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A review of the Nebula Award Winners from the 1970s

Nebula Award Winners of the 1970s


Welcome back to my decade-by-decade journey through the Nebula award-winning novels. While the 1960s’ novels are evenly distributed across the spectrum of how likely I am to recommend them, the 1970s’ books are slightly skewed toward books I would not recommend despite some definite highlights. What brings the decade down? Let’s find out.

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin (1970)

When I first read this book as assigned reading during my freshman year of college, I was lukewarm on it. When I reread it as part of this list, my mind changed. Le Guin is one of the few I would trust to create a world where a single human goes to a planet as complicated as Gethen. She artfully weaves gender theory, a moral tale about loyalty, and a complicated social currency. While I love this book, I would only recommend it some people.

Ringworld, by Larry Niven (1971)

Though I have already forgotten a great deal about this book, I will always remember the way it examines “luck” as a force in the world. Perhaps the list is just littered with space operas that I will never love. I would tell others this book will be a waste of their time.

A Time of Changes, by Robert Silverberg (1972)

This book has not aged well, and it falls squarely in my bottom five of the entire list. The hyper-masculine viewpoint is dated, the main character fails to react emotionally to the story’s climax, and the same themes examined by Silverberg are handled better by other authors (namely Le Guin). I would actively discourage others from reading this.

The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov (1973)

Asimov's storytelling does not collapse under the weight of complicated concepts and unusual aliens. The concepts are surprisingly progressive for its time, and it has lessons to teach us today about gender and pride. I would recommend this book to very specific people.

Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke (1974)

This is what a space opera should be. It is filled with an explorer’s wonder while only requiring reader to suspend a minimal amount of disbelief. It’s a good adventure, but I like a little more social commentary out my SF. I would recommend this book to some but not others.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1975)

This one is a tough book. An anachronistic telling of a scientist living in a communist commune researching how time is structured should have failed, but it was successful. It’s impressive enough that I would recommend it to some, but only if they wanted a very intellectual novel. I hope Silverberg took notes (yes, I’m still salty about A Time of Changes and still in awe of The Dispossessed).

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman (1976)

An interesting, thought provoking novel about alienation within one's own culture. Haldeman is a good storyteller, and he has a higher meaning to show here. It nonetheless felt insubstantial. I would neither recommend this novel nor steer others away from it.

Man Plus, by Frederik Pohl (1977)

While this one raises interesting questions about what it meant to be human, it felt dated, and its “gotcha” ending left me sour. I would neither recommend this novel nor steer others away from it.

Gateway, by Frederik Pohl (1978)

Unlikable characters in a time and place that failed to feel significant will never compel a reader. It was ultimately forgettable. I would tell other that this book will waste their time.

Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre (1979)

There is something about McIntyre’s writing that pulls me in. I cannot describe it. In addition to falling for her spell, I found Dreamsnake had good prose, excellent pace, a fabulous setting, and characters worth loving. I would recommend this book to some but not others, because I am afraid others will not fall for McIntyre’s witchcraft as I have.

Many of the novels in this article felt like reading something from another time, but a few managed to feel timeless. This ultimately held the 70s’ Nebulas back as a group, making it my least favorite batch.

I hope you are enjoying this journey as much as I am, and I look forward to reading your comments about your own experiences with these books. Join me next time as we jump forward to the 1980s. It’s going to get strange.


Author Bio:

Pittsburgh native and Asheville resident Andy Gmitter has been reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy since his introduction to the genre with Ender’s Game when he was 11 years old. As a project manager for a web-based software company, he spends his days invested in small details, but the rest of the time is reserved for grand adventures in books or at a kitchen table with friends. Since he finished reading his final Nebula Award winning novel, he has begun to fill in gaps in his SF literacy by reading Heinlein, Redshirts, and more.


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