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 eligible for the Hugos or other awards (Nebula, Locus, Asimov’s, etc.) next year.

If you’re recommending for an award other than / in addition to the Hugo Awards which has different categories than the Hugos (such as Locus Awards’ First Novel), then be sure to specify the award and category.

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 or other Award Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, Lodestar, Astounding, 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.

355 thoughts on “2019 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Dramatic Presentation — Long Form (Hugo)
    Good Omens
    script by Gaiman from the book; released by Amazon Prime

    I’m putting this up as a unit because it really is one — each episode ends with a ~cliffhanger leading into the next one, and it’s only six episodes for a complete story (unlike, e.g., the elongation of American Gods). This is not a perfect work — the balance of the story is shifted (IIUC due to limitations on the hours of child actors) and there are some big chunks of new material (no idea whether any of them are things the authors left out of the book in order to keep it tight) and lots of tossed-in bits that sometimes feel like randomly adding bits of the book so people won’t think the story has been too much modified. But Crowley and Aziraphale are wonderful, the Them are good, and the attitude toward the more self-satisfied aspects of Xianity is even stronger than in the book. One possible caution: I’m basing this on 4 episodes (the DVDs were a holiday present) to get it back on people’s minds (since it ran over half a year ago), so I’m not sure they stick the landing — but it looks very likely.

  2. Well, that Hugo email has gotten me thinking about nominations.

    Counting novels, vellas, and dnfs, so far I’ve read 39 stories from 2019. Yes, I know many people round these parts have read a lot more. So far, the standouts for me have been:

    Novel
    Recursion — A real surprise for me; I dnfed the last book I tried by Crouch. I was impressed with the way all the complications were handled, and it’s both exciting and moving.
    Middlegame — Another real surprise for me; I don’t normally get along with McGuire’s writing, but this is outstanding.
    A Memory Called Empire — Fun and intricate, with good characters.
    The Light Brigade — Problems with the plotting, but a good concept.
    Raven Tower — A different take on fantasy; I haven’t decided yet whether it’s a real success or not, but it’s certainly original.
    Children of Ruin — I love the way Tchaikovsky does “alien” intelligences, even when I’m not totally thrilled by his plots. This one was better than book 1, IMHO.

    Vella
    The Test — Another big surprise for me; I had no idea what to expect going in. This hit me in a big way.
    This is How You Lose the Time War — A marvelous art piece, whether or not it really holds together as a story.
    To Be Taught, If Fortunate — Hit my sweet spot for Chambers-style storytelling, short enough that I didn’t get bored.

    Lots more to read before March!

  3. Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth. But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed. And it’s been waiting for them.

    While not quite as good as the first book — the octopi are not as compelling as the spiders, although they are wonderfully alien, and the narrative is split among a few too many characters to really get to know most of them — this is still a cracking good yarn about the difficulty of communicating across species and the catastrophic problems that can cause. And I do appreciate Tchaikovsky’s ability to turn “We’re going on an adventure!” into an absolutely TERRIFYING phrase.

  4. Looking over my media consumption this last year I found that I was very distractable. There were so very many things to give my attention to that I found very few things held it unwaveringly from beginning to end.

    Of those few, these so thoroughly grabbed me that I wanted nothing else until they were done and when they were done I just wanted to curl up and snuggle them until I fell asleep:

    Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
    Good Omens
    Sure there were bits of the book that we really wanted to see but couldn’t due to budgets (the other Four Riders!) but what Gaiman and Co made was absolutely the best adaptation that was possible of the source, all its flaws excused because of the perfection of Crowley and Aziraphale.

    Best Novella
    This Is How You Lose The Time War. by Amal el-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
    No words on paper have made me squee with joy this much in years. Does it all hold together? Who cares! It is wildly inventive, emotionally satisfying and beautifully written. Taking issue with the story feels like whining about the lack of coherent narrative in the best sex you’ve ever had. (Yes, I have strong feelings about this one.)

    Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
    Mr. Robot, Episode 405 ‘Method Not Allowed’
    Maybe it’s genre, maybe it isn’t. Since it’s clearly not set in the 2015 we lived through I’m going to call it alternative history. Season 4 was a bit uneven but this was one of the best episodes of its entire run. A very tense heist story ending in a epic chase sequence (on foot) with only two lines of spoken dialogue in the whole 60 minute episode. The B-stories won’t mean much to anyone who hasn’t been following the series from the beginning so I don’t expect this one to go far.

