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.

258 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
    Novel

    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
    Novel
    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

    Novel

    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

    Novel

    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.

  22. The Elemental Logic Series by Laurie J. Marks (Small Beer Press
    Hugo Category: Series, eligible because of Air Logic published in 2019
    link: https://smallbeerpress.com/books/2019/06/04/air-logic/
    Brief, spoiler-free description of story premise: Shaftal is a country under siege, and a small group of elementally talented people work to solve the problems of the country. Unfortunately, they are opposed from within and without, and sometimes solutions cause more problems.

    What I liked and didn’t like about it: I loved this series. It was one I had seen recommended, but was not able to read until these recent Small Beer Press editions. I’m so glad they rescued it and made it possible for the author to finish the series and stick the landing at the end. This is going to be a comfort read for me in the future. One of the things I loved was that the characters–though powerful–are flawed and imperfect, and yet find a way to do their best and find love and family.

    Available in ink and paper and ebook.

  23. Novel – Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O’Keefe
    This is my first book by O’Keefe, which must be a failing on my part because this was thoroughly enjoyable, and rather clever to boot.
    This is a space opera set in a system suffering a tense conflict between two planets, the independent Icarion, and Ada Prime, part of the Protectorate of the Primes who control all interstellar traffic through their series of gates. Sanda wakes up after a brief but explosive confrontation between her home of Ada, and the Icarians – and it’s an Icarion ship she’s waking up on. Worst still, the ship’s AI tells her it’s centuries later, and the Icarians had unleashed an unprecedented weapon, wiping out both her home planet and themselves. Sanda has to persuade the AI to trust her and come up with a plan to get back to civilisation.
    Cut back to shortly after Sanda was lost, and her brother Biran is just joining the leadership of Ada Prime – the Keepers – as tension is at its height and they wait to see if the Icarians will fulfil their threat about this new weapon.
    Interspersed with these two stories are some more cameos filling in the blanks, and what initially appears to be an unrelated side-story set elsewhere.
    Although tense, these storylines seem to be heading in fairly predictable directions – but then the twists begin, and the secrets behind the setting start to filter through. It would be too spoilerific to say any more, but there’s some very well played plotting in here, and no faction is black-or-white. It was a good story, and Sanda is the standout character as she has to survive a cold future with only her wits.
    This is the beginning of a series, and that’s where my only real criticism comes in – although it ends at a fairly satisfactory breakpoint, it’s to-be-continued and there’s a lot of material that has clearly only been put in book 1 to support later events. I suspect that the lack of immediate closure will keep this off my final ballot, but what is being set up is clearly going to be very interesting and I hope the series as a whole sticks the landing.

    I’d happily peg this as at the level of the Gareth Powell and Tim Pratt space opera series that others have been praising this year (personally I loved the Pratt series but merely liked the Powell series)

  24. Novel

    +1 for Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. It shares DNA with the Wayward Children stories and the Mira Grant horror novels, but stands apart from them. I read it in three days including one session of the late-night Bad Decisions Book Club.

  25. This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

    Novella

    Well, this was fantastic. Both a great time travel story AND a great romance story. I’m also a sucker for epistolary writing, so that was a nice bonus for me. Highly recommended.

  26. The Null Space Conundrum by Violet Allen, Lightspeed Magazine 110 (July 2019)

    Short Story

    Aria is supposed to help Kantikle save the universe, but it’s sooo boring. Then it all goes pear-shaped. This is a weird story, and it is the kind of weird I really like. At one point the story switches to a drama with the characters slowly finding out how to manipulate the stage orders, so that things can still happen.

  27. Short story: “The Boy Who Loved Drowning” by R.K. Duncan, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (issue #272). The main character, Bit, is the apprentice to the best diviner in the city. He’s very talented and loves the job, so things are going great. But the method of divination has its limits, and Bit’s mentor becomes concerned when he demonstrates the ability to bend those rules. Is she genuinely worried about him or just jealous that he might become a better diviner than her?

    The language in this story was evocative, especially when describing the divination sessions themselves and the games of make-believe that Bit plays (he’s a child when the story starts). The magic has well-defined rules, but Duncan still managed to leave room for a sense of mystery. The only criticism I have is that we don’t get much sense of what the larger setting is like, aside from the place of diviners in it.

