2017 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2017-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.

97 thoughts on “2017 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban (novel, Tor Books) is a prequel to Shakespeare’s The Tempest that merges into the events of the play in the last few chapters. It’s a sad and convincing version of the story, and I found it well worth reading, though it isn’t really what I want in a Hugo contender. I stopped after a couple of chapters to revisit The Tempest, and concluded it wasn’t necessary to appreciate the book.

    It’s on my possibles list for now, and if it’s displaced it’ll be for intangibles.

  2. Martha Wells’ tor.com novella All Systems Red arrived Tuesday and I finished it Wednesday. Fun was had. I enjoyed the narrator and its humans – the book is stuffed full of potential for touching moments of cyborg-human connections, which would happen in a different book and don’t in this one.

    It’s on the list for now, it may well stay there, and I’ll definitely tune in for future installments.

  3. I finished Six Wakes and I highly recommend it. At first I suffered a lot from the Eight Deadly Words up until about page 80, which I get isn’t a glowing recommendation, but it’s totally worth hanging with and as a mystery sticks the landing real well.

  4. City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett

    Novel, third book in a series

    Comments: This book vastly exceeded my expectations. While I was a big fan of the first book in this series, I thought the second one, while still enjoyable, wasn’t as good. And then, the only things I had heard about this one before I picked it up was that my favorite character is dead, and the main character would be someone who I thought wouldn’t really work in a leading role. I figured I’d enjoy it but probably not think it was fantastic or anything. I was wrong. It was fantastic. Highly recommended to anyone who liked City of Stairs.

  5. @Kyra —

    City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett

    Glad to hear that. I liked the first two a lot, and I’m dying to find out more about Sigrud.

  6. I just finished Mishell Baker’s Phantom Pains, the sequel to Borderline. We learn a lot more about Arcadia in this one, and more of the Project outside LA. I’m not sure if it will stick to my Hugo ballot, depending on how many eligibles I read. However, I read it straight through, enjoyed it, and will be back for further installments in the series.

  7. Novels:

    Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

    This is the best Vandermeer I’ve read in a long time. It has the creepiness of Annihilation but with more follow-through.

    —–

    N-thing Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

    —–
    Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell

    A very short, creepy novel set in Argentina, where children switch bodies and neither houses nor plains can be trusted.

  8. Finished Borne and really enjoyed it. I don’t know if it leaves as much of an impression as the Area X trilogy does, which stuck in my head like a song lyric that I could almost remember but the harder I thought about it the more difficult it became to remember it but was right there for a second damnit, but I enjoyed Borne more.

    It does a lot, and it does it all really well. Lot of good books so far this year.

  9. A few solid mid-year contenders for me:

    Novels
    (n+1)thing Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty! Well plotted mystery, great use of technology. I’ve written a full review here.

    Also adding a recommendation for Phantom Pains, by Mishell Baker. I don’t read much urban fantasy and I still have Concerns about British/European fairy myths being transplanted into the USA and totally displacing Native American cultures, BUT this series does a lot of things right for me, especially the portrayal of Millie, the mentally ill protagonist whose POV is written in the first person without being an unreliable narrator. I thought the writing style in Phantom Pains was a step up too, as it relied less on the more infodump-style digressions into BPD symptoms and management while still recognising Millie’s struggle. Borderline just missed my ballot this year; I suspect Phantom Pains won’t.

    Novellas

    All Systems Red by Martha Wells has already had a lot of deserving hype among Filers – I also loved it and wrote a little bit about it here.

    And Then There Were (N-one) by Sarah Pinsker: I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this, and I wish it had been twice as long.

    Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor is a very worthy continuation of 2015’s winner, and I’m very excited to see how the final(?) installment pans out.

    Series
    If this category sticks, I very much hope the Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan will get to represent the dragons next year. The qualifying volume, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, is a very worthy entry in the series with all the things I love about Lady Trent’s narrative voice – in particular, her ability to sum up huge implied adventures and geopolitical events, which in other series would be entire books on their own, in mere paragraphs because they didn’t involve dragons so who cares. Needless to say, the bits of her adventures that do contain dragons and are therefore worth telling are 1000% worth showing up for.

  10. I recently finished Alison Tam’s novella Beauty, Glory, Thrift, from Book Smugglers Publishing. It’s a fun story and I’m smiling thinking back on it. A thief steals from a temple and enables the escape of Thrift, least of her sister goddesses.