    Best Related Work
    The Disappearance of John M. Ford by Isaac Butler
    A journalist discovers the work of the late, beloved John M. Ford, seeks the reasons behind the almost total unavailability of his work, and in doing so clears up years of misunderstanding and rumor. A fine appreciation of the life and work of an out-of-print genius turns into the feel-good true story of the year when the journalist’s quest has the happiest ending possible (snzvyl naq rqvgbef gnyx naq rirelguvat vf pbzvat onpx vagb cevag). This nearly made me as happy as This Is How You Lose The Time War.

  5. Best Graphic Story

    Man and Superman, DC Comics, Author: Marv Woflman, Artist: Claudio Castellini

    Synopsis: Clark Kent has come to Metropolis like any other small-town boy chasing his dreams. Grabbing any work he can find, he struggles to become a reporter for the Daily Planet like his journalistic idol Lois Lane…and to figure out a way to use his incredible hidden powers to help the city he loves.

    I like this story because it shows a part of Superman’s life that is seldom explored – when he first comes to New York and he struggles to find work and an apartment, etc. We see Clark doing small things to help coworkers and regular people without using his superpowers and I think this touches on an important aspect of Superman that is currently ignored – his superhero impulses come from being a good person, from being kind and feeling a part of humanity, not from feeling separate or outcast. He isn’t a vigilante trying to impose his own version of justice on an unjust world. His impulse is to help the people he lives among and he doesn’t want to just stand by and do nothing, even though that would be the best way to protect himself. And he doesn’t ignore the impact of his actions on the regular, more vulnerable people around him. This story feels very ‘hopepunk’ to me.

    Also, Wolfman has described that it was important to him that Clark encounter Lois Lane by hearing her first without seeing her as he wanted to stress that Clark admires and is attracted to her talent and mind, not just her looks. It’s a subtle point that many might miss when reading it, but with the way standard comic book art often sexualizes women, I think it’s an intriguing idea.

    Full disclosure: I’m a friend of Marv’s but my recommendation doesn’t come from that relationship. If anything it comes from the way this story pushes back on the current trend to portray superheroes as antisocial malcontents rather than as heroes with extra abilities beyond an ordinary person.

  6. +1 to recommendations for The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. It’s one of my favorite books from this year. But because it was published quite early in 2019, I feel like it’s been buried among the discussion of more recent works.

    Also +1 for Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I agree it suffers a bit from sequelitis, but I enjoyed it.

  7. Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, trans. Ken Liu
    Novel

    On “Silicon Island” off the coast of China, local clans hire migrant workers for the most dangerous and toxic parts of their e-waste recycling programs. These “waste people” are the lowest of the low, treated with contempt by the locals. An American businessman is visiting, hoping to sell his company’s newer, safer recycling technology, but the locals are skeptical–possibly for good reason. Meanwhile, a young woman of the waste people stumbles across something in the refuse which probably shouldn’t have been discarded, and which could have global repercussions!

    As someone who was a bit underwhelmed by The Three-Body Problem, I wanted to try another Chinese SF author for comparison. And I’m very glad I did! This was a well-written, tightly-paced cyberpunkish thriller that matched my tastes a whole lot better than the sometimes-pulpy stylings of Cixin Liu. Not the greatest book I’ve ever read, but definitely a good one. And the translation (as expected) was excellent. There were some plot elements that depended on the differences between the local “topolect” of Chinese and Standard Mandarin, and Ken Liu did a great job of filling these in without distracting from the main story or making too big a deal of them.

  8. I asked for clarification from this year’s Hugo Awards about eligibility for Fan Artist and was told that “freely available online-only art produced in 2019” would be eligible for the award this year. So I’m looking for people to nominate for Fan Artist, does anyone here have any recommendations?

  9. So now that we’re closing in on crunch time, I’m working my way through my 2019 Stories/Magazines folder. Here are a few recs.

    “Eater of Worlds,” Jamie Wahls, Clarkesworld January 2019. (A comment from the website sums up this story as “Von Neumann probes with a conscience,” which strikes me as on target. It’s also not a coincidence that the probe’s name is Kali.)

    “Treasure Diving,” Kai Hudson, Clarkesworld March 2019. (This story packs a lot of worldbuilding into 3200 words. This is perhaps a future Earth after climate catastrophe, perhaps not; the protagonists are maybe evolved humans, maybe not. Either way, it’s utterly absorbing.)

