This is the first time I can think of that I've owned all five novels prior to the nominations, and I don't think I've ever owned them all prior to the awards either (exccept for the year Brad Templeton's ClariNet created a CD, something even harder to do now that the publishers have caught on to eBooks).
Yes, I own them, but I haven't read them all yet (still slogging through Matter by Iain Banks, from last year's list).
- Three juveniles (Graveyard Book, Little Brother, Zoe's Tale)! Are people having problems reading grown-up books?
- Younger authors are definitely pushing out the old guard: Scalzi, Stross and Doctorow are sort of a posse. The Neil/Neal pair looks like the fogies here, and they're still young authors too.
The books, and the odds:
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: Haven't read it yet, but hey, it just won the Newbery Award, and has lots of critical acclaim. Lots of Gaiman fans on the convention memberships. I'd give it about a 5:2.
- Anathem, Neal Stephenson: Haven't read this one either. Neal's return to SF after wandering through near-future thriller (Cryptonomicon) and historical SF (Baroque Cycle) also has a lot of critics liking it, but it's big and bloated -- there's some backlash against Stephenson's tendency to digress and 5th-act weakness. Still, a lot of fans going back to Snow Crash will probably vote for this. 3:1
- Little Brother, Cory Doctorow: Fun lighthearded but serious anti-Homeland Security cautionary tale. I enjoyed this a lot, but the more you know about crypto the less novel it is, since large chunks of exposition are pretty much cribbed from Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear -- with permission. There's some great bits on LARPing, practical joke-level stuff, and a lot of "get off your butts and realize how much the nanny state is destroying our lives." This isn't allegory like much SF with a political tone, it's real and now. 3:1
- Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi: This is fun, and yes I think he got the teenaged girl protagonist right (not quite "Juno in Space" but close), but it's a parallel tale to The Last Colony, and it's not that far away for most of the story. There are several, "Oh, that's what happened!" moments because of the different point of view, and it fills in a lot of gaps in the Old Man's War background. Frankly, though, the other three novels in the series are better. 5:1
- Saturn's Children, Charlie Stross: Stross is probably my favorite author right now, but this isn't his best book. He should have won for Accelerando a few years ago, and there's a chance he might win on a series of noms even through the weaknesses here. Why? It's an homage to Heinlein, specifically Friday (one of the more readable late-period RAH books), but with grown-up sex, in fact rather kinky sex between robots of various sizes and shapes (the heroine has encounters with rather randy hotels and spaceships). That might turn off some readers (not many, but assuredly some), might attract others. 4:1.
In any case, you can't go wrong reading any of these.