  28. Air Logic by Laurie J. Marks

    Novel (fourth in a series)
    Series (Elemental Logic)

    The long-awaited final book in the Elemental Logic sequence does not disappoint, continuing the sweeping themes, riveting characters, and fascinating world of the first three novels, while providing what closure is possible in a series that has always been more about processes than conclusions. I could go on for ages about what makes these books so amazing — from the unflinching look at the horrors of war to the subtle humor to the entire concept of magic being as much a way of thinking as a means of doing.

    This book provides a truly terrifying villain and finally makes clear why everyone finds air witches so very, very frightening, but as usual it refrains from easy answers and simple good versus evil narratives. There is good and evil in these books, but when evil is the inability to change, forgive, and admit wrongdoing, then simple, cartoonish characterization becomes impossible.

  29. Novel
    Sixteen ways to defend a walled city KJ Parker

    I was mightily impressed by this. I had tried other books by Parker but never seemed to grab me. This is a standalone, not a trilogy, and also unlike say the Engineer trilogy hasn’t been written with the aim of inducing existential despair and horror at the human race.

    It is, in fact, a right jolly retelling of the story of a Byzantium with the numbers filed off, told by an ex-slave who has risen to the head of the Corps of Engeneers. He likes building bridges, firmly intends to run away from any fighting as fast as it’s possible for somebody for whom running is not a thing, and due to a series of circumstances finds himself involved in the defense of the City, which he knows pretty well it’s doomed.

    Technically, it’s fantasy. It has, however, all the things that hard sf is praised for: worldbuilding, science, engeneering, and one of the deepest depictions of a man in love in technology I’ve ever read.

    It’s also written in a vivid, snarky, funny and very likeable voice, and for a change (from what I remember of other KJ Parker works), the lead character and narrator is not a total scumbag, oh sorry, shades of grey character.

  30. Novella(s) – I’ve been on a bit of a novella kick recently

    Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney (c41,000 words)
    I was introduced the CSE Cooney via “The Bone Swans of Amandale” which had such a wonderful, lyrical approach to reconstructing a fairytale. This novella has the same virtues, albeit in quite a different type of story.
    Desdemona is a spoilt, impulsive rich girl in a gaslight setting. Luckily she’s also got a big heart hiding in there, and so when she discovers that the old stories of faerie are far too true, and her family are complicit in something very nasty, she decides to go fix things. She’s a great character, very much flawed – impulsive, not considering others enough, but also determined and with a sense of morals. The fantastical elements are great – this isn’t a twee faerie, or an unremittingly evil one, but one that acknowledges that its inhabitants are just very very different. The conclusion that the real monsters are at home is perhaps a bit on the nose but I think it was well-earned. This is a lyrical, atmospheric story with a complex main character.
    (I believe this is part of a loose series but I had found it stood alone perfectly well)

    To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (c39,700 words)
    This standalone novella doesn’t seem to relate to her ongoing Wayfarers series, although it’s certainly thematically linked, being a story of the human race pushing out into space and how it changes them.
    Here, a 4 person team of explorers are surveying and experiencing a set of exoplanets. It’s a deliberately structured journey through the different landscapes and the challenges of each one, as the explorers engineer themselves to live and work better on each planet rather than trying to change the planet to them. What’s interesting is that the explorers are not from a particular nation, or a waffy “UN space force”, but are a crowdfunded venture depending on the generosity of people inspired to send humans out for no good reason beyond wanting to get us out of our fragile single biosphere. In common with Wayfarers it’s a very optimistic view, and also in common it’s got much about the successful social dynamics of the ship. Although it’s never mentioned you get the impression the crew’s dynamics themselves have been engineered to last on years-long missions – the viewpoint character comes over as the glue holding together the rest.
    I can see people tripping over the ending – news from home precipitates a major decision, and the solution might seem odd but to me fitted well with the themes of the story.

    If you are someone who dislikes the Wayfarers series for its cosy nature or unapologetic optimism, then you’ll find nothing here to improve your opinion. On the other hand if you object to her, ahem, loose use of science you may find more pleasing elements here as (at least per her acknowledgements) she’s put in the time and research to get elements of space travel and astrobiology right.

