I have just finished reading Ursula K. LeGuin's YA novel Powers, which won this year's Nebula. It was with decidedly mixed feelings that I put the book down.
I love LeGuin's writing. I have loved it for 40 years, since The Left Hand of Darkness blew me away when it was first published in 1969 (I was three years old). In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that I think she's the best SF writer we have ever had. Nonetheless, I was disappointed in Powers.
The book revisits the territory she covered so brilliantly in the novellas of Four Ways Into Forgiveness, specifically in "A Woman's Liberation." The plot is exactly the same: the protagonist is a slave in a "good" house and unthinkingly accepts being a slave; something happens so that the house becomes less good; the protag then tries living with various different groups in different degrees of freedom, although always more so for men than women; eventually the slave grows into true freedom and awareness. In "A Woman's Liberation" the character is female, in Powers male, and of course details are different for the various cultures depicted. But despite LeGuin's lovely prose, I couldn't escape the feeling that she has covered this ground before, better, and more succinctly.
I seem to be alone in this judgment. The paperback comes covered with glowing accolades, and the book did win the Nebula. Which raises another interesting point: It's YA. And on the Hugo ballot, three of the five novels are YA: Powers, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, and Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. What happened to the supposition that kids no longer read?