    “The Painter of Trees,” Suzanne Palmer, Clarkesworld June 2019. (This is quite a different story from “The Secret Life of Bots,” more sad and somber. I think–though of course there can be multiple interpretations–it’s an indictment of capitalism, as the terraforming humans are locked into their forward-thinking mindset despite the horror and genocide it causes, for the native species and ecosystem that dies.)

    “Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart,” Sam J. Miller, Clarkesworld July 2019. (This is the best of this batch, I think. It’s a slightly sideways alternate history, where King Kong really existed and died as he did in the movie, and a New York cabbie picks up Ann Darrow in his cab one night–set against the backdrop of Germany invading Poland in 1939. I’m fairly sure this one’s going to make my ballot.)

  10. @Chip: I certainly thought that Good Omens stuck the landing. I’d also say the balance of the story shifted because the child actors (while serviceable enough) weren’t Michael Sheen and David Tennant.

  11. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: how much do they impress because they get extra time, and how much did they get extra time because they wowed the producers? I liked pretty much everything about how the story was reworked (and the end extended), but it’s definitely not a straight adaptation of the book (even ignoring the updates needed to set the story now instead of 1990).

    recommendation:
    Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy
    Desirina Boskovich
    Related Work.
    This is just the sort of thing Related Work was created for: lots of short essays about a number of lesser-known parts of the genre. Not really secret (e.g. no gossip), but lots of interesting bits and pieces.

  12. Next story batch:

    Short story

    “Malinche,” Gabriela Santiago, Clarkesworld September 2019. (An alt-history of the invasion of the Aztec empire by Hernan Cortez, this wildly inventive tale takes the real-life indigenous woman called La Malinche and reverses her story: here, she is an inventor who harnesses electricity and uses it to power “clay-slaves,” or robots. She uses this to defeat Cortez and drive the invaders out of her country.)

    “The Blanched Bones, the Tyrant Wind,” Karen Osborne, Fireside Fiction March 2019. (This story packs quite a lot into its short length, turning the trope of the maiden sacrificed to the dragon on its head.)

    Novelette

    “Dave’s Head,” Suzanne Palmer, Clarkesworld September 2019. (Mentioned way back by Bruce; seconded. This story is fresh and funny and has unforgettable characters, including a giant anamatronic dinosaur head that talks.)

  13. So throughout 2019 the small publishing company Radix Media published short chapter books featuring seven science fiction stories selected as part of their Futures series. This year they’re re-releasing everything in a box set, in case it piques your interest.

    Or you can get the original lone stories for like 10 bucks. Personally, I recommend these ones:

    Guava Summer,” Vera Kurian (Novellette; Rebellion in a dystopian future, rendered in palpable prose.)

    Muri,” Ashley Shelby (Novella? Novellette? May update if I find out definitely; I’ve been looking for great sci-fi that tackles the socioeconomic impacts of the climate change crisis and I believe this might be it.)

    Milo (01001101 01101001 01101100 01101111)” by Alexander Pyles (Short Story; An ambitious, sobering piece on transhumanism in relation to disability. A very philosophically dense short.)

  14. This is How you Lose the Time War, by Amahl El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, Published by Simon & Schuster
    Hugo Category: Novella

    Two rival super-soldiers from competing futures in a vast time war, one from a techno-singularity and one from an ecological nature-based hive mind, start out as enemies and slowly fall in love and redeem each other. It’s an epistolary novel, told in the form of messages back and forth.

    I love the sweet poetry of the writing, and the hesitant, almost disbelieving growing awareness of how much these characters care about each other. Neither character comes from a good future, although the nature-based one has a surface that looks nicer than the technology one.

    I just loved this one.

  15. The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, Published by Tor Books
    Hugo Category: Novel

    A secret group of feminists based in the early-mid twenty-first century are defying the rules against directly meddling in the past because they’ve found evidence that someone from the even farther future is traveling back to destroy all hope of freedom and independence for women. Major struggles take place in 1990s California punk culture, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and the Ordovician.

    I enjoyed the deliberate dipping back into feminist history and the brutal and sometimes heartbreaking illuminations of what might have been.

