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.

133 thoughts on “2018 Recommended SF/F List

  1. “Time Served” by Leslie Wilber in the latest Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (#37, Spring 2018).

    It’s a short story about family. The genre elements are primarily background. Nicely told. It will go on my long list for Hugo nomination.

  2. Novella:

    Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, by Simon Petrie

    This novella was released as an individual volume in Australia in 2017, but has only just been released in the U.S. in 2018, so it is eligible for the Hugos next year. It was a finalist for Australia’s Aurealis and Ditmar Awards, and won NZ’s Sir Julius Vogel Award.

    Colony life on Titan is harsh and unforgiving, but the people who live there have made a civilization, with mass transit and manufacturing and leisure activities. But like all civilizations, people are stratified by income and assets — wealthy, middle-class, and poor — and this is reflected in the way that laws are enforced and privileges are apportioned.

    Titan is still very much a wild frontier, so any time there’s a death, it is investigated by professionals who determine what happened and why, and figure out how similar deaths can be prevented in the future — whether by improved safety equipment and protocols, or by better methods to identify and assist people who are experiencing medical or psychological difficulties.

    Thus, when the 20-year-old daughter of a wealthy industrialist walks out of the dome’s airlock onto the surface of Titan and deliberately removes her helmet, suffering a prolonged and painful death, an investigator is assigned to figure out why. But she soon faces puzzling and obstructionist behavior by the young woman’s parents, coupled with reports of strange behavior by the victim from her friends, and inconsistent data about what actually happened — and suddenly, random incidents and “accidents” which threaten the investigtor’s life.

    There are enough clues sprinkled throughout the narrative that I had 90% of the solution figured out by halfway through. But the worldbuilding is so interesting that there was never any question of reading all the way to the end, especially for the 10% that I didn’t see coming.

  3. Seconding “The Thing in the Walls Wants Your Small Change.” What a lovely little story.

  4. @Lace & @JJ: Thanks for recommending “Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman; that was excellent! I third the recommendation for this story.

    Since Novelette ends at 17.5K words and it’s a smidge over 18K words, it’s going into my newly-created “keep in mind for the Hugos” list under Best Novella.

  5. DRAMATIC PRESENTATION SHORT FORM WATCH:

    For those avoiding Westworld out of either principle or exhaustion, the recent episode “Kiksuya” is getting raves across the board, so it’s worth checking out.

  6. DRAMATIC PRESENTATION SHORT FORM WATCH:

    Dystopian feminist drama The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) just dropped “Smart Power,” an episode critics are calling its best so far.

  7. DRAMATIC PRESENTATION SHORT FORM WATCH:

    Oh hey, Lucifer (Fox/Netflix) just got saved from cancellation by Netflix. This feels like a good time to shout out a series that has turned into a quietly engrossing fantasy drama, and to shed a light on current series-best, “A Devil of My Word.” (I’m gonna try and make this a regular thing here, as you’ve probably guessed.)

  8. Also dramatic presentation, I have seen very little buzz about Hard Sun, a British pre-apocalyptic crime drama from the creator of Luther. The premise is that the world will end in five years and the MI5 is trying to keep this knowledge secret. Two police officers accidentally stumble upon the truth and are hunted, while the world is busily disintegrating all round them. It’s not for the faint of heart – the level of violence is pretty high – but very good.

  9. @N

    Thank you. I agree re: The Handmaid’s Tale–“Smart Power,” and the episode preceding it, “Woman’s Work,” were both outstanding.

    If The Expanse sticks the landing with its final episodes, I’m going to nominate the entire season for Long Form.

  10. @N @Bonnie McDaniel
    I was disappointed that no episode of The Handmaid’s Tale made the Hugo shortlist this year in spite of winning Emmys, Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards and pretty much every other TV award out there, while The Good Place was nominated twice. I hope this will be remedied next year.

  11. JJ – I agree, honestly I’m not entirely sure what the point was of that final chapter completely and it hurt an otherwise good/weird book. I really enjoyed the rest though.

