Edward Lear
This year and last both, I’ve waded through some pretty long novels as part of doing the reviews of the Nebula and Hugo finalists. For someone who likes to read short books, this has a) been hard work, and b) suggested an interesting trend. What’s going on with the weighty tomes?

Last year The Dark between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson came in at a hefty 800 pages and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword at 400 pages. This year Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves ran 883 pages; Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings ran 656 pages; Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass ran 640 pages; N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season ran 450 pages, and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted ran 464 pages. So, are longer books considered weightier, more developed or somehow more award-worthy than shorter books? Are shorter books considered too “young adult”? Is there a trend for publishers to prefer longer novels? For example, I notice that Baen’s author’s guidelines request manuscripts of 100K words or longer, which means their minimum word limit starts at 400 pages.

Of course, the length of a book isn’t really a big deal if you’re enjoying the story or love the author’s style. In that case, you want it to go on as long as possible. Maybe that’s the conventional wisdom publishers are going by—if you have a hit author, you need to encourage him/her to string the story out as long as possible.

Whatever, I didn’t think most of these books above justified the length. Leckie’s Ancillary Sword and Novik’s Uprooted moved along fairly smartly, but the others really suffered because of the length, i.e. became terminally boring for the modern ADD-afflicted reader (me). If I hadn’t been reading to vote for the awards, I wouldn’t have finished any of them.

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