Welcome to the Third Annual BeerRantsAndBooks Blogger’s Choice Awards! I certainly came across many wonderful characters in 2019, and it is time now to pause and recognize some of my favorites. We once again have an incredibly strong list of nominees, so I had to make some really hard choices in declaring a winner in each and every categy.
For a quick reminder of the rules, I am considering here all characters I came across in my 2019 reading. The original publication date of the book for which they are nominated is irrelevant. With that out of the way, let’s bring on the nominees!
Best Leading Male Character
Orhan (Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K.J. Parker): An outsider on account of his race, Orhan is able to secure the respectable rank of Colonel of Engineers in the Robur Empire through skill, determination, and a shrewd understanding of graft. When he finds himself leading the defense of a seemingly doomed city, he uses every last bit of strength and ingenuity to fight for every second of its survival.
Vasher (Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson): Hailing from the Shardworld of Nalthis, Vasher is a skilled swordsman and one of the Five Scholars devoted to mastering the local form of Investiture and pushing the boundaries of what it can do. Irritable and often difficult to get along with, he nonetheless is a rather honorable man willing to help those with pure intentions.
Hamed Nasr (The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djeli Clark): A veteran detective in Egypt’s Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, Hamed finds himself partnered with a rookie to investigate some unusual happenings in a magical tram car.
Luo Ji (The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin): A cynical and not particularly motivated man who finds himself one of humanity’s last hopes for resisting an alien invasion.
And the winner is: Orhan. I really enjoyed his story and the tales of his engineering feats. His outsider status, engineering brilliance, and dark, self-effacing sense of humor made it pretty easy to look past some of his less desirable traits (and unreliable narrator status) and really root for the guy.
Best Leading Female Character
Swan Er Hong (2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson): A brilliant, eccentric artist and scientist, Swan found herself caught up in a conspiracy that spans the Solar System following the death of her grandmother, Mercury’s charismatic and influential ruler.
Elvi Okoye (Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey): A hard working and determined scientist whose unique understanding of an alien technology has landed her a prestigious research position. The only problem is that is on behalf of an authoritarian regime forcing her cooperation.
Circe (Circe, by Madeline Miller): The sea nymph probably best known for her role in The Odyssey, she is given an entirely new and powerful voice in this retelling of her life.
Gen Octaviasdottir (New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson): An NYPD detective who grew up on the poor side of town, her presence in a story full of great characters looms even larger than her person: With her police boots on she was six foot four, and now she was helmeted, pistol in hand, a look that could freeze blood. A big scary black woman cop, mad as hell and calm as heaven.
And the winner is: With many, many apologies to Gen I think this goes to Circe. I went back and forth about this decision at least thrice, but I am pretty sure I got it right. Circe carried her story single handed and put in such a powerful and emotional performance it was just too hard to pick against her.
Best Non-Gendered Character
Breq (Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie): Formerly the AI of a ship named Justice of Toren, Breq is presently confined to a single ancillary body that is for all other purposes mostly human. A skilled leader and tactical mastermind, Breq also possessed a keen sense of social justice and responsibility.
Nightblood (Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson): A sentient sword with the unnerving ability to project its thoughts and emotions into the minds of the people around it. Self-centered and always very eager to be of use, Nightblood was easily one of the highlights of Warbreaker.
Chimp (The Freeze Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts): The AI serving aboard a ship on a 65 million year mission building wormholes. Despite its seemingly friendly nature, however, some in the crew suspect it is not only hiding information from them, but also starting to view significant numbers of them as expendable.
And the winner is: Nightblood, just barely edging out Breq. I just find the story behind this character absolutely fascinating at the fact that it turns up again elsewhere in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere leaves me wondering about the possibilities ahead for this character.
Best Supporting Male Character
Mutt and Jeff (New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson): A pair of financial coders who after years working odd jobs decide the time is right to level the economic playing field.
Daedalus (Circe, by Madeline Miller): Friend and lover of Circe, Daedalus offered both a calming and tragic presence to a rather emotional tale. He of course has a few rather interesting inventions to share as well.
Shi Qiang (The Dark Forest, by Liu Cixin): Former detective and bodyguard to Wallfacer Luo Ji, he earned his second nomination in this category once again on account of his cunning mind and hard outlook on life.
And the winner is: Mutt and Jeff. I suppose it’s a bit unfair to give this to a duo, but there’s really no separating the two. Imagine fusing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the guys from Waiting for Godot and then making them hackers with a passion for social and economic justice.
Best Supporting Female Character
Sawdust (Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, by K.J. Parker): A former slave with a renowned talent for carpentry, she plays a key role in defending her city and in the process makes several significant advances in siege weaponry.
Kizzy Shao (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers): A fun loving machine technician aboard the Wayfarer, her side interests include video games, electronic dance music, and smoking something called Smash.
Amelia Black (New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson): Star of a viral environmental series and captain of her own personal airship, Amelia is willing to put everything she has on the line for the causes she believes in.
And the winner is: Sawdust. She was an intriguing character and I have a soft spot for medieval siege engines. She also made the perfect counterpart to Orhan (see above), making her one of the few people he could rely on without reservation in an emergency.
And with that I bring the awards season to a close. I met a lot of great characters in 2019 and can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store!