    Also read, but not quite up to making my current list:

    Serpent Rose by Kari Sperring (c23,000 words)
    A tale of family feuds and personality clashes in a nicely gritty-feeling version of Arthurian Britain, with no fantastical elements as such (except for being a non-existence history, of course). The plot rather depends on the main character being clueless, which was frustrating at times, and it didn’t quite stick the landing, but I enjoyed it all the same.

    Nomads by Dave Hutchinson (c30,000 words)
    Does a good job on maintaining a sense of mundanity before delivering a nice SFnal twist. Interesting but felt like it had more ideas than it could fit into the length, and the end was rather inconclusive.
    The Orphans of Raspay by Lois McMaster Bujold (c43,000 words)
    A decent instalment in the Penric stories, which means it’s enjoyable and interesting, but not breaking any new ground in this series.

    Ragged Alice by Gareth Powell (c34,000 words)
    Urban Fantasy set in small town Wales, with a series of deaths being investigated by a hard-bitten police office returning to her roots after a traumatic time in London. Oh, and she can see into people’s souls. Interesting stuff, and evoked a really good sense of place, but if you write in the more of gritty police procedural you need to get things right, and the lack of intervention from above given an ongoing sequence of enough deaths to be making national news really wasn’t plausible.

  31. Campbell Award for best new writer
    Emily Tesh for Silver in the Wood
    AFAICT, Silver in the Wood is her only published work. This tor.com novella (approx. 21,000 words) has a really evocative sense of place, bringing in the folklore of the British countryside to the story of Tobias, who has lived among the trees of Greenhollow for a very long time indeed, and Silver, the impulsive young man who has just bought the estate and comes out in a storm looking for the man who is technically his tenant. It’s a meet-cute of sorts, starting a very long-burning slow romance in amongst finding out exactly who Tobias is. It falls down a bit with some structural choices towards the end of the story, where it tries to rush through events in a way that doesn’t match the earlier drifting tone, but it’s promising enough that I’d read more by Tesh.

  32. Best Related Work

    Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, J. Michael Straczynski

    This is the autobiography of the man behind the original She-Ra, Babylon 5, Sense8, and innumerable comic books, TV and movie scripts, and the writing advice alone would make it a worthwhile read. Pairing this with the shocking story of his brutal childhood (seriously, there are major trigger warnings for this book, for domestic violence/child abuse among others; make sure you have plenty of spoons before you read it) makes it a riveting and inspirational tale.

  33. Graphic Story: “The Magic Order Vol.1 (1-6)” by Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel

    I’m usually not that fond of Millar, he has this tendency to go for “edginess”, fan service and boring “shock” values. That might have been shocking if you read it when Heavy Metal was seen as a threat to family morals.This one is a bit toned down on that, what is “shocking” is mostly there to serve the plot and to set the mood, even if the fan service female nudity still is there at times and deaths can be gory enough.

    The story starts from a place well-known from gangster movies. The family is under threat and have to come together. The father, the obedient son, the daughter who messes things up and the son who has tried to leave the life of danger behind him. Twist is that the family in this case are magicians with the goal of protecting humanity.

    The story is a bit derivative, even if the setting is new. But the artwork by Olivier Copiel is what makes this work. He is an fantastic artist that I’m a long time fan of. The comic is being turned into a Netflix series.

  34. Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan.

    The dragons are back! (Actually Draconeans.)

    This is the beginning of a new series set in the world of The Memoirs of Lady Trent, taking up the story with Lady Trent’s granddaughter, Audrey Camherst, though Isabella herself makes a cameo appearance. The world has progressed, people are travelling in cars, and refrigerators exist, though they are very expensive. The situation in the draconic world has also changed, and while the previous series was about natural science, this is more about social science, anthropology (only not anthro-) and archaeology. Audrey sets out on a research project which leads to her becoming involved in a mysterious intrigue. The plot is fascinating, and bears, though indirectly, on real-world issues.

    Sadly, because of the shifting theme, there are no internal illustrations, so we miss Todd Lockwood’s accurate drawings of dragons, though we still get a cover from him.

    The story is not a memoir but is told in diaries and letters, as well as passages from the ancient text at the centre of the plot – almost an epistolary novel.

    A map would have been helpful. Audrey is half-Erigan, and therefore dark-skinned, but I could not remember where Eriga was – clearly not in alt-Europe, but that leaves many possibilities.