    I read Blackfish City which I enjoyed a lot, though there was stuff that made me feel slightly removed from being fully invested in it. But it does have strong representations of characters of different genders or gender fluid, and also of various sexual preferences, and some really interesting ideas presented in terms of cycle of revenge, governance via AI, the depressing cyclical nature of humans taking advantage of each other and scapegoating as a means of distraction to do so, and different presentations of future tech.

    But man I went from that to trying to read 84K and I bounced off of that book hard because I think I’ve hit my fill for the moment of near future dystopias that don’t feel too far removed from the current state of things.

  12. Witchmark by C.L. Polk (Tor)
    Hugo Category:Novel
    Description:
    Dr. Miles Singer finds himself drawn back into the world of magic which he was trying to escape. Magic is not all that it seems to be, and Miles is torn by his duty to his patients and a frightening mystery involving his family and the upper class magicians who control his country.
    What I liked:
    I really loved this book! Absolutely fell in love with Miles and other characters. The worldbuilding is a neat twist on Edwardian England recovering from WWI. It starts out as a murder mystery, which leads to an epic reveal.

    When I finished it, I was on the train into work and had to blink back tears. The emotional ride was exactly what I look for in a book.

  13. I’ve posted short fiction recommendations monthly at my blog and a previous cumulative list, for the first quarter of 2018, in these comments. Here’s the one for the second quarter (plus one from late March).

    Bride Before You” by Stephanie Malia Morris, Nightmare #68, May 2018 (horror short story)

    “Death and Natalie, Natalie and Death” by Jordan Taylor, On Spec #107, [April] 2018 (fantasy short story)

    Fleeing Oslyge” by Sally Gwylan, Clarkesworld #140, May 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    From the Root” by Emma Törzs, Lightspeed #97, June 2018 (science fantasy short story)

    Grace’s Family” by James Patrick Kelly, Tor.com, May 16, 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    I’ll Get Back to You” by Ryan Bloom, Terraform, April 6, 2018 (science fiction short story)

    “The Last Biker Gang” by Wil McCarthy, Analog, May/June 2018 (science fiction novella)

    Leviathan Sings to Me in the Deep” by Nibedita Sen, Nightmare #69, June 2018 (dark fantasy short story)

    My Favourite Sentience” by Marissa Lingen, Nature, April 25, 2018 (science fiction short story)

    Redaction” by Adam R. Shannon, Compelling #11, Summer 2018 (science fiction short story)

    Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills, Strange Horizons, April 2, 2018 (fantasy short story)

    Targeted Behavior” by J.D. Moyer, Compelling #11, Summer 2018 (science fiction short story)

    This Big” by John Cooper Hamilton, Nature, March 21, 2018 (science fiction short story)

    The Thought That Counts” by K.J. Parker, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, April 26, 2018 (fantasy novelette)

  14. Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

    Novel (second in a series)

    Nona Grey finds herself on the run for her life as the machinations of the imperial family catch her up in their web.

    The sequel to Red Sister is, if anything, even better than the first book. An entertaining, breakneck ride. It answers some of the questions raised earlier in the series while leaving others wide open for the coming conclusion. (And for those that like a nice dose of violence and gore, there’s buckets of it to spare.)

  15. On Metafilter this week, I made a series of posts on SF/F short fiction of 2018 that might be of interest here, because they’re essentially recommendations and/or context for recommended stories:
    Winner of the White Review Short Story Prize for 2018
    Four charming and/or dryly humorous SF/F short stories
    Ledger B, 1772-1793: pg. 179
    Relationships unfolding in moments of realization–two SF/F stories
    “We are chaos. We are the teeth of dragons, shed like seeds”
    Three recent SF/F short stories about memories lost and found
    Some reviews & reviewers of 2018’s SF/F short fiction so far

    The last one in particular gathers up recommendations from other sources that I could get behind, but these stories were my personal favorites of the year to date:
    Julia Armfield, “The Great Awake” (The White Review, April 2018)
    Marissa Lingen, “My Favourite Sentience” (Nature, 25 April 2018)
    Phenderson Djèlí Clark, “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” (Fireside, February 2018)
    Samantha Mills, “Strange Waters” (Strange Horizons, 2 April 2018)
    Eleanor Pearson, “Mirror Images” (Syntax & Salt, 19 March 2018)

  16. Short story

    Carouseling, Rich Larson, Clarkesworld 139, April 2018.

