Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Graham Joyce, The Silent Land
Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven
Karen Lord, Redemption in Indigo
Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death
As a whole, this shortlist is very solid, if not uniformly spectacular. I can understand why each of these novels will appeal to quite a few SF/F readers, yet most are not anything that I would call "consensus picks;" most contain elements that will not appeal to a sizable percentage of readers.
For myself, the novel that struck the best balance between prose, characterization, theme, and plot was Joyce's The Silent Land, with Lord's Redemption in Indigo a close second. These were the two novels that I enjoyed without reservations and thought were genuinely among the best SF/F that I've read over the past two years. A slight step below them were Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Okorafor's Who Fears Death. I did enjoy each when I read them back in 2010 and thought each had several strong points, yet I do not find myself thinking as much about my emotional reaction to them as I do with the Joyce and Lord. Beukes' Zoo City was promising yet ultimately frustrating to read, for reasons that I note in the review I posted earlier tonight. Kay's Under Heaven I could easily see as appealing to the most readers and being the favorite to win the award, yet, as I noted in my review, it just did not tickle my fancy. These things happen and that's not an indictment on the novel in particular as it is just a confession that tastes are truly a fickle matter.
What about you? Which novels on this shortlist have you read and what are your thoughts on them?