    Although this is a new departure, it is not a good place to start, both because it would be hard to follow if one did not know the previous series, and because the initial situation is a total giveaway for the Big Reveal of that series.

    As you probably know, I have reservations about infinite-length series, so whether this is a suitable Hugo nominee is debatable. But for anyone who is a fan of the series it’s definitely worth reading.

  35. Best Related Work

    The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, Mallory O’Meara

    This is the story of the forgotten woman who designed the last great Hollywood monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and who was driven from studio work by the jealousy and insecurity of her male boss and the powers-that-be who refused to stand up for her. It’s a fascinating, well-researched account–if by turns sad and infuriating, as it’s made clear that not all that much has changed in the industry, the #MeToo movement notwithstanding–intertwined with the story of the woman who wrote the book, as she ferrets out the details of Milicent’s life. This juxtaposition of past and present, and the life of Milicent Patrick, makes for an absorbing and touching tale.

  36. Best Novel

    Salvation Day, Kali Wallace

    Who was asking about an SF/horror blend? Well, I have one right here.

    This type of book will inevitably be compared to Alien, and is a locked spaceship/murder mystery/monster story, but it is also very much its own thing. What distinguishes it for me is the thoughtfulness of the backstory and worldbuilding, and the very good character development. The pacing is excellent and the suspense ratchets up relentlessly to an explosive climax. (Needless to say, it would make a helluva movie.) It also has a bit more of a hard SF feel than many of these kinds of stories–not that I have anything beyond a layperson’s understanding, but the details included feel plausible to me. I think it’s a damn fine read.

  37. The Missing of Clairedelune, by Christelle Dabos

    Novel, YA, second in a series, English translation published in 2019

    After an off-putting beginning (does every woman in this world who happens to be pretty have to be awful?), the series won me back by opening up the world, revealing more of the mystery, and ratcheting up the action. I’m even buying the romance, which I didn’t think I was going to do — although Thorn needs to learn the difference between “protective” and “controlling” really soon or it’s going to lose me again. I appear to be complaining as much as I’m praising, which is typical for me with the books in this series, but in the end I’m invested in what happens and eager to find out more.

  38. By Demons Possessed, by P. C. Hodgell

    Novel (9th in a series), Series (Chronicles of the Kencyrath)

    I was a little unsure about this one at first — by which, bear in mind, I mean I was unsure whether this would be one of P. C. Hodgell’s truly great books or simply one of her very, very good ones — because the first few chapters moved at a pace which didn’t give the narrative a lot of time to breathe. Encounters which might have been spread across months in her earliest books were compressed into a couple of days. However, once the pieces were set in place and the reasons for events were revealed, the story became a breathtaking one that easily overcame my initial misgivings. Jame’s return to Tai-Tastigon has been awaited by fans for, quite literally, decades, and I’m very glad to say that it didn’t disappoint; my only real complaint, in the end, is that I wish there had been even more of it.

    The narrative allowed a chance to see how much Jame has learned since book one, and for that matter, also allowed some insight into how Hodgell’s own ideas have evolved and matured over the grand scope of this series. This book provides answers to some of the long-standing questions about the world, while at the same time revealing that its secrets are grander and more mysterious than any of the characters — and perhaps even the author — had at first imagined.

  39. Best Graphic Story: Arale, by Roulot Tristan, Europe Comics

    1934 in an alternative Russia where magic exists and Lenin’s revolution failed. The Czar is in power, war rages and Raputin and Baba Yaga have turned enemies. A new crawling type of tank has been created for trench warfare. Example of artwork. It is only the first part of a series.

    It is a bleak story, the main character isn’t very likeable from the start and is very much the archetypal war hero. But it slowly drew me in and it is nice with a story that’s set in the east. It is on my shortlist.

  40. Best Graphic Story: Middlewest, by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona

    A world of magic, parental abuse with a sprinkle of Pinocchio and Calvin and Hobbes. Some examples of the artwork here.

    I very much liked this one, there was life and expression in the drawings, making them a perfect fit for the story, a story about the inner rage of an abused boy and about the storm that has his name. On my shortlist.

  41. @Hampus, re: “Middlewest”

    Well, you sold me. Vol. 1 is fairly cheap on the Big River, so I’ll give it a try.

