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.

296 thoughts on “2017 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Several recent reads:

    Novellas

    Ironclads, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris)

    A group of soldiers/grunts in a near-future war is sent to rescue a wealthy soldier, whose supersuit has inexplicably failed behind enemy lines. Some fun geopolitics, maybe a bit stretched but not cookie-cutter, and an asymmetric war with some eerie opposition. “Bugs” aren’t front and center in this one, but they have an enjoyable role.

    Snowspelled, Stephanie Burgis (Five Fathoms Press)

    First-in-series in a Regency-esque England where the humans are at truce with the elves, and women handle the politicking while men do the magic. For me, it almost felt like its own prequel – a lot of fun world-building setting up future installments, but not too much happens. I’ll probably be back to see where Burgis goes from here. If you enjoy Kowal’s Glamourist Histories or Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, or Burgis’s other work, you should take a look.

    I plan to nominate the artist, Leesha Hannigan, for her perfect cover.

    Novel

    Autonomous, Annalee Newitz (Tor Books)

    A pirate distributing reverse-engineered pharmaceuticals is chased by a soldier and his bot partner. The high points are more great world-building, and questions of identity and self for the bot on its first mission. Had a tendency to become tell-y. Would probably appeal to some of the audience for Wells’ All Systems Red.

  2. Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Novel (c80k wordcount)

    Rex is a Good Dog.

    We’ve uplifted and/or engineered dogs – and other animals – into man-sized killing machines and deployed them into dirty wars and clandestine conflicts. Rex is a simple soul, doing what Master tells him, but he’s learning that the world is more complicated than Master is allowing him to know…

    This begins as MilSF but quickly starts looking at the ethics of using these Bioforms for combat, and how we react when made tools become something more…and then switches again to see how the bioforms handle these transitions. A lot of chapters are from Rex’s POV, and while his simplicity of thought sometimes seems a little cliched and wearing, there’s a power behind his sections that draw you in. As a whole it handles some interesting themes, some of which are a bit too spoilery to mention, and matches them to an exciting story that sits somewhere between MillSF and thriller. I’d compare it to The Red trilogy, which is a good compliment IMO.

    I’ve seen this described as a novella but I make it as over 80k words, so I’d recommend it as a short & incisive novel.

  3. I’ve really, really wanted to read Dogs of War since I first saw the description, and now I’m adding a couple of reallys. We’ll see if a US edition gets announced before I crack and order a copy from somewhere in the Commonwealth.

    (Am rather discouraged that I got the time travel posting bug for the first time ever, and so apparently there won’t be a US edition by 5150. At least that makes my decision easier.)

  4. Alas, I’m afraid I haven’t been much of a fan this year.

    In the Best Series category I recommend The Clan Chronicles, by Julie Czerneda, the final installment of which, /To Guard Against The Dark/, was published in October.

    I also recommend the final episode of Star Trek Continues, “To Boldly Go: Part 1 and 2”.

  5. The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

    Novel

    I’ll add my voice to those who liked this one. A nicely done debut fantasy novel set in medieval Russia and getting a lot of mileage out of the creepy mythology of the region. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels. One of the best things about it was the evocative writing about Russian winter, the eternal struggle to scrabble survival out of the relentless cold, and how that colors how everyone there looks at life.

    My one major quibble — that a couple of characters vanish from the narrative after a while — was resolved when it became apparent that they would become major figures in subsequent books. The coming books also seem likely to add some grey tones to what was a fairly black-and-white good vs. evil narrative in this one. I’m looking forward to them.

  6. Novel

    The Punch Escrow, Tal M. Klein

    I saw this book in the “new arrivals” section in my library, picked it up, and read the first page/introduction. The character’s voice grabbed me immediately, and we were off to the races.

