2020 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2020-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:”
  • “What I liked / didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

62 thoughts on “2020 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Novella: “Chisel and Chime” by Alex Irvine, in the Jan/Feb issue of F&SF
    Melandra has received the greatest honor possible for an artist: she’s been commissioned to carve a statue of the Imperator. But there’s a catch: the artist chosen for this honor is expected to die when the work is complete. Melandra has resigned herself to this fate, until a story told by her guard gives her the idea for a daring plan.

    I loved the setting, and the story does a great job of setting up the similarities between Melandra and her guard, despite their vastly different backgrounds. The part of the story taking place in the present day is fairly slow-paced, but the vivid descriptions and growing rapport between the main characters made it engaging to read nevertheless. All of this made me want to read more stories set in this world.

  2. City of Stone and Silence by Django Wexler

    Novel (YA, second in a series)

    While Isoka fights to save her shipmates in a mysterious, ancient city, Tori finds herself in the middle of a insurrection.

    This book is a welcome improvement over the first one in the series, thanks to the introduction of Tori as a point of view character. The story, unusually for this author, still dips into cliche a little too often (there is a thin line between “playing with well-used tropes” and “being a well-used trope” and sometimes this book ends up on the wrong side of it). However, I’m also finding the unfolding narrative interesting, and I’m happy to follow these characters to wherever they end up next.

  3. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Season 5

    TV show
    Long form (full season)
    Short form (Episode 5, “Save the Cat”)

    Are you watching this show? You should be watching this show.

    Seriously, watch this show.

  4. +1 to She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

    I liked the previous 4 seasons, but Season 5 really brought it on home. I think it’s because the storyline took a more adult turn. Also, Entrapta was just delightful.

  5. Novel: Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
    This is the second book in the Founders trilogy. The stakes are substantially higher than in the first book, and there are a couple of shocking reveals near the end. The main characters were great as always, although I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t done with Polina. I got a little teary-eyed when Befb fnpevsvprq uvzfrys. This is going to be a really difficult one to top.

  6. Short Form: Motherland: Fort Salem – “Bellweather Season”

    Do not sleep on this show, or dismiss it as a piece of YA fluff, or army propaganda. It’s a female-driven alternate history spectacle with genuinely compelling, political worldbuilding and finely-tuned characters tossed with whip fast-paced storytelling; in a broader sense, it’s an in-depth look at the unique challenges a matriarchal society based around supernatural powers would face.

    This episode is a high point, especially in its examination of the relationship between Abigail and her mother. A great first season but this is the best single episode.

  7. Short Form: What We Do In the Shadows – “Colin’s Promotion”

    The more I watch and think about this episode the more it feels like an actual contender. Beyond its comedy – one of the funniest shows currently on TV, in my estimation – this episode is also a canny piece of worldbuilding and storytelling. The show has a novel bit of vampire mythos in the “energy vampire,” a vampire that gains essence by boring people. Resident energy vampire Colin Robinson, despite his predilection for intentionally getting on people’s nerves, gets revealed here to be a very lonely and bitter man who yearns for friendship despite himself, so of course when he gets a level of power he goes crazy with it. This is a series best so far and it’s one I’m heavily considering.

    The Midnight Gospel – “Mouse of Silver”

    Despite being animated, this is a less funny affair. Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward’s psychedelic science-fantasy adaptation of Duncan Trussell’s podcast struggled a bit to build narratives out of the interview clips it cobbled together but got better as it went along, culminating in this finale based around Trussel’s interview with his dying mother (Deneen Fendig). Some of the most stunning, genuinely haunting television thus far this year.

  8. +1 to @Kyra’s recommendation of The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. The most YA thing about it is two main characters; there is a huge amount of backstory, politics, and not a little cruelty and evil packed into one book, along with casual breaking of gender boundaries that would infuriate a slice of readers if they were willing to even start a story with two young women as leads. Sometimes bits stick out awkwardly, but to me the book as a whole hung together convincingly. People who think Hardinge is too harsh won’t like this; I would not give this to random young readers, but for some it will resonate.

  9. Novella: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

    This is the latest installment in the Wayward Children series. Jack returns to the school in urgent need of help, and several characters we’ve met in previous books return to the Moors with her. I really enjoyed the previous book featuring Jack (Down Among the Sticks and Bones), so it was great to see her again. Christopher and Cora from Beneath the Sugar Sky are here too, as well as two characters from the very first book. The story explores the Moors a little further, as the group has to seek out aid from a faction that was only briefly mentioned in Sticks and Bones. There’s also a pretty strong trans-positive message here, since Jack experiences dysphoria when Wvyy sbepvoyl obql-fjvgpurf jvgu ure, naq zbfg bs gur bgure punenpgref dhvpxyl haqrefgnaq jul fur’f fb qvfgerffrq. Wvyy’f obql znl or irel fvzvyne gb uref, ohg vg’f abg uref, naq vg’f gnxra nf n tvira gung gur fbyhgvba vf sbe ure gb trg ure cebcre obql onpx, abg whfg gb “nqwhfg gb gur obql lbh unir.”

  10. Race the Sands, by Sarah Beth Durst

    Novel

    In kehok racing, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races — and in the process, discover an astonishing secret.

    I liked this book in spite of some flaws that might have kneecapped another novel — the mysteries are pretty easy to figure out, and both main characters are introduced with actions that are, all told, pretty dumb. The fact that the book is able to overcome these problems is a tribute to the skill of the author, who is able to get past those issues and weave a compelling story which mixes action with a nice dash of ethical debate.

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