2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: 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, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able 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 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – 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). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

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 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

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A Dramatic Change

Understandably, Steve Feldberg of Audible.com is “ecstatically pleased” about the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Hugo nomination for his company’s audiobook METAtropolis. It’s the first audiobook ever nominated, ending the decades-long shutout of audio works in general from the Hugos.

The last audio work up for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, in 1979, was BBC Radio 4’s production of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hitchhiker’s Guide finished second to the movie Superman.

Several record albums received nominations in the Seventies: two in 1971, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers by The Firesign Theater, and Blows Against the Empire by Jefferson Starship. Later, nominations went to I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus by The Firesign Theater (1972) and Blood!: The Life and Future Times of Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison (1978).

Another non-movie/tv work nominated in the Seventies was Phil Foglio’s 1976 cartoon slide show The Capture, which was accompanied by live narration and audience participation.

Every nominee after Hitchhiker’s Guide for the next 25 years came from film or TV. The division of the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo category into Long and Short Form, effectively doubling the number of works nominated every year, did little to broaden the types of media represented in the award. What finally interrupted the long-lived movie/tv monopoly was the “Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony (Opening Speech and Framing Sequences)” performed by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman at Interaction, the 2005 Worldcon, which made the final ballot in 2006. It also has the distinction of being the first live stage performance ever nominated.

No audio work has ever won a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. If that should happen in 2009 they’ll need a katyusha load of rockets for the writers — John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear and Karl Schroeder, and narrators — Battlestar Galactica stars Michael Hogan, Alessandro Juliani and Kandyse McClure, plus Stefan Rudnicki and Scott Brick. Congratulations, Audible.com!

METAtropolis Released by Audible.com

<em>METAtropolis</em>

“A veritable Murderer’s Row of great writers” is what Audible.com’s Steve Feldberg calls the array of sf talent who collaborated on METAtropolis.

The project features five interconnected novellas written exclusively for downloadable audio, Jay Lake’s “In the Forests of the Night,” Tobias Bucknell’s “Stochasti-city,” Elizabeth Bear’s “The Red in the Sky Is Our Blood,” John Scalzi’s “Utere Nihil non Extra Quiritaionem Suis,” and Karl Schroder’s “To Hie From Far Cilenia.”

The team created a near future world where big cities are dying, dead or transformed; where the once-thriving suburbs are now the treacherous Wilds; where those who live for technology battle those who would rather die than embrace it. It is a world of zero-footprint cities, virtual nations and armed camps of eco-survivalists.

“It’s not just the standard-issue Jetsons future,” said author and project editor Scalzi. “It’s the idea that cities would be something like interstitial nationsl, where the people of Detroit or Portland might have more in common with the people in Hong Kong or Johannesburg than with the people right down the road.”

The first story can be downloaded free.

A press release appears after the jump.

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