    This is a hard science fiction novel (really hard–genetically engineered carbon-removing mosquitoes, artificially intelligent self-driving vehicles, quantum mechanics, and teleportation are all things) set in the year 2147. Teleportation is, indeed, the heart of the book, spinning off all sorts of nasty conundrums. At first the story reminded me of ST:TNG’s episode “Second Chances” (the one where Riker is duplicated by the transporter) but it quickly became its own thing. This is due in no small part to the main character, Joel Byram, who loves “obscure” 80’s music, poses riddles to artifically intelligent apps for a living, and is the consummate Everyguy thrown into an impossible situation. There are several meaty philosophical asides woven throughout the book, and the last third morphs into a nail-biting thriller I couldn’t put down. My only quibble is an unnecessary cliff-hanging coda that is an obvious set-up for a sequel. This may not be quite in my top tier of books for this year, but it’s damn close. (I also looked around for previous publications and couldn’t find any, so I believe Klein is eligible for the Campbell.)

  7. Best Series:

    Court of Fives trilogy* by Kate Elliott. The final volume was released this year so this is a complete story.

    A fast & fun read with a strong central character and really interesting worldbuilding. There’s some real cleverness to the way the her initial naivete about the world falls away as we learn more about what’s really going on. It’s YA so sometimes you feel it taking a slightly more simplistic line through the plot, and I was worried the final volume wouldn’t get to certain elements properly, but it mostly did and was pretty satisfying. I’d have liked a bit more investigation of the history of the setting, but maybe unsatisfied curiosity is a sign of good worldbuilding.

    *(One of those inaccurately named trilogies, with a couple of separate novellas released as well)

    At the moment I only have two other complete series that I’ve fully read and am likely to nominate – Broken Earth and Shades of Magic – but I’m expecting some out of Divine Cities, Updraft, Split Worlds and Lady Trent to join them once I finish them – these are all series that finished properly this year.

  8. There’s might fall more into the horror category but Hekla’s Children and Meddling Kids are both interesting books. Hekla’s Children spent a good third of it feeling like a pretty routine horror/thriller with a somewhat sci-fi idea then goes surprising directions.

    Meddling Kids does a very tongue in cheek riff on the idea of Scooby Doo: The Later Years that plays with narrative devices while pointing out that it’s doing so while yet making them still work anyways. It’s one of those things that like all the various easter eggs and homages in Stranger Things where it feels like the creator is showing off how clever they are and the only reason they pull it off is because they really are pretty clever, which is a really fine line to be able to walk if you can pull it off. Meddling Kids does. About as scary as the recent scooby doo movies.

  9. Best YA Not-A-Hugo

    Legion (The Talon Saga), Julie Kagawa

    Let me be upfront about the major mark against this–it’s the fourth book in a series, and if you haven’t read the previous three (Talon, Rogue and Soldier) you will be hopelessly confused. The action in this one picks up immediately after the cliffhanger in book 3 and there are no recaps. That said, this series has been getting stronger with each book, and this is the best yet. If the final book in the series, Inferno (out next year, I’m assuming), is as good as this one, the series will definitely go on my Best Series ballot.

    Again, all this might be as much a strike against as a recommendation for. Your mileage may vary. However, I loved this book. It’s somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet setup, with a secret race of dragon shifters (Meredith Alert!) vs. the centuries-old human order that is sworn to exterminate them, and what happens when a dragon slayer falls for the dragon he has been sent to kill. The teen romance is a bit frothy in the first book, but in each subsequent entry the worldbuilding and characterizations have deepened. In this book the pacing is excellent, the battle scenes are riveting, and the stakes are getting ever higher. I suppose this is a bit of a dilemma, isn’t it, when there’s an outstanding individual entry in an as yet unfinished series? Still, I like this so much I think it should go on my YA ballot.

  10. Pingback: 2017 Novellapalooza | File 770

  11. Provenance, by Ann Leckie, Published by Orbit
    Novel
    https://www.annleckie.com/novel/provenance/
    A standalone novel taking place shortly after the Ancillary trilogy in some independent human star systems.
    What I liked about it: Lots. It is a madcap comedy with more mistaken identities than a full season of Shakespeare, and an astonishing variety of grand crimes and misdemeanors that fail to cause any real harm. Then it gets serious.
    What I really liked about it: The Geck. The worst hosts and the best friends you can possibly have.

  12. Favorites so far in the YA category are The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman and Arabella and the Battle of Venus by David Levine.