    A woman is missing in a high-energy physics experiment, and her partner searches for more information.

    Novelette

    I happened to finish K.J. Parker’s “The Thought That Counts” today, and will second @Jason’s recommendation.

  17. The spousebeing won an ARC of Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few, and I read it.

    What I liked about the book: That wonderful sense of the far-future society and community. Her characters. All the aliens in the Galactic Commons and its history. The world feels lived-in, and when people disappear off-stage, they go to real places.

    What I disliked about the book: The story is … slight. There’s a plot. There is story movement. But there’s not a lot of it and it’s spread evenly throughout the book. The book is set primarily on one ship in the Exodan fleet, so even the GC sightseeing is at a minimum.

    It just wasn’t for me.

    I find these books to be a sideways throwback to the era when All Problems Will Be Solved With Hard Science, A Slide Rule, and an Abundance of Pluck.

    Except that here All Problems Will Be Solved With a Supportive Community, The Willingness To Make Painful Decisions, and an Abundance of Empathy.

    I don’t think this is a bad thing.

    If what you loved about the other Wayfarers books was that sense of community, then you’re probably going to love this one as well. And I will absolutely recommend it to you.

    I’m still going to eagerly anticipate any future books in this series. I am confident one will be the book for me.

  18. Two notable recent short stories:

    “Perchance to Dream,” Forrest Brazeal, Daily Science Fiction 7/12/18. (A creepy little story about nightmares made flesh.)

    “Suzie Q,” Jacqueline Carey, Apex Magazine June 2018. (This is the second outstanding story I’ve read this year about women’s oppression and women’s anger. Is this a theme of sorts? Given the current political climate, I’m not surprised. In a way, this story is also the dark mirror of Hogwarts.)

  19. Novels:

    Revenant Gun, Yoon Ha Lee. I referenced this on a Scroll thread but also wanted to include it here. This brings the Machineries of Empire trilogy to a most satisfying conclusion. This is the longest of the three books, about half again the length of Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, and Lee uses the extra length to take an even deeper dive into his characters and world.

    Needless to say, this book also vaults the Machineries of Empire series right onto my Best Series list.

    The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal

    If you liked Hidden Figures (which I adored) you will love this. This is an alternate-history space race set in motion by an asteroid impact, featuring Elma York from “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” Obviously, this kind of story requires a great deal of technical jargon, and the depth of Kowal’s research is immediately apparent. But she never infodumps or lets her research slow the story down. It takes a hell of a writer to pull that off.

  20. @Bonnie McDaniel

    +1 to both of those, and in particular The Calculating Stars (just because I don’t think Eleventyfox Gambit needs as much of a signal boost). It’s got MRKs signature of portraying stable long-term relationships with the care others put into initial romances, and as a alt-history it’s really clever and interesting – I too loved Hidden Figures, and also Rise of the Rocket Girls which MRK rightly praises in the afterword. There’s an element of the alt-history that I’m chewing over whether I’m entirely convinced by, but that’s more pickiness than a serious issue. For the benefit of others, there’s a sequel coming out this year – in some ways it’s a single story spilt between the two books – but tCS stands alone well enough for me to consider it. I may well be tempted to nominate them as one if the sequel sticks the landing.

  21. Hey there, rec thread – it’s been a minute!

    I’m here to provide a conditional recommendation for Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. This hits a lot of the same notes as her previous fairytale story, Uprooted, although the two aren’t officially set in the same universe, and as a technical accomplishment it’s a wonderful book, full of interesting plot twists, convincingly creepy fae societies and social commentary which stays true to the time and place being drawn from without undermining the sense of care and kindness which permeates a lot of the relationships.

    HOWEVER. I know a few Filers are holding back on this one to find out if the uncomfortable, quasi-abusive relationship dynamics in Uprooted are reproduced here – and unfortunately they are. The theme of young women outwitting men who have absolute power over them in order to win their respect is a big part of Spinning Silver’s plot, and while I don’t think it portrays this as romantic to the same extent as Uprooted does, these elements are still happening in marital relationships that the women are unable to escape. If this is something you don’t want to read, for whatever reason, I suggest giving this one a pass – there’s plenty of excellent stuff out there that doesn’t rely on emotional abuse for its plot.

