2018 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2018-published works, which people have read and recommend to other Filers.

There will be no tallying of recommendations done in this thread; its purpose is to provide a source of recommendations for people who want to find something to read which will be Hugo-eligible next year.

You don’t have to stop recommending works in Pixel Scrolls, please don’t! But it would be nice if you also post here, to capture the information for other readers.

The Suggested Format for posts is:

  • Title, Author, Published by / Published in (Anthology, Collection, Website, or Magazine + Issue)
  • Hugo Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, etc)
  • link (if available to read/view online)
  • optional “Brief, spoiler-free description of story premise:”
  • optional “What I liked and didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

222 thoughts on “2018 Recommended SF/F List

  1. I Nth the recommendation for Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, published by Tor.com. The audiobook was splendid; Kevin R. Free’s narration was, as before, pitch perfect for Murderbot and its pesky humans. 😉

    Since this is a series of four novellas (series to continue via novels, yay!), I expect to nominate one (if I have a lot of novella contenders) or more than one of them from this year.

    The “work in parts” rule (IMHO for something actually serialized, e.g., in a magazine) is up there with Best Related Work as “Kendall’s least favorite Hugo rules.” 😉 Wells didn’t write a novel that was published in parts, unlike, e.g., Stross’s original 2 “Merchant Princes” novels, which was literally a single novel they split into two for publishing; Wells wrote a novella, then wrote sequels. Thus I see it as 4 works – not a single work that was published in 4 parts. But as usual, YMMV.

    No one will ever convince me the “Wheel of Time” is a single novel. 😛 That was a last-ditch effort by WoT fans to nominate it since no novels in the series had been nominated, there was no Best Series category at the time, and there is this loophole in the rules. Next people will nominate related short stories as if they were a single novella. Gak.

    YMMV, etc. Sorry for my late comment; I swear I didn’t get some of the e-mail notices on this thread. But I got others, so maybe it’s me, not WordPress!

  2. Novellas from Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue 261
    Shadowdrop by Chris Willrich and We Ragged Few by Kate Alice Marshall

    Two novellas in the 10th anniversary edition of BCS and both are very good, albeit at different ends of the tone spectrum.

    We Ragged Few is a grim fantasy, with a people driven from their homeland and stricken with mass infertility trying to reestablish something like civilisation – but instead they’re sinking deeper into the mire with how they treat anyone they consider Other. It’s a morality tale, but also an action-filled heroic fantasy, as Reyna – whose dead sister left behind a grim prophecy – tries to persuade a small band to flee the coming doom. It’s not grimdark just for style points though, and there’s a glimmer of hope in there.

    At the other end of things is the much lighter Shadowdrop – our hero is a black cat, no less, bounding around a flavorful fantasy city spreading the bad luck magic that all black cats have been bequeathed. There’s some good jokes – when you get to “Postgrad” you can appreciate the terrible punnage – and a fun plot as cats save the day for the oblivious humans of the city.

    (Also in the issue, a story by Aliette de Bodard in her Dominion of the Fallen, and another Gem world story from Fran Wilde)

  3. (A sort-of-recommendation – There Before the Chaos (The Farian War #1) by K.B. Wagers starts a new trilogy after the Behind The Throne trilogy, pretty much continuing straight on but with a suitable increase in the stakes. According to my self-imposed rules it doesn’t really stand alone enough for me to nominate it either for novel or for series, but if you’ve been following the earlier books then it is well worth your time, and maybe in time a Series nom if this new trilogy sticks the landing)

  4. Starless by Jacqueline Carey

    Novel

    I have no idea why this book works as well as it does. It’s really a trilogy crammed into a single doorstopper book, which makes it a disjoint novel with important characters who aren’t introduced until 400 pages in. The plot contains a laundry list of things I usually dislike in fantasy: chosen heroes, supernatural insta-love, a prophecy that requires traveling around to collect plot-coupons, and gods who incomprehensibly get their will enacted by means of massively complicated pool-table bankshots. There are so many of these that I wonder if the author, who is no stranger to epic fantasy, decided she was going to do everything that doesn’t work and make it work anyway. And somehow, she pulled it off. It was a page-turner I couldn’t put down, thanks mostly to the memorable characters and the fascinating world.

  5. STET, by Sarah Gailey

    Short Story

    Published by Fireside Fiction, available here. A story written “entirely out of spite”, according to the author.

    Make sure to read the footnotes.

  6. City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab

    Novel (Middle-Grade)

    A fun, and sometimes creepy, little book. Victoria Schwab seldom disappoints me with her writing, and her first (to my knowledge) excursion into middle-grade fantasy was no exception to her usual quality.