    I’m fond of Adrian Tchaikovsky and plan on checking out Ironclads and expect I’ll like it, but other than that I haven’t delved too far into grownup reading material this year.

  13. Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson

    Big-Ass Novel (third in a series)

    This book gets a good recommendation from me mostly on the strength of the last hundred or so pages, which were kickass, awesome, and epic. What came before that wasn’t bad, but didn’t live up to the level of the first two books. This is the first time one of the Stormlight books felt a bit bloated to me; there were many times I felt that not a lot of forward motion was happening in the story. On the other hand, I did appreciate the political maneuvering, as well as the fairly deep dive into Shallan’s growing mental problems. And I’ll reiterate that the book did get itself together for a grand finale that dropped all the disparate pieces into place with an explosive ending that was both surprising and perfect.

  14. The Silver Mask, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

    Young adult novel, fourth in a series

    This one is aimed at the young side of YA, and some adult readers might be put off by the relatively uncomplex language and plots. For those who aren’t, this is a series very much in conversation with the Harry Potter books. This one, in particular, takes the series’ deepest look yet at what it really means for a villain in a fantasy book to have vanquishing death as a goal. It also puts the series back on track with a solid fourth entry after a somewhat more lackluster third book.

  15. Gardner Dozois’s latest anthology of originals, The Book of Swords is a solid collection of sixteen stories – I’m guessing most are novelette length. I enjoyed six stories a lot, thought seven were good, and three were okay, but no real clunkers. At least seven stories are part of series in a loose sense, from George R.R. Martin’s or Robin Hobb’s stories from their popular series, to a Rich Larson tale whose protagonists I recognized from a previous short.

    Highlights for me:
    K.J. Parker, “The Best Man Wins,” – you can see it coming and enjoy anticipating it
    Matthew Hughes, “The Sword of Destiny” – a wizard’s henchman gets into an increasingly complicated mess
    Kate Elliott, “‘I Am a Handsome Man,’ Said Apollo Crow” – most of it’s right in front of you, if you’re paying enough attention (I wasn’t)
    C.J. Cherryh, “Hrunting” – a revisit to Beowulf
    Rich Larson, “The Colgrid Conundrum,” – anti-heroes getting in deeper (and I learn there’s at least one more Crane and Gilchrist story I haven’t read!)
    Elizabeth Bear, “The King’s Evil” – prequel story with characters from The Stone in the Skull

  16. I highly recommend Unsong, by Scott Alexander — an online serial which concluded in May. It is *delightful*. Fun and silly and original and exciting.

    I’m finding it reminiscent of “Good Omens” in many ways. It plays in the same fields; it has very similar humor. Here, though, the playground is mystic Kabbalistic connections, and searching for the Names of God. Which I am enjoying the heck out of, maybe partially because I actually know the Hebrew and the Midrashim the book makes constant, sly use of.

    (I am not saying “Unsong” is as devastatingly excellent as “Good Omens” is. But if you enjoyed that, you’re quite likely to enjoy this.)

    Alexander does some really fun things here, most of which I won’t spoil for you. But portraying Divine Providence as a form of beleaguered tech support is a real gem:

    “I AM BUSY. I AM TRYING TO FIX CONTINENTAL DRIFT.”

    “I…didn’t know it was broken.”

    Uriel’s face became more animated, his speech faster.

    “IT HAS BEEN BROKEN FOR FIVE WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS. I THINK IT BROKE WHEN I RELOADED NEW ZEALAND FROM A BACKUP COPY, BUT I DO NOT KNOW WHY. MY SYNCHRONIZATION WAS IMPECCABLE AND THE CHANGE PROPAGATED SIMULTANEOUSLY ACROSS ALL SEPHIROT. I THINK SOMEBODY BOILED A GOAT IN ITS MOTHER’S MILK. IT IS ALWAYS THAT. I KEEP TELLING PEOPLE NOT TO DO IT, BUT NOBODY LISTENS.”