    (P.S. I did a longer review for Nerds of a Feather earlier in the week – hopefully I’m getting my URLs right for once!)

  22. Starless, by Jacqueline Carey
    Novel
    Tagline: “Gods walk the Earth – but only a mortal can save it.”

    Khai grows up in the Fortress of the Scouring Wind, where he trains to serve as the Shadow of princess Zariya, a role he was destined for at birth (and through a Dalai Lama-like selection process.) At age 16 he finally travels to the capital to take up his role. And, well, there’s a prophecy and stuff.

    The core of the novel is a rather traditional epic fantasy – there’s prophecies, a Chosen One, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, etc. The world building is excellent, though, and there are enough twists on the epic fantasy tropes that it doesn’t feel clichéd – twists that I don’t think I can say more about without spoiling too much.

    There’s some similarities to Kushiel’s Dart – the most important one in this regard being that the prose, the narrator’s voice, feels very similar. There’s no kinky sex, though.

    On the negative side, it felt like the book petered out a little towards the end. The prophecies are a bit too explicit, and foreshadow the plot too much. Combined with the narrative imperative of a reasonably happy ending that takes out much of the tension and the book never succeeds in the emotional punch that Kushiel’s Dart had for me. But still: Recommended.

  23. Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

    Sorry to Bother You (written / directed by Boots Riley)

    There is a serious spoiler which involves the genre elements in this film, so I will not speak about them directly. To wit, I didn’t realize there were any when I initially watched it.

    The premise of the film is that our protagonist, a black man named Cassius (“Cash”) Green, takes a job as a telemarketer. Work is difficult and depressing until a co-worker teaches him to unleash his inner “white voice.” The film takes some expected dystopian turns (as any moderately realistic workplace-relations film might), and then it takes a hard left into the genre (although never in a way that feels unrealistic). The entire scene at the telemarketing company CEO’s party was one jaw-dropping moment after another.

    It was funny (*). I have been thinking about it for days. The actors (Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, et al) are good. Some of larger plot pieces are clunky and obvious. But so many of the small things are done subtly and well that I am willing to forgive it these flaws.

    I recommend it whole-heartedly, but not without reservation. It comes by its R rating honestly (sex, profanity, violence, and the all-inclusive “adult situations”). And if you have problems with body horror, you might want to sit this out.

    (*) I loved all of the popular-culture skewering, but that is hard to excerpt as an example. Instead, I will reference a bit about how Tessa Thompson’s character is named Detroit because her parents wanted to give her an American name.

  24. Novel by Grayson Saunders
    The Human Dress

    While not a Commonweal novel, I’m still impressed by the author. It is a dense novel with a lot of depictions seemingly unimportant that ended up crucial to the plots and subplots.

    The only negative thing that I have to say is that maps would have been helpful.

  25. Second The Human Dress. It’s a VERY dense novel and it’s full of old-English neologisms. (Paleologisms?) Very “Uncleftish Beholdings“, anyway.

    Well worth the concentration, however; currently on my Hugo longlist.

  26. Novelette

    Silence in Blue Glass,” by Margaret Ronald, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250.

    Not long after my release from the convalescent wing of St. Thecla’s Hospital, I received an invitation to join my brother Theodric for dinner. It would be inaccurate to say that this was the first contact I had from him since I went off to war in the uncanny lands to the north…

    A mystery investigation in an alternate Britain. Just beyond the length boundary between short and novelette.

    (My apologies if this is a duplicate post – my VPN just threw up.)

  27. Novel: Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse

    (also x-posted on 7/21 Pixel Scroll)

    Charlie Jane Anders was raving about this on Goodreads, saying Roanhorse has basically reinvented the urban fantasy genre. I don’t think I would go that far–it’s a first novel, and it’s a little rough–but the setting (on the Navajo reservation after global flooding caused by climate change has caused Navajo myths, legends and monsters to be reborn in the flesh) and protagonist (Maggie Hoskie, Navajo monster hunter) are unique. If Rebecca Roanhorse doesn’t win the Campbell this year, on the strength of this I will definitely be nominating her again.

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