  7. Novella – The Land of Somewhere Safe by Hal Duncan. (c32,000 words)

    This is rather difficult to describe, but I’ll have a go. This novella-length story sits within a loose series of shorts about the Scruffians, who are a foul-mouthed set of immortal street urchins fixed in their permanent urchin forms by a magical Stamp that writes your soul on your skin so you can never change from it. It’s an idea that could go in all sorts of directions, but Duncan seems to be mainly using it to satirise various classic British children’s books – there are shades of the Borrowers, Peter Pan, and Narnia in this one. This was my first encounter with the series and I didn’t feel disadvantaged by not having read any others, although I’d imagine that there are connections I missed out on.
    In this specific story, Peter and Lilly are two children evacuated from WW2 London right the way to the Isle of Skye, along with 4 members of the rather odd Bastable family, who it turns out are actually some of the Scruffians on a mission to hide the mystical Stamp. The story starts out a bit weird, with a Nazi spy disguised as a reverend summoning invisible monsters to get his hands on the Stamp, and then goes totally off the walls with a visit to the Land of Somewhere Safe of the title, which is a land of dreams and makebelieve that provides the malleable clay for a series of increasingly bizarre ideas that the rival sides throw at each other.
    The whole thing is narrated in a mix of heavy dialect and urchin slang a bit like this:

    See, as even yer icklest scamp or scrag will tell yer, as even yer daftest scallywag or scofflaw knows, ain’t nowheres in this world truly safe for any waif, least of all us Scruffians what any groanhuff as knows of would scrub in a jiffy.

    I found that pretty heavy going for a while then got into the rhythm of it, but fair warning that it’s all like that – plus lots of swearing.
    I think this is a marmite sort of story. I took a while to warm to the whole thing – the language, the breakneck pace of change in the story – but once I was in the flow I really enjoyed it. I suspect other’s mileage will vary though.

  8. Novella – Between the Firmaments by J.Y. Yang

    This short novella (approx 20,000 words) was published in 3 parts by the Book Smugglers, and is also available as an ebook.

    Unconnected to Yang’s Tensorate series, but having similar fun with genre, the setting is a secondary world whose gods have been hunted down and enslaved by invading aliens who use their divine power to build a more mundane world. Bariegh was a god of the hunt, but now he mostly skulks about the city hoping not to get caught, trying to keep a distant young relative – and therefore a potential demigod – away from the invaders. Then a brash young man with godly powers arrives from parts unknown, and Bareigh is reawakened both through romance and a reminder of why he should still fight.
    It’s an interesting setting and a fun, quick story driven by the characters. Mind you, the ending is a little sudden, and very much deus ex machina – but maybe that works for a story of gods and their fates.

  9. Impostors, by Scott Westerfeld

    Novel (YA)

    A woman raised to be her twin sister’s body double rebels. This is the start of a new series set in the Uglies universe, although it’s not necessary to have read to the previous series to understand it. But it’s hard not to compare this one to the original Uglies trilogy, and in some ways it doesn’t quite measure up. The main character isn’t as compelling, and the story doesn’t seem to hit the same depth. Nonetheless, the book is a page-turner — definitely an enjoyable read. And it has a heck of an ending. If I’m not as blown away by it as I was by Uglies, I’m still going to pick up the next book when it comes out.

  10. The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember

    Novel (Arguably YA, second in a series but author says it works as a standalone)

    It’s been a good month for reading for me!

    A viking warrior seeks revenge on the raiders who killed her family, but does not realize what sacrifices she will have to make to do so. Also her lover is a mermaid. This is a worthy follow-up to The Seafarer’s Kiss, focusing on Ragna instead of Ersel this time. It turns out she’s just as fascinating a character in her own right. Based on the ending, it certainly seems like more sequels are coming, and I’m definitely looking forward to them.

  11. Heads up for Best Graphic Story: Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle run ends this month (final issue on Halloween IIRC), so despite the TPB coming out in January, the entire series is eligible for 2019. Definite mainstay on my ballot.

  12. +1 for The Electric State for Graphic Novel. Really gorgeous art, and an initially slow story that builds to a strong finish.

  13. On that note, I think I can call my ballot for Best Graphic Story:

    The Electric State, written and illustrated by Simon Stålenhag (Simon & Schuster UK / Skybound Books US)

    Kill Six Billion Demons, Book 3: Seeker of Thrones, written and illustrated by Tom Parkinson-Morgan (killsixbilliondemons.com)

    Mare Internum, written and illustrated by Der-shing Helmer (marecomic.com)

    Mister Miracle, written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads (DC Comics)

    Ophiuchus, written by Ali Leriger de la Plante, illustrated by Natasha Tara Petrovic (serpentbearer.com)

    Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

    (Note: Mare Internum just exited a lengthy hiatus and is in its final stretch, updating weekly. I’m confident that it’ll end this year, but in case not, maybe I’ll swap it out with an entry from Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Duca’s Sleepless (Image Comics).)