    Scott Alexander is the same guy who wrote “…And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes” in 2015, the one that took a “which magic pill would you pick” meme as being deadly serious. I recommend 🙂

  17. Campbell Award

    K B Wagers – The Indranan War trilogy, starting with Behind The Throne (2016). Second year of eligibility.
    Wagers has pumped out a fast-paced and exciting space opera trilogy in two years, and as I’ve just finished the final book and think it sticks the landing I’m adding her to my Campbell list. It’s not without its flaws – she tries to cram an enormous cast of characters in and rather loses control of them at times – but it’s got a compelling main character and entertainingly operatic plot. Definitely a promising author.

  18. Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. Saga Press, Novel.
    14 years after Dr. Jekyll’s closed coffin was carted away, his ailing wife finally dies, leaving a 21-year-old daughter on whom mysteries start piling up — from how to survive with only a few pounds in the bank, to why a pound a month has been paid for the last several years to a rescue home for prostitutes for the name “Hyde”, to who has been murdering streetwalkers and taking pieces of their bodies. We know that there are more women waiting for entrances because they’re commenting on the story; people with good recall of old fantasy may figure out who they are, but the reveals are plausible.
    This is a good story, well worked out, a bit in Kim Newman’s line but more interested in story and character than cleverness and guess-this-page’s reference; it foregrounds mostly-ignored women and argues who is really a monster in their stories.

  19. Novel

    All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault, James Alan Gardner

    I’m not generally a one-clicker or pre-orderer, but I one-clicked this one the moment I knew it was happening. So that’s my bias, a long-time JAG fan who’d given up on seeing more books (and still really wants more League of Peoples).

    This book is a new modern or very near future supers world, following the origin adventures of Waterloo’s four brand new Sparks. I didn’t love it as much as I hoped to, but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s – wonkish, might be the word I want, not just infodumpy but keenly interested in how its world works at all times. Some of that is the personality of the narrator in this installment, Kim. Kim’s exploration of their powers is geeky fun, superheroics done by someone with a STEM background and a wholehearted embrace of handwavium.

    It appears that the next book will be narrated by my favorite of the foursome, who picked up straightforward powers that have a complicated interaction with her personality. I headed right off to see if I could one-click that pre-order (not yet), so I’ll be back for more.

  20. Short stort

    “Evil Opposite,” Naomi Kritzer, Fantasy and Science Fiction September/October 2017

    A parallel universes piece, where the “what if”s feel all too personal.

  21. YA Award

    Jane, Unlimited by Kristen Cashore

    I think that if I’d read a summary of this before I read it, I would have assumed that I’d hate it, but in practise I was really impressed. The title character, newly bereaved, recently dropped out, and struggling to make ends meet, is unexpectedly invited to a gala at the creepy island manor of a rich university friend. After encountering evidence of various strange things going on at the house, she comes to a point where she could pursue one of several leads, and the rest of the novel takes us in turn through narratives of the alternate timeline in which she chooses her own adventure each way. Each of these sub-narratives acts like a different genre (mystery, spy thriller, supernatural horror, and so on), but the SF variation (and hints elsewhere) tie them together with a science fictional multiverse conceit.

    Jane’s voice is a lot of what makes this work; she’s vivid and likable, perceptive but heedless, thoughtful and shrewd but impatient with both tact and subterfuge. An artist, she thinks things through by making umbrellas about them. These same strengths and flaws hold true with different entailments in each of the different scenarios, and though the variations never quite intersect, they play with and thematically reflect on one another’s absences in ways that are often both sweet and melancholy. For me, not a regular reader of horror, the horror chapter was distressing in ways that carried what felt like a disproportionate emotional weight, but the rest of the book after that still managed to deposit me in a place of being more satisfied than I was hurt.

  22. Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is good stuff. You’ve got a gene therapy pirate trying to stop the spread of a drug that helps people program themselves to enjoy work a little too much that she’s responsible for, and an android looking for her that’s trying to figure out how to be more human. There’s almost not enough info-dumping in this one though it all still is given context within the setting, and I liked how it built up.

  23. A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge

    Novel (YA)

    In a place where cheeses have strange powers and you must prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet, one young girl upends society with her expressions. Despite being out for a number of years in the UK, apparently it has only just come out in the U.S. (which may make it eligible for some 2017 awards, such as the Hugo.) This is just a stunning, brilliant novel. Hardinge is at the top of her form here, and I would class this one with Cuckoo Song, Fly By Night, and Gullstruck Island as being among her best works.

