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.

274 thoughts on “2018 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Short story

    “Bones in the Rock,” R.K. Kalaw, Uncanny Magazine July/August 2018

    This is from Uncanny’s shared-universe dinosaur issue. A gorgeous story about dinosaurs, but also love and loss and hope, across the eons.

  2. DP WATCH

    Black Mirror‘s interactive movie “Bandersnatch” hits the 90 minute mark on its default path, meaning that it barely qualifies for Short Form. It’s an intriguing mix of gameplay and television that may very well light a path for storytelling going forward.

  3. Pingback: 2018 Novellapalooza | File 770

  4. The Body Library, by Jeff Noon

    Novel (second in a series, but largely functions as a stand-alone)

    I’ve read four books by Jeff Noon now, and every single one could be described as follows: “In the gritty streets of a bizarre city, people are taking a strange reality-altering drug which has terrible, unexpected consequences.” But the cities are different, the drugs are different, and the books are as different as it’s possible to be in this odd single-author subgenre. This one is a second John Nyquist noir in a city where story is king — quite literally, as it turns out — and it soon turns into a parable about authors, characters, and narrative. I liked it.

  5. Novelette

    An Aria for the Bloodlords By Hannah Strom-Martin (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

    A fascinating setting, perhaps resembling a 19th Century Paris with revolution in the streets and nobles at the opera. Music has real power in this setting, and the nobility simultaneously repress the masses enjoyment of it while craving performances for themselves. The story takes in the rehearsals for, and final performance of, an opera, some of whose performers are determined that it will be much more than meets the eye…
    The question of who the Bloodlord nobility of the titles really are runs through the story, which is carried through by Maestro Petrie, desperate for patronage but increasingly disturbed by who he is seeking the favour of. Despite a somewhat uneven start this finishes extremely strongly. I think it needs another level of polish to really hit the high notes but still a fascinating story.

    Novelette

    “Garda,” by Kameron Hurley (B&N)

    A SF hard boiled detective story. Inspector Abijah Olivia is hired to privately investigate a series of deaths of young workers from a factory, while the local Garda have something about it to hide. It hits all the required elements, some perhaps with more a sense of duty than enthusiasm, but the main character (who puts me in mind of Nyx) is strong enough to carry the story.
    (Described as a short story but I make it 8734 words so a novelette)

    Short Story

    The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes by Siobhan Carroll (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

    A charming piece telling the story of a cook of rare genius who influences an entire war through five increasingly complex meals. It’s told in a slightly distant manner that cleverly leaves room for all sorts of interpretations, and emphasises the sense of weariness with war that leads to the conclusion.

  6. And The Ocean Was Our Sky, by Patrick Ness

    Novella

    A strange and interesting little book about a war between whales and humans, told from the point of view of the whales. There are many allusions to Moby Dick, although the central premise is closer to Nietsche’s, “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.” I liked the style and the sheer oddness of it.

  7. The Green Man’s Heir, Juliet McKenna, Wizard’s Tower Press’
    Novel

    I’m normally rather meh about urban fantasy, but I’d heard good things about this one and Amazon had it on sale. I’m 1/3 of the way through and the writing is strong. good worldbuilding. I’m very glad I bought it!

    From the publisher’s page:

    A hundred years ago, a man with a secret could travel a few hundred miles and give himself a new name and life story. No one would be any the wiser, as long as he didn’t give anyone a reason to start asking questions. These days, that’s not so easy, with everyone on social media, and CCTV on every street corner. So Daniel Mackmain keeps his head down and keeps himself to himself.

    But now a girl has been murdered and the Derbyshire police are taking a closer look at a loner who travels from place to place, picking up work as he goes. Worse, Dan realises the murder involves the hidden world he was born into. When no one else can see the truth, who will see justice done?

    A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

  8. Novel

    Incense Rising – NJ Schrock.
    In a near future corporate-run dystopia, various rebels seek to change parts of the system. While the basic setting is not new, the author has made it seem fresh. The corporate team meetings esp. are hilarious. The characters are engaging and easy to love.

  9. Novel

    A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell

    From the publisher’s page:

    Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon—Sherlock Holmes—in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

  10. I Finished Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna out of Wizard’s Tower Press and I recommend it. Very enjoyable.

    I’m crap at reviewing. Can you tell that?

  11. @ULTRAGOTHA

    I recommend it. Very enjoyable.

    I’m crap at reviewing. Can you tell that?

    I’ve found it’s much harder to say why you liked something than to say what you didn’t like. I spent my first year as a reviewer making a list of “rules” not because I needed them to decide what to recommend but because I needed help articulating why I wanted to recommend a work. I also put a lot of effort into reading what other reviewers were writing and thinking over what did and didn’t work for me about their reviews. Even then, I’d probably written 2,000 reviews before I was really happy with the results.

    Whether anyone else is happy with them is another question. 🙂

  12. +1 for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. I’m putting this in the Long Form category as many of the choices lead you on a path that will take longer than 90 mins. The story worked for me on multiple levels. It has all the paranoid ‘is this really happening’ feel and exploration of virtual reality of Black Mirror episodes while also having an added meta dimension. Not having read ‘choose your own adventure’ books, I especially enjoyed the gradual realization as the viewer that there are no ‘wrong’ choices just different stories. And on the professional level I was very impressed by the technical craft displayed in seamlessly transitioning within scenes at choice points, as well as providing in-story reasons for backtracking and various choice options. It’s probably the most innovative thing I’d seen in 2018.

  13. Claire: A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell

    Hi Claire, the point of this thread is for people to say what they think makes a work worth recommending. Can you say what you liked about the novel, and why you’re recommending it? Thanks.

