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.

109 thoughts on “2020 Recommended SF/F List

  1. (Why, yes, I did do some book shopping recently …)

    The Trouble With Peace, by Joe Abercrombie

    Novel (2nd in a trilogy, 8th in the overall setting)

    Unrest worms into every layer of society. The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace lasts forever.

    Joe Abercrombie may be the best of the grimdark wave, in part because there’s real humanity beneath it all. Idealists don’t fare well in the First Law world, but cynics aren’t presented as being a more appealing option; the ones who take center stage are the ones trying to survive and thrive in the moral quagmire. As with all his books, this one is a character-driven story, and it’s impossible not to flip the page simply because you want to find out what happens to these people.

  2. Best Novella

    Ring Shout, P. Djeli Clark

    I read somewhere that a history degree is the SF writer’s secret weapon, and Clark proves that here. This is a richly imagined stew combining the racist movie The Birth of a Nation, Gullah-Geechee culture (including the titular ring shouts, which are fascinating), Lovecraftian monsters called Ku Kluxes which reside in human suits in the 1922 Klan, feeding on their hate, and the young African-American woman with a magical sword who hunts them. I thought his novella The Black God’s Drums was good, but this is better. This will be on my ballot.

  3. Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

    Novel

    Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.

    I have a definite weakness for science fiction books that drop the readers in the middle of a complex world without explanation and trust them to figure it out. For this book, that’s both a strength and a weakness. It provides a continual sense of discovery as the ideas unfold, but it also results in important character relationships – including the love story central to the plot – feeling sketched in. I think the book would have benefitted if it had spent more time hanging out with the characters and getting to know them before it started tossing them around through the nonstop action. Nonetheless, I ultimately liked what the book had to say about misunderstanding, venality, and the tragedy of being an individual creature that will die.

  4. A few goodies from Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 164, May 2020:

    Short Story

    “What Happens in Solarium Square 21,” Ashleigh Shears

    This is a funny/tragic story about bots trying to hide their owner’s death by showing off the decomposing body (who died of natural causes, not machine murder) to keep from being evicted and shut down. Definitely macabre humor, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    “Albedo Season,” Ray Nayler

    An interesting hard SF story about a colony teetering on the edge of extinction, and how the protagonist tracks down the cause and comes up with a solution. Nice exploration of the scientific method.

    “The Translator, at Low Tide,” Vajra Chandrasekera

    A post-climate-change snippet of everyday life that gradually evolves into horror. This story is creepy as all get-out.

    Novelette

    “A Stick of Clay, In the Hands of God, is Infinite Potential,” JY Neon Yang

    This novelette is the star of this issue. It features interstellar kaiju–“holy mechs”–on a holy war, hunting down apostates, and the pilots who eventually come to question their beliefs and everything they’ve been taught. As a side note, this story tackles some of the issues of the infamous “Attack Helicopter” story, and does it a helluva lot better.

  5. Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

    Novel

    Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others.

    Weird. Wild. Interesting. The setting is what draws you in, but there are deeper currents to examine once you’re there.

  6. @Bonnie… thank you so much Bonnie! I really appreciated your kind words about THE ROBOTS OF GOTHAM, and I’m glad you thought the new story was a worthy addition.

    toddmc

  7. Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air, by Jackson Ford

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    Teagan Frost is about to face her biggest threat yet. A young boy with the ability to cause earthquakes has come to Los Angeles. If Teagan can’t stop him, the entire city – and the rest of California – will be wiped off the map.

    An enjoyable page-turner with a creepy villain. The main character sometimes acted like an idiot, but to be fair, when that happened, it was in a reasonably believable way.

  8. The Memory of Babel, by Christelle Dabos

    Novel (YA, third in a series)

    Ophelia, the mirror-travelling heroine, finds herself in the magical city of Babel, which guards a secret that may provide a key both to the past and the future.

    I continue to be of two minds about this series. I find the world compelling and the overall story fascinating. Some of my issues with the characters are being resolved – Ophelia is showing some growth and maturation, and Thorn has been revealed as someone who behaves the way he does because of wounds that go very deep. On the other hand, there are still occasional sour notes (for example, descriptions related to gender are sometimes a bit offputting in this one.) Nonetheless, I’m coming down on the side of liking it, and I am intrigued to find out how it all comes together in the final book.

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