  24. An Unkindness of Magicians, by Kat Howard

    Novel

    A well-written, imaginative book with an sharp ethical sting in its thematic tail. Sometimes the plot moved a little too fast for its own good — a few times, issues were introduced immediately before they were resolved. But there was never a point when I wasn’t interested in what was going on.

  25. Short story:
    The Heart’s Cartography by Susan Jane Bigelow, Lightspeed 84 (May 2017) – Hopeful and touching story of a trans girl who loves the rural area where she lives even though others there are not generally very accepting.

    Novelette:
    I Am Not I by G. V. Anderson, Fantasy & Science Fiction July/August 2017 – A fantastically imaginative (if somewhat grotesque) setting were those in charge are extremely genetically modified people called Varians and non-modified humans called Saps live in ghettos. The narrator is rejected by her prominent Varian family because she’s a throw-back to an unmodified human appearance. She’s desperate for money to repair the failing surgical mods that allow her to look Varian.

    G. V. Anderson is in her second year of Campbell eligibility.

  26. After the edit window closed, I realized my description of The Heart’s Cartography totally left out the SF element. So let me add that things get better when she meets the daughter of some time travelers who move in next door!

  27. Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoë Quinn (non-fiction)

    This is a fast, absorbing read. Do not expect it to be a deeply-detailed memoir. Part of it details what she went through with GamerGate, and the online and real-life abuse to which she (and her family members, and her friends, and anyone who had ever been seen exchanging two words with her) was subjected, and how she managed to cope with it enough to survive, however precariously. Part of it describes ways in which you can pre-emptively protect yourself from doxxing and abuse — and then how to deal with abuse if it happens. And part of it details how to support people who are being abused, depending on how well you know them (especially if you don’t know them personally). There are some things in that last section which readers may find surprising.

    Quinn is an extremely thoughtful (in the “giving the issues deep consideration and providing insightful analysis” sense) person, and an incredibly articulate writer. A lot of what she says made me reconsider some of my personal perceptions about how abuse occurs, and how it should be handled. Part of her stance is that it should always be approached in terms of bad behaviors rather than bad people — but that the abuser may or may not be susceptible to seeing the light and changing their ways, so the emphasis should always be on what best helps the targets to survive and heal.

    Quinn is pretty open and honest about her own flaws and bad behaviors — both past and present — and the acknowledgment that we all are part of the problem, and therefore need to work to be part of the solution. She openly acknowledges that her own experience is one of white privilege, and cautions against taking her experiences as representative of those faced by other women, POC, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, and other marginalized persons; reading her book is only one step toward understanding and combatting online abuse, not an end in itself. She provides suggestions of other people whose writings are a good start in understanding other perspectives. And she is adamant that the response to hate campaigns and doxxing should not be to engage in the same techniques against the abusers.

    I was not aware that in the wake of her abuse she had created the Crash Override Network, which includes an online website with resources to help people who are being abused, and a staff of volunteers with credentials and experience in assisting people who are trying to navigate the results of campaigns of abuse. This is a tremendous resource, one which should be signal-boosted. It was unsurprising, but disheartening, to find out just how little willingness big corporations like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google, etc. have demonstrated to combat abuse, versus their zeal for combatting copyright infringement of big media company properties.

    I would recommend this book to anyone who has been a target of online abuse, who wants to protect themselves online, or who wants to be an ally to those who have been / are being abused. It is almost certainly going to be on my Hugo ballot for Best Related Work.

  28. Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
    Novel

    I recommend this! It’s science fiction that takes place over many centuries, mostly on a generation starship. There are a lot of big SF ideas and some interesting characters, including the ships’s AI, though because of the timeline, of course, don’t get too attached to anyone. These aren’t long-lived people; they’re cloned (this setup is explained in like the first chapter or so). Some of the “genetic destiny” stuff (not how she puts it) was not my favorite part, but Lostetter did use it in some interesting (and at times dark) ways. I’m not sure I totally buy into the initial society setup and all its evolution over the journey, but it was definitely interesting stuff!