  16. Novelettes:
    “The Disappeared” by Leah Cypress (in the July-August issue of Asimov’s)–Over the past few years, thousands of people have disappeared and then returned a year later. Their memories of their time away are vague, but they almost universally describe the experience as pleasant and peaceful. Brain scans, however, tell a different story. This story tackles some pretty deep questions about selfhood: if someone’s memories have been altered, are they still the same person as they were before? It also plays around with the idea of consensus reality a little bit: if everyone’s memory of an event is the same, does that automatically make the version of the event that occurs in those memories real? But for all that, I would categorize this as a character-centric story, because it’s really about the relationship between the main character and his mother. While he blames her yearlong disappearance and its aftermath for the deterioration in their relationship, it becomes increasingly clear that these events only exacerbated the cracks that were already there.

    “The Ocean Between the Leaves” by Ray Nayler (also in the July-August Asimov’s)–When a man’s sister falls into a coma, he takes up a dangerous and difficult job to pay for the round-the-clock care she requires. But there’s more going on here than meets the eye. I can’t say much more than that about the plot because there are several twists. Those twists are well-executed and the characters were engaging. The story also has some meaningful things to say about the potential socioeconomic impacts of automation and the increasingly-prevalent gig economy.

  17. Things We Say In The Dark, by Kirsty Logan

    Short Stories

    A set of excellent, unsettling stories from this always-excellent author. All of them were intriguing, disturbing, or both, although I think my favorites may have been:

    “Things My Wife and I Found Hidden in Our House”, and
    “The World’s More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand”

  18. Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer
    Tor Teen
    Lodestar

    A great and entirely believable near-future story about how a girl whose mother has been running (and dragging the child) from a psychopathic husband finds, with the help of various friends a way to make a stand. The friends include (as we’re told very early) a covert AI; given that as the classic one-impossibility, everything else follows. Will not appeal to Puppies, but that’s no surprise from Kritzer. The epilog has a larger-universe hook (followed by a few pages from the next book), but this is a complete story.

  19. Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge

    Novel (YA)

    For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it…

    Another great book by this great author. The world-building was particularly spectacular in this one.

  20. Edges by Linda Nagata

    Novel (Fourth in a series, first in a subseries)

    While this is billed as the first in a new series, I don’t recommend reading it without having at least read the novel Vast.

    The core of human civilization—those star systems closest to Earth, known as the Hallowed Vasties—have all fallen to ruins. No one knows for sure what caused the Hallowed Vasties to fail, but Urban intends to find out.

    Few authors do far-future hard science fiction as well as Linda Nagata, and this book is no exception. That being said, it doesn’t rise to the level of her classic novel Vast — in part because in Edges, too many characters do things that are, frankly, uncharacteristically dumb. Nonetheless, that aside this was a solid book and I’m definitely interested in finding out what happens next.

  21. Some more stories for your consideration:

    “The Boy on the Roof,” Francesca Forrest, Fireside Fiction November 2019. (A short, poignant little fantasy about climate change and people trying to draw the rain.)

    “I Send My Tower Walking,” Amanda Helms, Fireside Fiction December 2019. (This is a clever, empowering inversion of the story of Rapunzel.)

    “Recovery,” Kate Sheeran Swed, Luna Station Quarterly September 2019. (A clever little story with an eighty-six-year-old protagonist, dealing with the theft of her four-minute time travel card.)

    “Tell Me Something Good,” Nicole Lungerhausen, Luna Station Quarterly December 2019. (This is the tale of coming to terms with one’s past and overcoming fears for the future, via VR nanotech.)

    “Truth Plus,”Jamie Wahls, Strange Horizons March 2019. (This is a bittersweet story about making people happy at the end of the world.)

    “Who Has Never Loved a Gentle House?” Osahon Ize-Iyamu, Strange Horizons May 2019. (Part fable, part myth, part horror story, this has a unique protagonist and is one of the most startlingly original things I’ve ever read.)

    Best Semiprozine

    Luna Station Quarterly (This magazine publishes female and female-identified writers and has been around for ten years. I think it deserves some attention. Full disclosure: I’m one of its patrons.)
    (I looked at the Semiprozine qualifications and I’m actually not sure about this–it meets the publication terms, but I’m confused about the pay rates. Maybe someone can enlighten me.)

    Best Novel

    Magic For Liars, Sarah Gailey (full review here). (This is a combination magical murder mystery and character study, and succeeds admirably at both.)