  11. City of Miracles man, that’s a good book. Not just the end of a trilogy but also about childhood, parenthood, growing up, belief, how we allow trauma to shape us, and so much. It’s not just a good third book, it’s something all by itself.

  12. Some recent short fiction reads:

    Short stories:
    In the Shade of the Pixie Tree,” Rodello Santos, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 221. Told from the ends of its timeline inward.

    Some Cupids Kill With Arrows,” Tansy Rayner Roberts, Uncanny Magazine 14. Speed dating gone odd – nothing deep, but short and fun.

    Novelette:

    The Thule Stowaway,” Maria Dahvana Headley, Uncanny Magazine 14. A tale steeped in Poe – I don’t think I grokked the whole but it grew on me steadily.

  13. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, Tor
    Hugo Category: Novella Link to B&N,com (I hope that works)

    Premise: What happened to Jack and Jill before Every Heart a Doorway? We find out about the world they went to and what happened there.

    I picked this up on my birthday weekend trip and really loved it! The world is creepy and yet, the real world for the twins was creepy too. In fact, in some ways, the real world for them was worse. We see how that world affected them in the otherworld they visited. It is definitely at the top of my 2017 novella longlist.

  14. Another recommendation for Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Miracles. A lot of just plain fun – this is Sigrud, after all – and some clever twists and poignance.

    (Because I didn’t think the library hold would come in until after the Hugo voting closed, that’s why! Fortunately, I only have one novella left to read.)

  15. I came here to recommend Lady Trent, but I see Arifel has already done so, so let me just add my support. I’m reminded of something that was said about Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series, I think originally by Andrew Plotkin: ‘not just science fiction but more science fiction than anything else’. Despite being about dragons and having a pre-modern setting, the books are deeply science-fictional: while most science fiction is about the results of science, or about things that might be objects of science, these are about science. The protagonist is a scientist, studying an unusual group of animals, and our scientific understanding of them develops throughout the series. I must admit that the big reveal of the last book didn’t come as a complete surprise, but it was a very satisfying conclusion nonetheless.

    I also recommend Todd Lockwood, the illustrator, for Best Pro Artist. These are the most accurate drawings of dragons I have seen.

  16. Andrew M: These are the most accurate drawings of dragons I have seen.

    Now I want to know what you’re comparing them to as a way to gauge their accuracy. 😉

  17. There’s someone on tumblr who gets extremely frustrated with most common depictions of mermaids because ‘FISH DON’T WORK THAT WAY’ so it wouldn’t surprise me if people have similar preferences for dragons.* Lizards and wings and horns and so on are pretty standard real-life things, after all, if not generally in combination.

    *Mine are more aesthetically-based. Realism is not high on my list of priorities.

  18. My mom is reading Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty per my suggestion. She is in the middle of it and enjoying it–as far as I could tell from the phone call!

  19. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

    Novel

    A young girl is trained to be a warrior nun. There’s a hefty dose of grimdark fantasy in this one, so it may not be for everyone, but I found it a really enjoyable book. I might be less tolerant of the characters if they keep doing not-so-bright things in the sequels, but when they’re under-13’s I can chalk it up to realism. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel next year.

  20. I just finished Sovereign, the second in April Daniels’ trilogy that began with Dreadnaught. These are supers books about a trans teenager who inherits the mantle of her world’s Superman from the previous Dreadnaught upon his death. I’m not well-steeped in comics, but for me there were fun supers-worldbuilding, and certainly some enjoyable secondary characters. The books also get into what it could mean to become a super after an abusive childhood.

    I enjoyed the books – I doubt they will stick on my Best Novel nominating list, but I can imagine others feeling differently. Daniels does appear to be Campbell eligible (both books are from 2017 and appear to be her first works) and will likely remain on that list for me.

  21. The Harbors of the Sun, by Martha Wells

    Novel

    Another great book from Martha Wells, full of adventure and emotion. While this one has something of a slow start, once it gets going it doesn’t stop. There are minor issues I could quibble about (the fights against the Fell seem to go surprisingly easily considering how formidable they’ve been in the past, although there are some reasons for that), but overall, this was a wonderful read and a fantastic addition to the series.

  22. Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Penric novella Penric’s Fox takes place after Penric and the Shaman, with some supporting characters in common. I liked this one more than the pair starting with Penric’s Mission. It’s in the middle of my pack of maybes for the Hugo ballot, though I’ve only collected a couple of probables so far.