  14. Has anyone else read A Study in Honor? I’ve bought it and read the first three pages, so far so good.

  15. I’ve read a couple of different drafts of A STUDY IN HONOR, so I may be biased here.

    I found the near future Washington and the tech the author depicts utterly believable and immersing. Watson’s story is a strong character study, and I particularly liked the Watson-Holmes relationship.

    Above, I also liked The Green Man’s Heir. Really rich local detail, I only found out that some of the locations mentioned are imaginary, they really feel real and places I could visit. The main character is an interesting choice, the son of a dryad. The novel avoids a lot of the pitfalls I’ve had with urban/contemporary fantasy.

  16. Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway

    Novel

    Note: this novel was originally published in the UK in 2017. However, the U.S. edition appears to have been published in 2018, which I believe matters for some types of award nominations.

    What Nick Harkaway does well, he does very, very well. And here, as in The Gone-Away World, that means putting in a jaw-dropping twist so perfectly set up by the narrative that when it drops you’ll kick yourself for not realizing what was going on a hundred pages earlier. I was also pleased to see that he’s mostly corrected one of the greatest flaws of his earlier books, in that in this one he’s for the most part written women who come across as three-dimensional people.

    On the con side, this is not a work without flaws. It’s ambitious and sprawling, and unfortunately there are parts where it drags. I got tired of the adventures of Constantine Kyriakos long before they were over and done with (while at the same time the fascinating-to-me Mielikki Neith got relegated to a number of chapters so truncated that they were basically, “Mielikki woke up and then immediately went back to sleep again.”) I don’t know as this book really needed to be seven hundred pages long; there were parts that would have benefited a lot from judicious trimming or possibly being cut out altogether.

    Nonetheless, in spite of that I still think it was largely a success, and for a book with this much sheer book in it, that’s saying quite a bit.

  17. Short story

    The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside)

    A magical alt-history world is slowly revealed through the stories of the nine people who contributed teeth to George Washington. I have to say that I was a bit dubious when I saw this recommended elsewhere – I didn’t see where a story came from that – but although ostensibly separate stories they all come together to weave a tale of a fascinatingly different world

  18. YA Lodestar

    Like Never and Always, Ann Aguirre

    It’s a little difficult to describe this book without getting into spoilers, as the element that makes it SFF and kicks off the plot is a major spoiler in and of itself. (Although if you click over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble I imagine that element is included in the book description.) Since this story is set in our contemporary world, some people might regard it as barely “fantasy”–perhaps more “magical realism,” of the I Will Believe One Impossible Thing Before Breakfast type. This One Thing is a given and the story goes on from there. Because the One Thing isn’t really what the story is about. It’s about friendship, and one best friend living and another dying; and the finality of death and how it changes people; and whether we really know the ones we love; and the secrets the ones we love can keep from us.

    However you want to classify it, it’s a beautiful, emotional story, with fully realized characters. I loved it. It’s definitely on my YA shortlist.

  19. I love Ann Aguirre’s work and her collaboration with Rachel Caine, Honor Among Thieves, is on my Lodestar shortlist. However, Like Never and Always passed me by, so thanks for the tip.

  20. Novelette

    Nine Last Days on Planet Earth, by Daryl Gregory (tor.com)

    A potted history of events when the earth is “invaded” by plants from falling meteors – are they hostile, are they the precursor to other more dangerous arrivals – but that’s really just the background to the story of LT and his family as he grows up from age 10 to find himself in this new world.
    There’s a real scope to this tale, and while it suffers a little from having to skip through such a long story so quickly, it also adds an elegaic quality to it all, leading to a poignant ending.

  21. Lodestar (YA)

    Annex, by Rich Larson

    I’ve deliberately been avoiding YA books in 2018, because most of the ones I’ve read the last few years have disappointed me by valorizing selfishness and stupidity as heroic traits. But the synopsis of this one was interesting, and the gorgeous Gregory Manchess cover and the fact that it was available at my library probably pushed it over the line. And it was well worth reading.

    The story dumps you in media res, 6 months after an alien invasion has left the adults mindless from devices attached to their brainstems which have them living in ideal VR worlds. The children have been rounded up into camps, and some sort of organism implanted to incubate inside the torso of each of them. However, some children have managed to escape, and they hide out together and forage for food and survival.

    As the story progresses, the reader gradually finds out more about the aliens and why they’ve done what they’ve done to the adults and to the children. There are a couple of different kinds of aliens, and the author has done a good job of making them truly alien, rather than just humans in alien bodies.

    There is definitely some selfishness and stupidity perpetrated by some of the characters, but it’s portrayed as exactly that, so yay! There are some plot conveniences which may strain disbelief, but I was willing to roll with them, and overall, I found it an enjoyable book. It’s a complete story, but definitely leaves a setup for a sequel.

  22. @JJ

    I wasn’t taken enough by Annex to rec it here, but I +1 your review – the book is a bit of a mess at times but I liked the Big Idea.

  23. The Monster Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    Note: Published as The Monster in the UK

    This book goes in a surprising direction after the first one, becoming much more a quest/adventure story than the tale of political machinations readers were led to expect — albeit a quest/adventure story with a drunken, grieving, brain-damaged heroine who has convinced all her potential allies that she’s a psychopath that needs to die and who isn’t entirely sure they’re wrong. The characters bounce from one catastrophe to another, coming to mostly wrong conclusions and trying to backstab each other because of it, moving from the Machiavellian manipulation we’ve seen before to a sense that everyone is flailing around in the dark. I think it reads best on an almost metaphorical level; Baru’s past actions are coming back to haunt her, very nearly literally in some cases.

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