  22. A few recommendations, although I haven’t read as much this year as I’d like to have!

    Best Novel:
    Leigh Bardudo – Ninth House
    I absolutely loved this book, and thought it was much darker than the ‘Grisha’ series before it.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263680-ninth-house

    Seanan McGuire – Middlegame
    Seanan is at the top of her game, and this book proves it again. Great to read a stand-alone book for once as well, and see a story through to its conclusion in one book.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35965482-middlegame

    Best Novelette:
    Sean McMullen – Terminalia (Interzone, Jan/Feb 2019)
    A beautiful little story about death and boundaries, set in early 19th century London. Really lovely artwork / illustration as well.
    https://shop.ttapress.com/collections/interzone/products/interzone-279-jan-feb-2019

    Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
    It would have to be Watchmen (S1) – specifically Ep 6 – not sure I’ve been that excited by something on TV in a while.

  23. Novel —

    Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker.

    This is absolutely not the sort of book that usually gets much Hugo attention, but I thought it was terrific. It tells the story of a colonel of military engineers in a Roman-ish empire who ends up essentially running what’s left of the empire when, after a rapid-fire series of military catastrophes, he is the “last man standing” in a position to defend the capital city when it comes under siege. The whole book consists of his efforts to keep the invaders at bay while at the same time preventing the city from destroying itself from within. Cynical, bone-dry humor, fascinating military details, a brilliant but world-weary, self-deprecating, and complex first-person protagonist, meticulous writing and plotting, lots of action. No real fantasy elements — sort of GG Kay meets Joe Abercrombie. This was my first full-length Parker, and it made me very happy.

  24. What’s the protocol for nominating Hugos and Not-A-Hugos? For a not-at-all random example, can I nominate T. Kingfisher’s novella Minor Mage in both the Novella category and the Lodestar category?

    Also, for anyone interested, the webcomic All Night Laundry (http://www.all-night-laundry.com/) just wrapped up. I’m not finished reading it but if it sticks the landing it’ll be on my Graphic Novel ballot.

  25. @Cassy B.
    Yes, YA books are eligible in both Lodestar and applicable length Hugo category. As I understand it, they could potentially be finalists and winners in both in the same year.

  26. Cassy B.,

    Have you verified Minor Mage’s word count? I’m wondering if it’s over the extra allowance for novella and in short novel territory.

  27. @Laura: Thanks for reminding me/us about the Semiprozine Directory and linking it, and mentioning it’s been updated! Very useful. 🙂

  28. Cross-posted to the most recent Pixel-Scroll, so any discussion can happen there, and not clutter up the actual recommendations.

    It’s almost time to set up a list for 2020, and I would like to suggest that we not limit ourselves to Hugo categories next time. Many of us may be voting in other awards–most notably, the Locus, but also the Goodreads, the Dragon Awards, and who knows what else. And I’m pretty sure we also have a SFWA member or two–or at least, some SFWA-eligible folks.

    I already have one thing I posted here as “First Novel”, which is a Locus category, but not a Hugo one. I worried about that, which was probably silly, but I still worried. Also, genre is useful for the Locus and Goodreads, and subgenre, I think, for the Dragons.

  29. Novel: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

    An interstellar object, similar to Oumuamua but much larger, enters the solar system. When it displays signs of being piloted by something intelligent, a much-diminished NASA scrambles a team to intercept it and make contact with said intelligence.

    This is a fast-paced book with an atmosphere almost like a thriller. Despite that, it’s very much a character-driven novel, with the MC’s guilt over a past failure and competition between different groups of astronauts playing major roles in propelling the story. As far as I can tell, the sci-fi is fairly hard. I liked this one a lot.

  30. Just seconding (thirding) the recommendations for Luna Station Quarterly. It’s a lovely little magazine which deserves more recognition.

    The Dark, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, is another fine, but overlooked magazine

  31. Nina: Novel:
    The Last Astronaut
    by David Wellington

    Nina, thank you for posting this. I just realized that I posted my recommendation for this in a Pixel Scroll, but never cross-posted it here. I haven’t seen any other Filers mention reading this novel.

    The Last Astronaut is the latest novel from David Wellington, about whose Silence epic science fiction trilogy (Forsaken Skies, Forgotten Worlds, and Forbidden Suns, written as D. Nolan Clark) I am still raving.

    This novel is the story of an older astronaut, who lost a crew member in a tragic accident during their last mission, being brought back into service when a strange alien spaceship appears in the solar system, as an experienced commander for a mission crewed by non-astronaut scientists. Themes include dealing with guilt over making the least worst of a set of very bad choices, greed, and how far humans will go to achieve their greatest ambitions.

