Hugo Nominee Review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu

ugo awards have been announced and since I’ve been wanting to read some above average science fiction I decided to read the short story nominations. The first of these is “The Water That Falls On You from Nowhere.” By John Chu, which can be read on  Tor.Com

Because this isn’t going to be an entirely positive review I’m going to start with the positive. This was, in general, an excellently written story with only a couple of style elements I didn’t care for. The characters were also well developed for a short story and it certainly felt as if the writer was close to this story.  I can certainly understand why it was nominated for a Hugo, though I have one small issue with that I will discuss later as well.

The plot is based around two men who have decided to get married, but one of them has not yet come out to his family.  To make this a bit more difficult there is a phenomena which causes water to fall on you whenever you lie. This is never explained, and it doesn’t actually force the character to tell the truth but it’s an interesting idea.

This leads to my small problem with it being nominated for a Hugo. The Hugo awards were created to be awards for science fiction and while they have clearly expanded that out to things that are not science fiction I don’t think they should have and still don’t like it. And while this is an interesting story it really isn’t science fiction because there is no real hint in the story that the water is scientifically based and it’s easier to assume it’s magical in some way. This is of course a very minor point. The larger point is that it really isn’t all that related to the plot. This story could have easily been told without that element at all and very little if anything would have been lost. In fact I think the main character would have felt stronger if he simply came out because it was the right thing to do, and I’m glad that he wasn’t inadvertently ousted by that element of the story as that would have made things worse. I’ll set that aside though because this story does have a fantasy element and so fits the category well enough.

The other issue that I didn’t really like here was the style that the writer used. This is purely opinion and I’m sure some people liked it, but he used Chinese characters in a number of places. Sometimes they were translated and you could generally understand from context what they meant, but it was distracting in a way that it wouldn’t have been if it had been written with the English alphabet because while the different languages add something to the story using characters I don’t understand at all makes me stop reading and breaks me out of the story.

This is the first of the Hugo nominated short stories that I read, and it was certainly above average, but this isn’t the type of story that I would go back and reread which is what I think of when I consider if something is worthy of a Hugo, but I’m not the core audience.