  23. @Lace —

    Ooooooooo, thanks for posting that. I didn’t know it was out now! 🙂

  24. The Stone Sky, by N. K. Jemisin

    Novel (third and final in a series)

    This book delves the deepest of the three into the nature of oppression, prejudice, and resistance. A good chunk of it is also spent examining the ancient history which led to the current state of things, which is welcome for the readers who have been waiting patiently for the mysteries to be revealed. On the whole, a solid and powerful ending to one of the best modern fantasy trilogies out there.

  25. @Kyra

    The first two were so good that I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed hoping she nailed the ending. (I’ve actually been a little worried about this — much as I was with Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy)

    Glad to hear that it did not disappoint.

  26. @Kyra and Kevin
    Just finished it an hour ago. Yes, it’s an excellent conclusion to the trilogy. All the loose ends are tied up. All the mysteries are explained. There is a message, if you look for it, but it’s not so obtrusive as to spoil the story.

    My one complaint is that the ending is unemotional. I thought there would be a big emotional release at the end; everything seemed to be set up for it. But that part didn’t work for me.

  27. I think, in a way, the first book gives emotional heft to the story of Essun, which we then see play out in the next two books, and the second gives emotional heft to the story of Nassun, which we then see play out in this book. But that means that, since this book is those stories heading to their conclusion, much of the emotional weight relies on the story of [spoiler – the third POV character], which is a more difficult one to connect to than the others.

  28. August seems to be my month to read 2017 books.

    The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

    Probably could fall under either novella or short stories

    A tribute to, and commentary on, all the many women in superhero comics who have been killed, sidelined, or vilified in the service of someone else’s story. They tell their own stories here, in a book that’s both well-written and well-conceived. I liked it.

  29. @Kyra

    I read The Power after you recommended it and while I wouldn’t claim to have enjoyed it, exactly, it was interesting and I’m still thinking about it. Pencilled in for my nomination ballot next year, for sure.

  30. Cross posting a couple of additional recommendations from today’s scroll – I wrote up some longer reviews of all these titles and a couple that don’t make the cut here.

    Adding to tofu and Matt Y’s recommendation for Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. For a book that’s about giant flying killer bears and creepy bioengineering, my main takeaway from this book is that it’s actually quite… nice? and heartwarming? And tells a post-apocalyptic survivalist story where characters aren’t punished for caring about things outside their own survival needs, even when it doesn’t work out in a straightforward or positive way.

    Also adding to Kyra and Greg’s recommendation for The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, which sticks the landing brilliantly. I didn’t find it an unemotional ending – it was just what I’d expect from the characters involved – though I guess if I really was going to push the boat out and suggest this wasn’t a completely perfect book, I think the climax and payoff could have been longer.

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter, which is an authorised sequel to War of the Worlds. Baxter writes this to be specifically in conversation with the limited, passive narrative in the original (but not in a pretentious way!) and ends up creating something which actually feels like a global event, chronicled by a woman reporter who is an active part of events. It’s a bit slow, and wouldn’t be enjoyable if you don’t like the style of the original, but worth it if you do.

    Also, am I the first person here to mention Raven Stratagem? I don’t think I like it quite as much now as I did immediately after reading, but Yoon Ha Lee is continuing to do awesome things with a unique space fantasy world. I’m hoping the disappointment I have with some of the plotting is a middle-book thing and there’s a smashing end in sight for book three.

  31. Tossing in Waking Gods the sequel to Sleeping Giants. The sequel featured a ton of twists and turns most of which are impossible to see coming and the weird ongoing documentary style told through audio interviews, journals and letters both lends to the confusion of trying to understand an alien threat that’s so alien there’s no way to truly understand it, but also feels a little like it lessens the impact of some of the events as they’re more at an arms length than in your face.

    After the first one which was mostly discovering a giant robot and figuring out the ramifications and responsibilities both personal and global of such a thing, the second book just takes off like a rocket and takes risks I would’ve never expected.

    I don’t know if it’s be on the top of what I liked this year but it’s certainly up there.

    Just started Stone Sky. It’s been an incredible year so far.

  32. I’ve read several novellas so far this year (thank you, Tor!) and wanted to toot the horns of my favorite ones.

    Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin R. Kiernan

    I loved this. It’s dense, complex, non-linear, with great characterizations and beautiful writing. It’s a surprisingly successful, if bizarre, blending of Lovecraft and The X-Files, with an alien invasion fit to give anyone nightmares. It’s a shame Kiernan isn’t better known, and it would be great if this story could change that. For the moment, at the top of my Hugo list.