    The author has done a good job of developing aliens who are very other-worldly and non-human. This story is like a much darker version of Rendezvous with Rama — with actual character development! — and I highly recommend it for those who are into “astronauts explore incomprehensible alien object with unfathomable alien lifeforms” science fiction.

    (content warnings for some body horror, violence, and death)

  32. Novella

    I previously posted this recommendation, but now you can read it online for free because it’s a finalist for the Asimov’s Readers’ Awards.

    Waterlines by Suzanne Palmer
    Asimov’s Science Fiction, July-August 2019

    The author of the Hugo-winning “The Secret Life of Bots” has hit it out of the park again.

    This is a far-future mystery story taking place on a wintry planet colonized by a few hundred descendents of the Earth diaspora, who share the planet by treaty with a race of humanoid-robot symbionts who live under the sea. When the aliens bring three human bodies to the colony administrator, he must figure out who they are (no one is missing) and how and why they were killed — but as he begins to investigate, he is targeted by the killers, who are hiding a very big secret.

    The worldbuilding is vivid — I felt the surroundings quite keenly, as if I was there — the plot is engrossing, and the characterization is excellent, with the added bonus of the author’s lovely brand of subtle snark. The story, about who gets to be considered as human, granted agency, and treated with respect, touches on themes of racism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism.

    I’ve read more than 25 of the 2019 novellas at this point, and while some of them are good, this was the first one that made me jump up and down. It’s definitely going on my 2020 Hugo ballot for Novella.

  33. Novella

    The Work of Wolves by Tegan Moore
    Asimov’s Science Fiction, July-August 2019

    You can read this online for free because it’s a finalist for the Asimov’s Readers’ Awards.

    This story is told from the viewpoint of an enhanced-intelligence trained K9 Search-and-Rescue dog which has been enabled with the ability to communicate with her trainer more fully than normal dogs. The trainer is uncomfortable with her new, highly-sentient partner, and the dog describes her efforts to win over the affections of her trainer, while also relating the details of their search missions.

    I thought the worldbuilding of a near-future Earth affected by global warming and the enhanced intelligence of the dog is extremely plausible and well-done (the author is a professional dog trainer, which no doubt contributes to the verisimilitude). And the story itself is not only entertaining, but packs a real punch. Highly recommended; this is on my Hugo Novella ballot.

  34. @Laura, good catch. T. Kingfisher’s Minor Mage, after stripping out the afterward and about-the-author, comes to 49,277 words according to Open Office. So that puts it squarely into the Novel category.

  35. I third the rec for David Wellington’s The Last Astronaut! It’s quite different from his “Silence” books, but just as great. He does creepy, other-worldly, truly alien very well.

    @Xtifr & @JJ: I thought that was already stated or implied, so thanks for mentioning it, Xtifr, and for updating the text to be explicitly all-award, JJ.

  36. Graphic Story

    Galdr by Ell J. Walker

    Some people are augmented and some people can use an unusual language, Galdr, to affect the world and people around them. Mauve is a new recruit training to apprehend augmented criminals. But he has a traumatic past and a big secret, and he seems to have an unusual relationship with the magical language, Galdr. The creator says, “Galdr is a comic about the inherent power behind words, mental health and the importance of communication.” I look forward to the weekly updates from this webcomic and finding out more about Mauve and Galdr. Things are being revealed slowly, but it’s not boring. 🙂

  37. Graphic Story

    Run. Stop. Go. (also on Tapas) by Bucket (Violeta Felly) & Xander

    17-year-old Kurt is like a mutant werewolf; his normal form seems to be semi-werewolf and always-on (plus being able to transform into a wolf) and the werewolf rules in this universe don’t work quite right/quite the same for him. His parents put a lot of restrictions on him for his own safety, making his life complicated. At the chance meeting of a vampire in a bar, things take a left turn. The creators say: “This is a story of finding friendship and love in the strangest places.”

    It’s only about two chapters in, so not a ton has happened yet, but I really like the art and writing and Kurt’s family. Now we need to see more of that vampire! 🙂

  38. Graphic Story

    Leif & Thorn by Erin Ptah
    Volume 3

    Volume 3 wrapped in 2019 (though in terms of print, the Kickstarter for Volume 2 just finished) and as usual, this is one of my favorite web comics ever! The creator says: “A sparkly queer bilingual fantasy comedy. Featuring trauma recovery, slow-burn romance, cross-cultural communication, and baby unicorns.” This comic has daily updates and each story within the larger story is a random length. Ptah does special updates on Saturdays and larger-than-normal Sunday strips. It’s tough to talk in a lot of detail just because there’s a lot going on, with smaller self-contained stories within the larger story and then continuing plots/background stories going on. Superb art, awesome world building, humor, adventure, characters you’ll love -this has it all!

