens, I will not give a cop-out answer.

The last method is the best, most precise gauge of quality, but also slightly the worst. It’s the written review. It’s the most time-consuming method, for both me and you, but it will let proclaim what exactly makes the book so worthy of reverence.

Because that’s really the point of this challenge and this blog. To find out which one of these books is the best. As I hinted at above, it may not even be the best of this year’s nominations. We’ll just have to see.


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