[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]
TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?
I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:
31 of the novellas published in 2015,
35 of the novellas published in 2016,
46 of the novellas published in 2017,
and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
(and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)
I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.
The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.
It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.
Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.
Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.
Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.
I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.
Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!
So, what kind of Easter Eggs might we see appear on the screen? Gaiman chimed in and shared:
“Jack Whitehall plays Newton Pulsifer, and the first time you see him going off to do a job he’s about to be fired from, his tie is actually the fourth Doctor’s scarf — really small, as a tie.
You know he must be an enormous Doctor Who fan, because he only owns one tie”
There’s also a new teaser trailer for the show –
(2) SINGING GEEKS! “Batman! Spider-Man! Marvel! DC! The
Geeks are back this Sunday night in NYC!” The Off Broadway production of Geeks! The Musical! opens April 21 at St. Luke’s, 308 W 46th
Street in New York. The music is by LASFSian Ruth Judkowitz.
…The story takes place over several days at a Comic-Con, though it could be any large generic media-oriented SF con – the coincidence of running into somebody and the difficulty of finding them when you’re looking for them plays some role in the plot. It’s the story of three pairs of friends who come to the convention, one set specifically in hopes of selling the avant-garde comic they’re working on, the others to buy collectibles or to attend programming or just to people-watch. They interact, and romantic pairings, both straight and gay, ensue….
The material has been updated for the 2019 production.
(3) TYPECAST ON TWITCH. Half
a dozen sff and game writers will launch TypeCast RPG on Twitch this coming
April 23. The continuing role-playing game will stream live Tuesday nights from
The members of TypeCast RPG will adventure in a world they’ve collaboratively created named Vaeron. Throughout the sessions, the dungeon master and five game players will make use of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rule system to take their characters through a dark and heroic world in which cities have been built on the backs of slumbering eldritch monsters, stone-age dangers lurk in the lands below, and sky-ships plunder both land and air!
The cast includes:
Dan Wells will serve as the Dungeon Master for the group.
Notable Works: I am Not a Serial Killer, the Partials series, the Writing Excuses podcast. Twitter – Facebook – Website
Charlie N. Holmberg will be playing Fleeda, a Stone Age human druid with complicated family problems.
Mari Murdock is Grisk, a half-orc rogue torn between profit and faith, and willing to switch allegiances for the right reward.
Notable Works: Legend of the Five Rings Contributor, RPG Writing, Whispers of Shadow and Steel. Twitter – Facebook – Website
Brian McClellan is Krustov, the necromancer cleric and atheist (yes, it’s that confusing).
Notable Works: The Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, Uncanny Collateral. Twitter – Facebook – Website
After the livestream wraps up, video viewing will be available on YouTube, as well as a podcast intended to launch on Wednesday afternoons. Various bonus content such as interviews, industry discussions for both fiction writing and gaming, and guest stars will be part of the live stream and other formats!
Amazon Original Stories, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, announced today the forthcoming six-part science-fiction collection Forward, featuring original short stories from some of today’s most celebrated voices in fiction, including Blake Crouch, N. K. Jemisin, Veronica Roth, Amor Towles, Paul Tremblay, and Andy Weir. Forward will be available for free on September 17 th, 2019 to Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers. Readers can download the collection as a Kindle eBook or Audible audiobook.
Forward explores a central theme: the resounding effects of a pivotal technological moment. While each author started with this same prompt, readers will discover that each story unearths a unique corner of the sci-fi genre, ranging from intimate to epic, grounded to far future, hopeful to harrowing.
Andy Weir ( Artemis, The Martian ) imagines a high-tech Las Vegas casino heist; Paul Tremblay ( The Cabin at the End of the World ) immerses readers in a patient’s mysteriously slow healing process; Amor Towles ( A Gentleman in Moscow ) explores a fertility clinic’s god-like abilities to alter an unborn child’s life path; Veronica Roth (Divergent trilogy) spins a story of finding connection in the face of our world’s certain destruction; N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth series) subverts all expectations when an explorer returns to the ravaged Earth his ancestors fled; and Blake Crouch ( Dark Matter) follows a video game designer whose character Maxine unexpectedly “wakes up.”
(5) BLADE. Is this the
sword that Claire Ryan’s pen was mightier than? Authors thanked Claire Ryan for
her work helping to expose #CopyPasteCris. (A list of 40 plagiarized authors is posted at the
Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century, came to America as a family immigrant. In fact, he came as part of what some people, sometimes those not particularly in favor of immigrants, today call “chain migration.”
Alison Pill, Harry Treadaway and Isa Briones have jumped aboard as series regulars alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in the upcoming untitled “Star Trek” series.
They join previously announced cast members Santiago Cabrera, Michelle Hurd and Evan Evagora.
…Pill, who is represented by CAA and The Burstein Company, is best known for playing Maggie Jordan on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom.” Treadaway is known for playing Victor Frankenstein on “Penny Dreadful.” He is represented by Principal Entertainment LA. Briones, who recently starred in “American Crime Story: Versace,” is repped by Piper/Kaniecki/Marks Management.
On April 26 at 8 p.m., North Bergen will reprise the show, which was staged for only two performances in March. Those performances caused a tsunami of interest when a video posted the weekend of March 23 got some 3 million hits.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
Born April 17, 1923 — Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey. I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
Born April 17, 1923 — T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
Born April 17, 1942 — David Bradley, 77. It’s his Who work that garners him a Birthday honour. He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as the actor who was the First Doctor that made him worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time and then played the role of the First Doctor in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.