  39. In the middle of my Graphic Story recs, I’d like to mention two things:

    #1 I second Nina’s rec a few pages back for S.A. Chakraborty’s excellent The Kingdom of Copper (Daevabad Trilogy #2). The audiobooks are superb; Soneela Nankani does a wonderful job – very expressive, handles female and male voices equally well, and never over-the-top.

    #2 I rolled my eyes entering things into ConZealand’s Hugo ballot form when I hit Graphic Story, where the second field’s labelled “Author.” Le sigh, this should be “Creators” (not just author, and plural!).

  40. Graphic Story

    But I’m a Cat Person by Erin Ptah
    Chapter 29: REVELATION

    Another one of my favorite web comics!!! Erin Ptah is amazing. This weekly webcomic is very different from “Leif & Thorn.” The hook is that the world has immortal, shapeshifting battle monsters tied by mystical contracts to their owners. The comic has, as the creator says, “politics, comedy, found families, power dynamics, Jewish mysticism, and gay stuff. BICP combines the struggle of modern-day underemployed geeky twentysomethings with the interspecies ethical dilemmas that you normally try not to think about while playing Pokémon.” 😉 This weekly webcomic is wrapping up now, but Chapter 29 finished in 2019 and was an excellent chapter, bringing a lot of things together that had been building for some time. Great artwork, characters, very intriguing world.

    I’m really curious what Ptah (whom I’m a Patron of) will do next, or if she’s going to just do “Leif & Thorn” for a while and not juggle two webcomics like she is right now.

  41. Ah! I know it’s silly, but now I feel more comfortable about posting this:

    Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
    First Novel

    A light-hearted space-opera-ish adventure featuring psychic cats, interstellar crime syndicates, and a mad emperor who doesn’t know how to take “no” as an answer. Captain Eva Innocente just wants to make a living as a trader with her found-family crew, and ignore her real family, which she does not get along with. But when her little sister is kidnapped, Innocente finds herself compelled to do things she doesn’t want to.

    While the book was a bit uneven, as one might expect from a debut, I found it a lot of fun. It’s obvious that Valdes is a gamer; at one point, I found myself muttering “now you’re thinking with portals!” And I liked the fact that sex with (some) alien species was neither easy nor impossible–“it’s complicated” takes on whole new meanings. Not, perhaps, the best book of the year, but a very promising first novel, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on Valdes in the future.

  42. @JJ: Thanks for the rec for “The Work of Wolves” by Tegan Moore and linking to it; that was great! I also rec it. 😉

  43. Best Novel: A Song For A New Day, by Sarah Pinsker.

    All about music, as so much of Pinsker’s excellent work is. Following Luce, former rock star, and Rosemary, a fan-turned-talent-scout, in a world where concerts have been reduced into manufactured holographic happenings, with no room for any performance that’s smaller, more intimate, or with any locality.

    I love Pinsker’s short stories, but had no idea what to expect from novel-length.
    I think that instead of writing a “bigger” or “longer” story, she’s written a deeper one.
    So much of the story is just being immersed in what drives Luce and Rosemary.

    And, with music and creation as a focal point, the story explores issues that are very human, and very pressing:
    Different kinds and concepts of communities, and how each has their pros and cons, even as its members can’t imagine living any other way.
    Or the tradeoff: personal integrity and authenticity, vs. having a wide reach.

    A compelling and thought-provoking book; definitely one of my favorites of the year.

  44. Astounding Award for Best New Writer – Kate Boyes

    Her first piece of published fiction is the book Trapped in the R.A.W.: A Journal of My Experiences During the Great Invasion, published in July 2019 by Aqueduct Press.

    A young woman working alone in a small special collections library is trapped in the building when uniformed, faceless invaders overrun her town. She barricades the doors, peeks through a window, and watches in horror as people are murdered outside. She realizes at once that they do not intend to subjugate the population. They intend to annihilate it. Trapped in the R.A.W. is a journal of the young woman’s solitary struggle to protect the books while keeping herself fed, hydrated, warm, and sane.

    I found the book touching, heartbreaking and uplifting – not an easy feat for a first book.

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