2019 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2019-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.

125 thoughts on “2019 Recommended SF/F List

  1. @JJ/Laura

    Yes, Rivers of London was one of those finalists unlucky enough to be up against Bujold in the 2017 Hugos (for 2016 works), as opposed to those finalists unlucky enough to be up against Bujold in the 2018 Hugos. I can only assume the 2019 finalists are happy she’s given them a chance this year 🙂

  2. Another Gaiman-related work: The Dreaming, Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations. This is the first volume of a sequel to his iconic Sandman graphic novel series. Daniel, the new Dream of the Endless, has disappeared, and his realm is starting to literally fall apart without him. One of the inhabitants tries to restore order by releasing a powerful nightmare from his imprisonment, and it goes exactly as well as you’d expect.

    The first issue of this volume is also the jumping-off point for a couple of other series, one of which will center around the voudoun loa Erzulie and is written by Nalo Hopkinson. Another will feature the character of Lucifer, and the third appears to be a sequel or retelling (I’m not sure which) of The Books of Magic, which Gaiman wrote before Sandman made him famous. I was never that interested in BoM, but I have the first volumes of the Lucifer and Erzulie series on pre-order.

  3. @N

    So how do you add things to the list? I logged in, but I couldn’t see anything that said “add” on the page.

  4. @Bonnie

    There’s three dots in the top bar that you can click on, then click Edit, then copypaste the title code of the episode found in the URL (e.g. tt10454734) to add it.

    Or, at least, that’s what I can do. If you try that and it doesn’t let you you can try commenting stuff that you think should be added.

  5. @N

    Well, I can’t get the IMBD Facebook comments to work, and apparently I can’t add to your list because I don’t own it. So could you add these to the list:
    episodes 3 and 6 of “Good Omens” (“Hard Times” and “The Very Last Day of the Rest of Their Lives”), “An Obol for Charon”, ep 3 from “Star Trek: Discovery”, and “Useful,” ep 3 from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Thanks.

  6. Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols

    A random something-which-might-be-interesting I grabbed.

    Astronaut Catherine Wells returns to Earth, the sole survivor of an expedition that has missing for nearly a decade, on the far side of a wormhole. She has no memory of what happened to her out there, but NASA doctors diagnose this as PTSD, and she is proclaimed to be a hero. But Catherine herself isn’t so sure. She has reason to suspect that there’s more to her memory loss than appears on the surface. Could she have come back…wrong?

    Despite some minor flaws, I enjoyed this quite a bit. For a first novel (which it is), it’s very good indeed. Nichols definitely knows her SF, and did decent research. The protagonist is a complex character with complex relationships, but not so complex that they detract from the story–the balance of character-building vs. plot was quite well done. And, while I managed to figure out a large part of what was going on fairly quickly, there were some parts that kept me guessing till the end.

    I don’t know if I’ll end up nominating this one, but I enjoyed it enough that I think it deserves a quick recommendation.

  7. Best Short Story

    (These are all from the anthology A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams. This is an excellent collection, and really makes me wish the Hugos had a Best Anthology category.)

    “Our Aim is Not To Die,” A. Merc Rustad. This is the best story in the book, bar none. It deals with the oppression and erasure of trans people in the name of a totalitarian government indoctrinating for the Ideal Citizen (white, straight, male). However, in its tense narrative of fomenting a revolution, it also turns a prominent SF trope on its head: the AI depicted herein is not, as is so often the case, committed to destroying humanity. It is committed to saving them, specifically positioning itself as a champion for vulnerable people. Rereading the story again, it made me tear up a little; it is damned powerful.

    “Read After Burning,” Maria Dahvana Headley. This is hard to classify; I don’t know if it’s fantasy or magic realism, or both. But this tale of an underground library after the apocalypse, and librarians who tattoo words and magic on their skin and into their bodies, can be summed up in one paragraph: This is what I whisper to you now, so that you will carry the story of the library, so that you will know how we made magic and how we made books out of burdens. This is to teach you how to transform loss into literature, and love into a future. It is to teach you how to make a book that will endure burning. In its own way, it’s both a counterpart and a rebuttal to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

    Finally, the dark, absurd and delightful “Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death,” N.K. Jemisin’s tale of oppression, a near-future updating of the biblical Ten Plagues, and genetically engineered dragons that eat vegetables laced with hot sauce. (Collard greens, y’all!) That sounds totally over the top, but just go with it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  8. Best Novella

    “Glass Cannon,” Yoon Ha Lee, from the collection Hexarchate Stories

    I don’t know if Lee intends to write more novels in the Machineries of Empire universe, but if so, this makes for a terrific springboard. It deals with the reveals and aftermath of Revenant Gun, and throws a strategically placed bomb into the status quo. It probably doesn’t stand alone well (or at all), but for me, it was very satisfying to see my favorite undead General get his memories and his groove back.

  9. Trapped in the R. A. W. by Kate Boyes
    Aqueduct Press
    Aqueduct Blog: https://aqueductpress.blogspot.com/2019/07/kate-boyess-trapped-in-raw.html

    Blurb from Blog:

    A young woman working alone in a small special collections library is trapped in the building when invaders overrun her town. She barricades the doors, peeks through a window, and watches in horror as people are murdered outside. The invaders wear uniforms that cover them completely, making it impossible for her to see their faces. However, she realizes at once that they do not intend to subjugate the population. They intend to annihilate it.