Born April 17, 1959 — Sean Bean, 60. His current role that garners him recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s worked in our area of interest a long time. His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus). Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark which purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.) Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playingMitch Henderson.
Born April 17, 1972 — Jennifer Garner, 47. Back before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were Marvel Comic movies. Such was the case with Elektra Natchios and its lead character of Elektra Natchios. Don’t remember anything about the film anymore. She also had the same role in Daredevil.
Born April 17, 1973 — Cavan Scott, 46. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd? Novels?
(11) SOMEONE BLEW THE BUGLE.
Do cats really have nine lives, or do they make up the other eight? The
question is inspired by the latest installment of Timothy the Talking Cat’s
autobiography — “Beyond
the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 3”
Chapter 3: Marine Sergeant Tim
…My first attempt failed as I had mistaken the Post Office for the Marines. In my defence “Royal Mail” and “Royal Marines” look very similar if you are reading a sign from cat height. Further confusion at the Salvation Army ended more violently as I attempted to attack a uniformed man with a trumpet in an attempt to show my martial temperament….
…Marsh’s quest began after The Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered in 2008. The historian wondered where Shakespeare was living when his plays were performed there, which predated The Globe as the playwright’s workplace.
It had previously been identified that the Shakespeare lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station, then known as the parish of St. Helens, after he was listed on taxpayer records in 1597/98, but the exact location was never identified….
Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures – the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison – and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoievsky, Dante – when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April … subscribed to a howling idiocy: “The best thing about animals is that they don’t say much.” I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. “Isabel! Somebody’s played a cruel joke on me. WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let’s move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down.”
“Don’t you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.” “But l, I didn’t say it.” Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play: The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love” Thornton Wilder. The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody’s at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.
Executive Summary: Snake is a healer in a fractured post-apocalyptic world, travelling through various communities which live out relatively isolated existences in a world which appears to have gone through nuclear war. As you might guess from her name, the title, and almost every book cover Dreamsnake has been released with (except for a 1994 edition which decides to focus on the book’s stripey horse. There’s also… this.) this healing involves snakes: Mist, an albino cobra, and Sand, a rattlesnake, are both bred to synthesise various cures and vaccinations for illnesses, representing a combination of genetic engineering and on-the-spot biochemistry. The third snake is even more special: Grass is a dreamsnake, an extremely rare “offworlder” breed able to create hallucinations and pleasant dreams which are most often used to ease the pain of the dying.
There’s something in the dying (or at-least-super-old) Earth subgenre that has always resonated with me: a storyworld littered with weird and wondrous leftovers from times so far past that people are not quite sure what to make of them. In those stories, the massive weight of history hangs over the world and makes it alien in a very specific way….
The two stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ first April issue feature young women separated from their families to learn some hard lessons from some rather kick ass older women. The pieces look at death and loss and war and where the characters fit into the larger tapestry of their communities, families, and worlds. They look at service, and sacrifice, and honor, and all the complicated ways those are used both against and to educate children, to prepare them for the roles they are expected to inhabit. These are two stories that carry some heavy darknesses, and yet tucked into them as well are narratives of care, healing, and hope. To the reviews!
The BBC Proms will blast into hyperspace this summer, with a series of interstellar concerts marking the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.
Alongside classics like Holst’s The Planets, the season will include a Sci-Fi Prom, featuring scores from films such as Gravity and Alien: Covenant.
A CBeebies concert will take children on a journey to the Moon, including a close encounter with The Clangers.
And the season opens in July with a new piece inspired by the first Moon walk.
Zosha Di Castri’s Long Is The Journey, Short Is The Memory will be premiered on Friday 19 July, under the baton of Karina Canellakis – the first female conductor to oversee the First Night of the Proms.
Meanwhile, art-rock band Public Service Broadcasting will play their concept album Race For Space in a special late night Prom.
The record, which combines sparse electronic beats with archive audio recordings from the US-Soviet space race, will be presented in a new arrangement with the Multi-Story Orchestra.
Just when you think you’ve got your life sorted and you know what’s what with the world, Disney has to go and screw with all our heads and rename the original Star Wars movie.
Heading back to 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was our first trip to that galaxy far, far away and made household names of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Jump to 2019 and we’re on the cusp of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX.
We’ve come a long way since A New Hope, but now, the House of Mouse is renaming George Lucas’ epic space opera. The movie is now called Star Wars: A New Hope, fitting with Disney’s current naming of the movies since Star Wars: The ForceAwakens in 2015.
(20) COMIC RELIEF. Philip Ball’s 2014 post “The Moment of Uncertainty” translated his interview on uncertainty, with Robert Crease, historian and philosopher of science at Stony Brook University. The interview appeared in the French publication La Recherche. Amid the serious scientific stuff is this little joke —
There’s even an entire genre of uncertainty principle jokes. A police officer pulls Heisenberg over and says, “Did you know that you were going 90 miles an hour?” Heisenberg says, “Thanks. Now I’m lost.”
JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Mike
Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of
these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip
Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three
Best Series (Special Category)
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).
Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.
With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.
This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.
Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.
Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.
On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.
As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.
Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.
Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).
His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.
Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.
All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.
All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.
Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.
Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.
Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.
Just consider the opening paragraph:
As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.
The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.
As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.
And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!