    I’m considering this for my Hugo ballot. The August 2018 sequel, Noumenon Infinity, is on my list to buy!

  29. I have to rave about a recently completed book:

    The Prey of Gods – Nicky Draydon

    I’m not sure how to describe this book, it contains gods gaining power from believers as well as AI sentience ideas. Set in a near future South Africa, it has great, compelling characters. Throughout the book, we get revelations about these people that change our understanding of them but are also totally consistent with what has happened before. There are some ideas about AI’s I haven’t seen before. This was a stay up all night, could not put down book for me.

    As this is a first book, I believe the author is eligible for a Campbell also.

  30. The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden
    Novel, book two in the Winternight trilogy, sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale which came out in January.

    After the events in The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya flees her home village to avoid being shipped off to a convent. Disguising herself in boy’s clothes, she rides off on her horse Solovey with a somewhat vague plan to “see the world”. After some initial adventures she arrives in Moscow, where her brother and sister are scandalized at her disguise but (initially) goes along with the ruse since revealing it would create a bigger scandal. The big city turns out to be even more dangerous than the open countryside, however, and Vasya must confront a big threat to the city.

    I think I liked this book even better than the first – the tension held up more evenly through the book, and the plot and the motivations of the characters felt clearer. Like the first, the book paints a realistic picture (as far as I can tell, at least) of medieval Russia, in particular in the use of cold and darkness as very real limits to what people can and cannot do. The limitations inherent in gender roles and social expectations also plays a big part.

    It is in some ways a rather traditional fantasy novel – the heroine leaves home, have adventures, and saves the day – but the relative realism, the way it’s almost historical fiction with just a little bit of magic, makes it stand out for me.

  31. Novel

    Terminal Alliance, Jim C. Hines

    I expected humor, of course, and heart, but this ended up being my favorite of Hines’ books to date. Janitors being competent and creative at cleaning, and creative but often incompetent at spaceship command, made an entertaining combination. The understated treatment of a reconstructed human culture was effective also.

  32. It’s not on the top of any internal list, but Spoonbenders is a fun read about a family of maybe psychics and their interesting family dynamics as they try and cope with being a family while some might have the ability to tell if a person is lying, or see into the future, or just be really good at card tricks. Good book.

  33. The Fall of the Readers, by Django Wexler

    Novel (YA/middle grade, last in a series)

    Now fully in revolt against the powerful Readers, Alice and her allies take a desperate gamble.

    A solid end to an excellent series. I’ll admit it doesn’t add a lot to the interesting concepts introduced in the first three books — by this time the worldbuilding is pretty well established — but it largely makes up for that by getting all the pieces into place for a satisfying resolution. It was great to finally see the end of Alice’s journey, and how far she’s come.

  34. Novel

    Retrograde, Peter Cawdron

    JJ, thank you for reccing this book. I really enjoyed it, and now want to add my rec to yours. It’s a lean, mean, hard-science thriller, with a lot more plausible-sounding science than The Martian. The only (slight) quibble I have is the characterization–it seemed a bit superficial at times, but I think that’s a product of the story’s fast pace and shorter (237 pp) length. I don’t often wish books could have been longer, but I do with this one. I would have loved more delving into the science of the colony and the relationships.

    But is Cawdron really eligible for the Campbell? I ask that because of the long list of other publications across from the title page (dead-tree copy). Are these self-published, or just published in Australia and not America?

    Waking Gods, Sylvain Neuvel

    I bumped this to the top of Mount Tsundoku after it came in second at the Goodreads Choice Awards (SF category) and I’m glad I did. It’s a worthy sequel to its predecessor (Sleeping Giants) and a riveting tale. Everything set up in the previous book pays off with this, as all hell breaks loose with a full-scale alien robot invasion. The unusual narrative format (a few journal entries, but mostly transcribed interviews and recordings) means that there is almost no description, exposition, infodumping, interior monologue, and the like, but the author has settled into and is fully in control of his story. Sylvain Neuvel is still eligible for the Campbell; I nominated him last year and certainly will this year, on the strength of this.

