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.

172 thoughts on “2020 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Best Graphic Story

    Fangs by Sarah Andersen

    Cute romance between a vampire girl and a male werewolf. Nicely drawn in a style common to Nimona. Cute and morbidly funny.

    Can be found here.

    Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life by Zao Dao

    Like snippets from chinese fairy tales, the old kind where death and murder was close to ordinary life. About cooking the best meal, regardless of ingredients. Talking monkeys and tigers. Fantastic and suggestive artwork. Highly recommended.

    Preview here.

  2. @Kyra. re Dawnshard

    I know Sanderson has described it as a “hefty novella”, but Kobo lists it as 56k words long, so it would seem to be a novel by Hugo standards.

  3. @John S and Kyra

    Just checked my ebook of Dawnshard, and, yup, even with front and back matter removed, I’m still getting 56,125 words. So novel length for sure.

  4. I’ve updated Kyra’s and Nina’s recommendations for Dawnshard to show that it’s a Novel, so that no one wastes a ballot slot on an ineligible nomination.

  5. I loved Dawnshard but I can’t help wondering how well it would stand on its own for people who haven’t read at the very least The Way of Kings (and preferably all three previous books in the series). Probably not very well at all, I fear.

  6. Novella
    Princess Floralinda and the Forty Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

    Aaaaand… this is why I frequently persuade myself to give books for which the jacket copy doesn’t necessarily sound appealing a try. Fairytale subversion? Ugh. Written by the author of a book which I absolutely hated (and for which I still wish I could get that part of my life back)? Double-Ugh.

    But this is a thoroughly-satisfying story in which a clueless and helpless princess lucks into a stroppy fairy companion and eventually develops into a sassy ex-princess. I really appreciated this story’s complete lack of saccharinity. Not recommended for those with an aversion to blood and gore, but absolutely recommended for those who are just so completely done with having to perform what’s expected of them.

  7. Short Story
    The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” by Cora Buhlert

    This is a great modern response to the ridiculously-contrived short story “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin, and one which anyone who rolled their eyes at the original story can enjoy.

  8. Lodestar
    Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

    Elatsoe is a teenaged Lipan Apache girl living in Texas who has the ability to call up the ghosts of animals. When her cousin dies under suspicious circumstances, she’s determined to discover the truth.

    I wrote a full review on my blog, but the bottom line is that Elatsoe is an engaging protagonist, the setting is interesting, and the emphasis given to family and history makes this a poignant story.

    Best Professional Artist
    Rovina Cai

    Cai did the cover art and chapter illustrations for Elatsoe. These are lovely, and the ones at the heading of each chapter tell their own story to parallel the one told in the text.

  9. Rhythm of War, by Brandon Sanderson

    Novel (fourth in a series)

    After forming a coalition of resistance against the invasion, the Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage. Now, as new technological discoveries begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation.

    It’s a bold choice for a massive epic fantasy novel to spend much of its first 600 pages on its main characters desperately trying to get therapy. I’m here for it. I can think of only a few other works of SFF that have focused on the aftereffects of traumatic events this way (such as Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, and season 5 of Steven Universe), and as far as I’m concerned, it’s always welcome.

    The novel bogs down a bit at the halfway point – structurally it’s a bit too similar to Oathbringer, and I wasn’t fond of Shallan once again dropping out of a huge chunk of the book. But it picks up again about three quarters of the way in as it all starts coming together, including a part with Maya that made me tear up a bit, and a twist at the end that I absolutely did not see coming.

  10. Best Related Work

    The Dark Crystal Bestiary: The Definitive Guide to the Creatures of Thra

    text by Adam Cesare
    illustrations by Iris Compiet

    The Bestiary, from artist and original conceptual designer Brian Froud protégé Iris Compiet alongside writer Adam Cesare, comes with a foreword from Froud and his equally accomplished wife, Yoda-crafter Wendy Froud. It also includes more than 200 gorgeous illustrations of the wide variety of creatures in Thra. And not like a regular art book, but as if Thra were a place biologists took expeditions to and recorded scientific journals about.
    blurb from SyFy Wire (which includes a gallery of sample pages)

    page gallery at Simon & Schuster (click the black box labeled “LOOK”)

    more sample pages on io9

  11. Best Professional Artist

    Iris Compiet

    The fantastic detailed illustrations in The Dark Crystal Bestiary: The Definitive Guide to the Creatures of Thra bring the characters from that world to life, and have been so beautifully colorized. This book is a visual feast that is worth looking at again and again.

    (see previous comment for links to images)

  12. Pingback: 2020 Novellapalooza | File 770

  13. Astounding Award

    Three debut novelists I think are eligible (based on their websites, not the official Astounding site, which is just frustrating):

    A.K. Larkwood – The Unspoken Name
    C.M Waggoner – Unnatural Magic (2019)
    Micaiah Johnson – The Space Between Worlds

    Novel
    Liz Williams, Comet Weather
    Engaging fantasy set in contemporary Britain, reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones. Ghosts and other spirits, old house, eccentric family…

  14. I’ve been making lists that have been getting traction on my personal Twitter, of items I’ve nominated …

    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1357919097124769793
    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1358238013055266816
    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1360386834149351424
    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1360389322185338882

    …including a dedicated spotlight on World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (that got reblogged boy Don Hertzfeldt himself!)…

    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1356690944859516929

    …and one for O Human Star:
    https://twitter.com/k_amuah/status/1359536008333819906

  15. The Tyrant Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

    Novel (3rd in a series)

    Baru’s enemies close in from all sides. Her own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path—a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world’s riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.

    This may be the best-written yet of the books in this series, expertly picking up and weaving together all the many, many threads that have been laid down in a well-plotted, well-executed story. It does still have some flaws — once again, there are points where Dickinson’s characters seem to serve as little more than a mouthpiece for ideas. But they are always interesting ideas, and these books do a terrifyingly good job of demonstrating the horrors of colonialism, the nightmarish effect of a society that believes that since it’s right about some things it must be right about everything, and the maddening, near-impossible tightrope of trying to destroy a system within the rules of that system. (As a note, a lot that happened in book two, and why, is explained in this one; they should probably be viewed together as one segment of this story, or a great deal of book two might seem very messy and narratively odd.)

  16. Fangs, by Sarah Anderson

    Graphic Novel

    Elsie the vampire is three hundred years old, but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets Jimmy, a charming werewolf with a wry sense of humor and a fondness for running wild during the full moon.

    This one was charming, cute, macabre, and funny. Pretty much just my cup of tea.

  17. Reposting from the Discord:

    A very good video essayist, Ryan Hollinger, did a video on Possessor, calling it his favorite film of 2020 (I’ll admit, that’s how it got on my radar). Spoiler-laden, but it also does an expert job of selling you on the film and its concept.

  18. I’ve got room for one more Fan Artist and one more Fanzine on my nomination form. Any recommendations?

  19. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    Novel

    When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. As Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness…

    The horror genre has deep roots in racism, from Dracula-the-evil-foreign-monster to Lovecraft and beyond, and I am absolutely here for books that flip the script on that and reflect on the things that have caused real horror throughout history – such as colonialism, misogyny, and racism itself. This book is one that does so and does it well, and it also throws in a wealth of atmosphere, vivid description, and an engaging heroine. If it has a flaw, it’s one often found in horror, which is that the reveal of what’s truly going on carries less emotional weight than the nameless dread that preceded it.

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