  14. I’ve posted short fiction recommendations monthly at my blog and, in these comments, I’ve posted cumulative lists for the first two quarters of 2018. Here’s the one for the third quarter. (I’m a little late with this one because I didn’t finish the September/October issues until October; October’s recs are out but they belong in the final quarter’s comment. And the first recommendation isn’t relevant here, but I read it and it impressed me, so I’m still noting it.)

    “The Blockage” by Jack Westlake, Black Static #64, July/August 2018 (non-speculative horror short story)

    Chasing the Start” by Evan Marcroft, Strange Horizons, July 9, 2018 (science fiction novelette)*

    “Hainted” by Ashley Blooms, F&SF, July/August 2018 (fantasy short story)

    “In the Sharing Place” by David Erik Nelson, Asimov’s, September/October 2018 (science fiction short story)

    Jump” by Cadwell Turnbull, Lightspeed #100, September 2018 (fantasy short story)

    “The Monstrosity in Love” by Sam Thompson, Black Static #64, July/August 2018 (dark fantasy short story)

    The Nearest” by Greg Egan, Tor.com, July 19, 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory, Tor.com, September 19, 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    Shadowdrop” by Chris Willrich, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #261, September 27, 2018 (fantasy novella)

    A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds” by James Beamon, Lightspeed #98, July 2018 (fantasy short story)

    * Based on Greg Hullender’s observations, I may have granted “Chasing” some logical coherence it didn’t have but I haven’t had a chance to re-read it and decide so I’m sticking with the rec for now.

  15. Novella – Timshala by Leah Cypess (available online or to buy)

    An interesting novella (17,956 words) from The Book Smugglers that rattles through a story that could maybe have taken a bit more space to develop, especially the ending. The opening is very arresting – young Siara is sat in her mother’s tomb waiting to accompany her to the afterlife – and what develops from there is a portrait of a society that believes in predestination, apart from a few life occasions when you get a Choice. Escaping the tomb and defying that society appears to have been a Choice, and as Siara finds out more about the decisions that led her to this point she starts questioning them. The stakes are heightened by the fact that Siara’s late mother was the Empress, and there’s plenty she doesn’t know about her mother’s and father’s Choices that led her to that tomb, not to mention that there are others out there with different ideas about what her destiny should be. In some ways it’s a typical coming of age story about Siara finding her own way, but the philosophy of predestination and Choices adds a nice tinge of interest to it without overwhelming the story.

  16. Best Novel

    Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

    I know I’m late to the party, but I’m definitely jumping on this bandwagon. This is a complex thriller that, to me, is a unique marriage of epic fantasy with physics and quantum mechanics, due to its “scriving” magic system that twists and manipulates reality with exacting (and dangerous) strings of symbols, called sigils. There are also themes in this book of colonialism and classism, and what seems to be a recurring Bennett motif: the sins of the past rising up to bite the present big-time. It’s five hundred pages, but it’s well-paced with compelling characters.

  17. A bit late to the party, but let me share the love for Before Mars (like Bonnie, I was sleeping on Emma Newman’s subsequent Planetfall novels after the ending of Planetfall, but this one and After Atlas are excellent!), Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett, STET by Sarah Gailey and Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (the best of this year’s Murderbot trio, for sure).

    I actually came here to deliver a recommendation for the entire of Uncanny Issue 25, but especially Ghost Stories Please – *checks notes* sorry, The Thing About Ghost Stories by Naomi Kritzer. This is a story about Leah, a researcher who collects and categorises ghost stories, and her relationship with her mother who recently died of Alzheimer’s. As you’d expect from Kritzer, there’s a light touch despite the difficult subject matter, and I loved the interaction between the analysis of the ghost stories and the actual story Leah finds herself in.

    Unfortunately, if you’re reading Uncanny free online, it’s in the half of the issue that comes out next month (sorry, I don’t trust myself to remember to post later!) The good news is that you can tide yourself over with my second favourite story of the issue (a novelette), How to Swallow the Moon by Isabel Yap. This is a Filipino fairytale retelling with a pair of brilliant young women finding freedom and destiny while avoiding arranged marriage with any giant snakes.

    It would be remiss of me not to mention there’s a ribald and diverting T. Kingfisher story here this month too, The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society. Not quite Hugo level for me, but if you’re a fan (and how are can you not be a fan?) it’s WELL worth the read.

  18. Campbell Award – R.F. Kuang for The Poppy War

    IMO this is a strong debut, with the only real signs that Kuang is a new author being some slightly rough transitions as the story takes some jumps in time. Very enjoyable story, albeit with some extremely grim parts.

  19. +1 for Phoresis by Greg Egan – Novella.

    The story is told in three parts across several generations of people all trying to solve a potentially species-threatening problem. There was something about splitting the story across the generations that got to me. I have no idea if the world depicted in the book is scientifically feasible, but it all holds together within the story. You get just the right amount of details about the society and its people to draw you in without bogging you down in details. I came away completely satisfied but interested in reading more if the author is so inclined.

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