Subjective Chaos: how are we getting on?

Black and white photo of some pebbles, each painted with text: Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards

Back in January, an opinionated collective of bloggers and book lovers announced our shortlist for this year’s Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards. Six months later, where have we got to?

The clue is in the name: we have been subjective and it has been chaotic.

It all started the moment some of us (yes, me. Although I wasn’t alone) looked at the shortlist and realised we’d read quite a lot of them so ‘this year wouldn’t be as difficult to complete the shortlist’.

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye laughing in a cockpit against a greenscreen

So C suggested set us a comfortable mid-June deadline, and off we all went to ‘finish up’ our reading.

So, uh, it’s mid-June.

No, this post isn’t announcing our shortlist.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark looking sorry not sorry actually

As things stand, at least two of us have finished every category, but most of us have at least two books left to read in one category or another. Rather than rush into a vote and have just two people determine the finalists in some categories, we’re pushing our deadline out so that more of us can weigh in with our opinions.

Because oh gosh yes, we have opinions. In fact, I’m not sure we have any agreement on a front runner in any of our categories yet. The coming month will see lots of fierce (if respectful) debate of the relative merits of our favourites and careful dissection of our reservations.

Next month, we will regroup to cast our votes for our favourite and our runner-up in each category. I think those second preferences are going to have a huge influence this year (…as they did last year; there’s a reason we didn’t actually end up with just 2 finalists in most categories!)

So where’s my head at?


This is the easy category for me: there are two candidates who are head and shoulders above the rest of the field in my estimation. The Poppy War and The City of Brass both made my Best of 2018 list; while I have appreciated our other nominees, they haven’t shifted my allegiances.


Here’s a tricky choice! Whilst one of my votes is spoken for – I shall be flying the flag for I Still Dream, which knocked my socks off and stole my heart – I am absolutely torn over my second. This is also a category in which I’ve only read 50% of some nominees; so I’ll be taking advantage of the extra time to finish those off, and maybe even squeezing in a reread of Embers of War to help me make my choice. Fair to say this one is wide open…

Best Blurred Boundaries

As things stand, this will be the category I don’t vote in (in this first round) as I’ve only read one of the books. In theory, the extension should give me time to catch up – but I think I’ll be sitting this one out initially and then reading the finalists. Those playing close attention will notice some chaos has crept in here too: after we announced our nominees, Rosewater was relocated to SF.

Best Novella

Another tricky choice. I think I have my favourites, but I’m not so clear on my preferences, and I’m still considering two other contenders. I may squeeze in some rereading to help me make my final decision (and/or be swayed by the convincing arguments made by my fellow panellists). Watch out for a round of mini-reviews as I try to articulate my feelings to help me make up my mind.

Best Series

I didn’t expect to finish this category, but in the end I prioritised it over Blurred Boundaries. I’m glad I did: it’s been challenging reading – well outside my comfort zone in places – and so varied in tone, setting and genre. Needless to say, that is making for great discussion of relative merits! My loyalties to Dave Hutchinson and Yoon Ha Lee remain unshaken – but we are all championing different favourites, so I’m very intrigued to see which series make it through to the next round…

Watch this space – I shall be back next month with news of our finalists!