    Image Comics seems to have the best comics going right now, to me.

  42. Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

    The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix)

    (This seems to me to be the best fit, as this is essentially a 10-hour movie. However, if you want to separate the episodes, eps 10, 4 and 5 have the best ratings on IMDB. )

    This is a prequel to the 80’s movie The Dark Crystal, which I have vague memories of seeing in the theater. This greatly expands the world, and gives it a weight and heft of a thick volume of epic fantasy–with puppets. There’s a lot of CGI, but it’s mostly in the background; all the characters are handheld and handcrafted puppets on handbuilt sets.

    Naturally this runs into the “I know I’m watching a puppet show” problem, which for me the series mostly overcame. There are various degrees of uncanny valley for the major characters, but I was able to hold my suspension of disbelief. Indeed, the further the show went along the more it sucked me in; when I reached the last episode, and [redacted] said after the final battle, “We did it,” my immediate response was, “No, you didn’t! [Redacted] did, and she paid a price for it.”

    For ostensibly being a kid’s show, there’s a lot of darkness to this, and they don’t shy away from showing character deaths, even if the blood and gore (if not the snot, for some characters) is kept to a minimum. There’s also subtexts the adults will pick up on, such as authoritarian rulers full of hubris that keep the people divided to hold on to their rule, and the colonialism of said rulers insisting those they see as “lesser” cannot survive without them or rule themselves. I usually don’t binge Netflix shows as most people seem to do; I like to watch them a couple of episodes at a time, to give myself time to absorb the characters and story, but I tore through this. The details of the world are just so incredible, and nearly every frame has a little puppet creature in the corners or flying about that give the impression of an entire alien ecosystem.

    Also, make sure when you reach episode 10, you stay for the end credits, which morph into a fascinating hour-long “Making Of” special.

    Highly recommended.

  43. Best Graphic Story (tip o’ the hat to @Meredith for reminding us to rec comics here!)

    Here are three relatively recent finds of mine; I recommend them highly! The descriptions are in quotes because I stole them from various places. BTW, looking at most of the webcomics I read, only some of them have short, helpful descriptions. Webcomic creators, you need something like 1-2 sentences long that people can copy/paste! Or at least some kind of description on the About page (not just information about you). Anyway, sorry, I’m only making brief comments and mostly pasting descriptions, because I’m no good at rec’ing.

    #1 Finding Home by Hari Conner (British): “Slow-burn romance about recovery, magic, and growing close to someone. On a long journey, two very different people thrown together by circumstance grow closer than they expected. But they’re just friends… right?”

    The worldbuilding is top-notch, the writing is awesome, the art is lovely, and there’s just so much to love here. I backed Hari at his Patreon, “Hari Draws,” and am so glad I did. There’s a lot of background material and bonus art, plus the Patreon pages are way ahead of the public webcomic at tapas.io.

    #2 Inhibit by Eve Greenwood (Scottish): “As a kid, Victor dreamed of training to be a superhero. That didn’t go so well. Now, nine years later, Victor is a resident at the Earl Estate, a home for kids who haven’t yet demonstrated that they can control their powers. With his 18th birthday – and a transfer – only a few weeks away, he has one last chance to prove he is capable enough to receive his licence and go home to a normal life. But when he most needs things to go smoothly for once, everything starts to go wrong, and he finds himself tangled in the plot of a mysterious arsonist…”

    I like the worldbuilding and story a lot, and yay, superheroes! But not a standard superhero setup, oh no. NOTE: The art’s not the type I usually like, but it works well for the comic.

    #3 Verse by Sam Beck (Canadian): “A fantasy action/drama that follows Fife and Neitya, two kids from vastly different backgrounds whose paths become intertwined in mysteries and machinations much larger than themselves. The on-going webcomic seeks to explore identity, magic, relationships and power.” [ETA: Kids? Youths, perhaps; teens.]

    Another comic with great worldbuilding; I’m super interested in finding out more about the ancient history that’s mostly-hinted-at. Great art and story, too! Beck has some worldbuilding stuff on her blog that’s very interesting. NOTE: “Verse” refers to the sort of magical language in the comic; it is not shorthand for “universe” and is not a “Firefly” reference.

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