    YA Not-A-Hugo

    The Empress, S.J. Kincaid

    It’s kind of hard to recommend YA books in some ways, as there’s so few standalones out there–almost everything I see is part of a trilogy or series. This book, for instance, is a sequel to The Diabolic, which read and felt like a standalone but which apparently sold well enough for the publisher to ask for more. And this book is indeed more: it’s a far-future court-intrigue space opera with characters straight out of the Soprano family and the Borgia family.

    Let’s just say if you can’t handle protagonists that are manipulative, amoral, murderous sociopaths, trying to survive in a vicious backstabbing world, this definitely isn’t the book for you. I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likable (much less good) but they were compelling, one and all, and I had to read on to find out what they would do next. This is also a story about the use and abuse of power, whether one can or wants to refuse its addictive rush, and whether the ends justify the means. Again, as with so much of YA nowadays, part of the reader’s enjoyment will depend on having read the first book. That may be disqualifying to some, but I still really liked this.

  35. Dreadnought, by April Daniels

    Novel (YA)

    Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

    I’ll second someone’s earlier support for this one. This is a trans narrative wrapped in a superhero story, and one that works very, very well. The main character has to deal not only with supervillains but with coming out as trans and dealing with the emotional fallout of that — along with problems such as a creepy male friend, an unreliable queer “ally” and a trans-exclusionary feminist in the premier superhero team, and an emotionally abusive parent. This was both a strength of the story and part of its only significant flaw, as some of the side characters used to portray the variety of reactions would have benefited from more in-depth characterization. But on the whole, this was a very good book. I’ll be picking up the next one in the series.

  36. Creatures of Will and Temper, by Molly Tanzer

    Novel

    Dorina Gray and her sister Evadne go to visit their uncle Basil in London, little knowing what strange direction this trip will cause their lives to take.

    This book is a riff on The Picture of Dorian Gray that wisely decides to go in very different directions from the original, changing the characters and their relationships to each other, adding a more readily apparent fantasy component, and focusing on the difference between sensualism and corruption. It nonetheless suffers a bit in comparison to the original, but taken on its own merits it’s an enjoyable urban fantasy novel with some worthwhile things to say.

  37. Novel

    Sea of Rust, C. Robert Cargill

    A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic “robot western”

    This ended up being more action and less thinky than some of the reviews and best-of lists led me to hope for. Notably, I very rarely believed the robots/AIs weren’t humans in robot costumes. But it worked well enough as entertainment, and is bargain-priced at some of the US etailers during the month of January.

  38. I finally stopped sitting on City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett, and it was a fantastic, fitting, page-turningly good ending to a strong trilogy (although I still have misgivings about the treatment of colonialism in Book 2!) Nffnffvangvat lbhe cerivbhf znva punenpgre in sentence 1 of the blurb was a bold move but the payoff to that, and to the overall questions raised in these books about human relationships to power, to our own pasts, and ultimately about building the kind of world we want our children to live in.

    Good contender for Best Novel, and the series might make my list for Best Series.

  39. @Arifel

    I read CoB over Christmas and enjoyed very much. I think it’s got a stronger chance in Series as although RJB did a decent job of making it a stand alone story all the themes and resonances still depend quite heavily on books 1 and 2.

    As a series I think it’s has some really interesting things to say about epic fantasy tropes.

  40. I will Fifth the recommendations for Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Miracles. As Mark says, it stands pretty well on its own while still expanding the characterization and worldbuilding of the entire series.

    It’s on my Best Series list for sure, and on my Best Novel list as well.

    I’ve only read 40 novels from 2017 at this point, and I expect to double that before the Hugo nominations deadline, so who knows what my final Novel list is going to look like. Right now I have on my Best Novel shortlist:
    City of Miraclesby Robert Jackson Bennett
    Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
    and on my longlist:
    Provenance by Ann Leckie
    The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
    Breach of Containment by Elizabeth Bonesteel
    Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
    Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon
    Noumenon by Marina Lostetter
    Artemis by Andy Weir

  41. I go round and round on The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley. At first when I read it I was a bit mindblown – it’s a bravura performance by Hurley, no doubt about it – but the longer I think about it the more I reckon that parts of the plotting and setting were a hot mess. I suspect it’s going to be in my final five anyway, because gonzo biological spaceships, but I have a few more on the tbr to give a chance to so it might get bumped.

