Gentle Reader, I couldn't finish Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars.
Dark has the same structure as George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, with each chapter told from the third-person point of view of a different character. It's a good way to tell a story with a huge cast and an epic scope. But where Martin's characters plot and fight and are captured and escape and nearly die and actually do die, Anderson's, well … A teacher says goodbye to a student about to command a starship. Then the commander's mother says goodbye. A man in a starship watches some jellyfish-like globules in space, while his son talks about how he wants a robot. A researcher sets up camp on a desert planet.
I'm sure all of Anderson's plot threads will eventually join up into some kind of story. It might even be a rip-roaring read, the best space opera since Star Wars, but I'm afraid I didn't have the patience to find out. And since I didn't finish it, I can't say whether this is a good candidate for a Hugo or not. All I can say is that at 15%, the point at which I stopped, I despaired of anything happening at all.
#I'm not going to talk much about the non-Puppy novels because they're all so good I think people should read them for themselves. They make a great palate-cleaner after the Puppy slate -- or, to change metaphors, it's like watching a blurry movie suddenly snap into focus.
I think the final vote on the novel will come down to what kind of sub-genre people like to read. Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword deals with galactic empires and planetary intrigue, but also plays with ideas about gender. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is charming and elegantly told, a tale of manners in a fantasy setting. Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem dances out on the far edges of scientific speculation. Really, any one of these could win and I'd be happy, but if I had to choose (and I guess I do), for me the best of them is Ancillary Sword.