    River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey

    This has been mentioned before, but I’ll second (or third) it–what’s not to love about an alternate history weird Western with hippopotami? Also, I believe Sarah Gailey is still eligible for the Campbell (2nd year).

    Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire

    I actually liked this better than Every Heart a Doorway, as it lacked the somewhat distracting murder mystery plot. This tightly written backstory of Jack and Jill, and nightmare parenting, pulls no punches. At the end, the reader knows just what the twins found in their portal world of the Moors, and understands why they would do anything to return there.

    All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

    Seconding this rec as well, because of the fantastic title character. (Also because sometimes, the cranky misanthropic Murderbot, with its desire to be left alone with its books entertainment feeds, reminded me of….me.) Seriously, though, I realized that Murderbot is pretty much the anti-Data–the artificial being who doesn’t want to be human. It’s a fresh take on the android trope, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

    The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, Margaret Killjoy

    This was an odd little book, and I’m including it because while I don’t think it was really for me, I imagine plenty of other people will like it. It’s a punk anarchist mindtrip, with plenty of zombified demon animals, and yes, it’s just as wacky as it sounds. Whether the story hangs together will depend on your tolerance of its collectivist anarchist mindset, but I appreciate that it’s an ambitious story that takes risks.

  33. Well goddamn, Jemisin didn’t just stick the landing with The Stone Sky she landed it so hard it shifted tectonic plates.

    Without spoiling it to me there were a lot of parallels with how Stone Sky ended and the conclusion of The Divine Cities trilogy. Both about how systems of oppression and power, how pain shapes us and how we shape the world, etc. I thought Stone Sky did it more effectively though and the writing managed to be both raw and personable. The book managed to provide context on things throughout the trilogy, from tying everything together cohesively to giving reason to narrative devices, and the end knocked my socks clear into another timezone.

  34. Loved Marie Vibbert’s story “Metal and Flesh” in today’s Daily Science Fiction. A metal shop supervisor learns more about the staff – only 1300 words, so I don’t want to say a lot, but hey, only 1300 words.

  35. Amatka, by Karen Tidbeck

    Novel

    (Translation from Swedish by the author)

    I really liked this one. I suspect it’s going to be a bit divisive in the same way that, say, Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy was — this is not a book for people who want neat and meticulous explanations of why things are happening. For those who don’t mind that, though, this is a great portrayal of an authoritarian society, in a vivid setting. It’s a relatively quick read, and a powerful one.

  36. 4th’ing the rec for City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett, which was a wonderful book!

  37. M.R. Carey’s The Boy on the Bridge is the prequel to The Girl with All the Gifts. I enjoyed it but wouldn’t put it in the same class as TGwAtG. Too many people with asymmetric knowledge in a confined space, an all-the-STEM-fields savant, and too many plot threads coming together at the same moment in the climax, in a way that felt forced to me. The epilogue is rather fan-service but fun. If you loved TGwAtG, you’ll probably enjoy this, otherwise maybe give it a pass.

  38. Hyddwen, by Heather Rose Jones
    Published by PodCastle.org, and available in text and sound here.

    Novelette – although barely. (Copying the text into Word gives me a word count of 7540 word, including an introduction in Welsh.)

    A lovely story about love, loss and sorrow. And about Morvyth, who takes on a task that might be to big for her.

    The story reminds me a little of Ursula Vernon – Jones show similar attention to detail (although daily life, not plants) and the heroine have a similar “I don’t know what I’m doing, so I might as well plod on”-attitude as e.g. Bryony of Bryony and Roses.

    I recommend the podcast in particular, the narrator does a wonderful job and there are some parts in particular where the rhythm of the story lends itself well to oral storytelling.

  39. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, specifically the audiobook version read by the author: I find it hard to pay attention to audio for long periods of time, but I listened to the whole 4 hours of this in almost one sitting without getting distracted. It’s a powerful story about femininity and sisterhood which worked better for me on a first pass than Every Heart A Doorway. Excellent narration. Will be very surprised if this isn’t on All The Lists at the end of the year, although for some reason the ebook is prohibitively expensive compared to other Tor novellas…?

  40. Issue 225 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a well-matched pair of short stories, both serving as allegories of our mundane human experience.

    Caroline M. Yoachim’s “Carnival Nine” is set among clockwork people and the train tracks that bound their world. It’s a satisfying story of a life in a few pages.

    A.T. Greenblatt’s “A Place to Grow” is about an apprentice maker of worlds, and what we seek from them.

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