    Link to novel excerpt at blog.

  10. Best Novel

    Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World #2), Rebecca Roanhorse

    This sequel to current Hugo nom Trail of Lightning is quite satisfying, and shows notable improvement from the author: the prose is smoother, the pacing better, and the characterizations sharper. The protagonist in particular is given some good character development, and the short coda of an ending promises all sorts of trouble in the next book. I’m looking forward to it.

  11. Best Novel

    Fleet of Knives, Gareth L. Powell

    In this sequel to last year’s Embers of War, Powell has definitely upped his game. This is a tightly written, well paced exploration of what happens with the 5000-year-old alien fleet awakened by the retired warship Trouble Dog and her crew in the last book, and it is decidedly not a good thing. It isn’t really necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one; the author does an exceptional job of recapping the previous storyline and characters. This has just vaulted into the ranks of my favorite space opera series ever.

  12. @Bonnie concur with you wholeheartedly on Fleet of Knives.

    (I’ve got to find time to read Storm of Locusts)

  13. I will second Bonnie’s enthusiasm for Embers of War and Fleet of Knives. But while the first is a lot like a Becky Chambers book, with some violence and tragedy that her books don’t share, the second has a lot higher body count in terms of conflict and intergalactic war.

    They’re great books for people who love epic space adventure. I can’t really recommend the second one for an award given that it doesn’t stand alone well, but I absolutely recommend both of them as great reads, and I can definitely see it being a Best Series contender at some point.

  14. A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine


    A stunning blending of palace intrigue, murder mystery, and space opera with a riveting setting and great characters. While it isn’t completely without flaw (there are a couple of minor inconsistencies, and some plot threads that seem insufficiently explored — possibly they’ll be picked up on in the sequels?), it’s close enough to it that I feel completely comfortable giving it a five star review.

  15. novelette

    The Thirty-Eight-Hundred Bone Coat, by R.K. Duncan, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 5/9/19

    A man’s family has a chance to transform their lives by creating an impossibly powerful magic coat. I thought the author’s name sounded familiar, and I’ve enjoyed each of his recent BCS stories more than the last.

  16. +1 to A Memory Called Empire. This is a deliberately paced, dense, thoughtful read, and so much of it plays out in the nuances of language and culture–and yes, even of poetry. Take your time with this one. You will definitely be rewarded.

  17. Who’s Afraid of Amy Sinclair?, by Jenn Gott

    Novel (second in a series)

    The excellent book The Private Life of Jane Maxwell gets an excellent sequel. Yay for queer superheroes with complicated life problems! One thing that makes the books in this series especially good are the fascinating comparisons drawn between parallel universe duplicates, who can end up in very different places depending on what happened in their lives.

    This one delves into the psyche and point of view of the character Mindsight, who after the events at the end of the last book is experiencing, lets say, unexpected complications (both internal and external). While there are a few moments in this one that didn’t work as well as the rest — the character of Jane comes across as a bit too much of a jerk in some of the early chapters, I thought — on the whole this was a great read. And when the next book in the series comes out, I will snap it up just as quickly.

  18. +1 for The Kingdom of Copper by SA Chakraborty. 2nd in the Daevabad series and is as strong as the first. Can’t wait for the third to come out in Feb 2020.

  19. YA Lodestar

    Honor Bound, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

    This is the second book in the Honors trilogy. It continues the story of Zara Cole, a young criminal in a near-future Earth who lucks into the so-called Honors Program, which pairs teens with sapient spaceships/space whales to explore the galaxy. Only there’s a lot the Leviathan haven’t told humans…and Zara and her crew are thrust right into the middle of it.

    The main quibble with this book is that it doesn’t stand alone well. It picks up right on the heels of the first book, Honor Among Thieves, and there’s very little recapping. All the worldbuilding was done in the previous volume, which would probably make for no little confusion if you haven’t read it. (This book also ends on an incredible cliffhanger, if you don’t like that sort of thing.) But this book expands on the first, both in terms of characterization and themes: Zara learns to trust, to give to others, and be vulnerable, and the themes of war, of the inherent darkness in humanity and if they can learn to rise above it, are explored here. This book is a powerful, emotional ride.

  20. Just finished reading Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame and haven’t found my socks yet. Her previous stuff was good: this one has leveled up – either that, or it did better at pushing my buttons, at least. It features a pair of relatable nerdy kids that we watch grow up, and then gives us some worldshaking conflict. (In one scene, literally.) It’s the book I wanted All the Birds in the Sky to be.

    (It also reminded me fairly inescapably of Hitherby Dragons. But then Hitherby Dragons is one of my favorites.)

  21. The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, by Jackson Ford


    Teagan Frost has been given no choice but to use her psychokinetic powers on behalf of the government. And when someone is murdered in a way that only Teagan could have pulled off, her boss gives her one day to clear her name — or get dissected.

    I will freely admit that I bought this book on the strength of the title. Did it live up to it? Well, it’s not going to set the world aflame with its depth and profundity, but it’s a fun thriller with some nifty characters and a twist or two I didn’t see coming. And that’s not a bad thing, at all.

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