  42. @JJ —

    I’ve only read 40 novels from 2017 at this point

    I’m impressed! I’ve read a lot more than 40 novels total in 2017, but only 14 of those (so far) were actually published in 2017.

    Please keep posting your impressions as you read more, and/or point us to your reviews of those books (if reviews exist). You and I seem to have similar tastes, and I’d love to get more guidance on what to be reading in the run-up to nominations.

  43. Contrarius: point us to your reviews of those books (if reviews exist)

    I am woefully behind, because of work on the 2017 Novellapalooza and other projects, so I don’t think I’ve posted my thoughts on any of my 2017 novels yet, with the exception of the trainwrecks (Spaceman of Bohemia and The Man in the Tree) and the feature posts which included City of Miracles and All Good Things from Emma Newman’s Split Worlds. I hope to get my mini-reviews caught up in the next month.

    I used to read at least 150 novels a year. But since I found File 770, it’s more like 80 novels and 40 novellas. Funny how that works. 😉

  44. ETA: Okay, I’ve just gone and checked, and I actually read around 100 novels last year, a handful of anthologies, collections, and genre non-fiction, and 47 novellas (these totals include all publication years, not just 2017).

  45. Yeah, my book count (including just a few novellas) for 2017 was 163, but as stated previously, only a few were 2017-published sff. I’m now entering my buckling-down period to catch up on Hugo-eligible stuff — started Borne this afternoon!

  46. So, I read The Power, by Naomi Alderman…and, um. Well. What it says on the tin, first: Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

    Basically, in a world like our own, women (starting with young teens and spreading to older women) develop the ability to discharge electric shocks of punishing and even killing intensity…and begin to use it to defend themselves from the horrifying routine violence of their lives. Uh-oh. What happens now?

    The balance of power begins to tilt, those currently in power take it VERY badly and lash out against women, they lash back and scenes occur which seem like something out of Joanna Russ’ Cliches From Outer Space satire:

    Four ravaging, man-hating, vicious, hulking, Lesbian, sadistic, fetishistic Women’s Libbers motorcycled down the highway to where George was hiding behind a bush…Their names were Dirty Sandra, Hairy Harriet, Vicious Vivian, and Positively Ruthless Ruth. They dragged George (a little sandy-haired fellow with spectacles but with a keen mind and an iron will) from behind the bush he was hiding in. Then they beat him. Then they reduced him to flinders. Then they squashed the flinders to slime. Then they jumped up and down on the slime.

    …except not in the least bit funny. Trigger warnings for scenes of grim violence, both sexual and not, rendered in stomach-turning vivid description…violence of men toward women, and vice-versa. The author espouses the grim view that men and women are much more alike than we are different. Being the race of unpleasant primates we are, all of us will harshly misuse power when we have it. I disagreed vehemently throughout the book with her about the things she posited would happen (while fascinated by her traincrash-in-slow-motion view of her world’s society disintegrating under pressure) and while I was not convinced, I have to concede the author makes a compelling case. Pros include the vividly drawn protagonists, both men and women, who are in turn the victims and/or victimizers of the power plays in the novel, and include some one can sympathize with throughout. Also moments of black comedy among the grimness.

    On that note…I have a friend who always reads the last page of a book first. Don’t be that friend, at least not for this book. The last line of the book – the punchline – brought a genuine horselaugh out of me, albeit a rather bitter one.

  47. Dammit, sorry. The Power was published in the US in 2017 but in the UK in 2016, so I guess it’s not Hugo eligible.

  48. jayn: Dammit, sorry. The Power was published in the US in 2017 but in the UK in 2016, so I guess it’s not Hugo eligible.

    The Hugo rules specifically say that works which were published in the U.S. for the first time in the eligibility year (i.e., 2017) are eligible.

  49. @Jayn, if that’s the case, it should still be eligible, as long as it wasn’t a finalist in 2016. There’s an exception in the rules for that because so many Hugo voters & nominators are in the U.S.

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