2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

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!)

The result of these reading sprees were

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!

(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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2018 Alex Awards

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has selected 10 adult books with special appeal to teen readers to receive the  2018 Alex Awards, including many genre works. The awards, sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust and Booklist, were announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Denver on February 13.

Seanan McGuire has a book on the 2018 list, achieving a rare accomplishment —

The 2018 Alex Award winners are:

  • “All Systems Red,” by Martha Wells, a Tor.com Book, published by Thomas Doherty Associates (9780765397539). Stuck on a distant planet with an exploratory crew, a Security Robot kills time watching soaps. After a group of scientists is killed, the robot (now calling itself “Murderbot”) must figure out how to save its crew from a similar fate.
  • “The Clockwork Dynasty,” by Daniel H. Wilson, published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC (9780385541787). Automata Elena and Peter are “born” in Peter the Great’s Russia… or are they? Can they really live in the power-hungry world of humans? And can they find the “breath of life” before it is too late?
  • “Down Among the Sticks and Bones,” by Seanan McGuire, a Tor.com Book, published by Thomas Doherty Associates (9780765392039). In this dark fable, twins Jillian and Jacqueline venture to a dangerous world where they must choose one of two paths. As they discover their true selves, they find that love and adventure are among the most hazardous things.
  • “Electric Arches,” by Eve L. Ewing, published by Haymarket Books (9781608468560). Wielding words and images like lasers, and bending genres to her will, Ewing’s poetry and prose tells stories both personal and universal. With humor and gravitas, this collection spotlights the joy, cruelty, and struggle of life.
  • “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea,” by Melissa Fleming, published by Flatiron Books (9781250105998). This gripping account follows Doaa Al Zamel’s journey to Egypt and her harrowing days at sea as she leaves her war-torn home for the promise of a better life in Europe.
  • “Malagash,” by Joey Comeau, published by ECW Press (9781770414075). Already grieving for her dying father, Sunday plans to release a computer virus that memorializes his words and laugh. But she begins to realize that to fully understand him, she needs to embrace his relationships with other family members.
  • “Roughneck,” by Jeff Lemire, published by Gallery 13, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (9781501160998). In the snowy recesses of northern Canada, a down-and-out former hockey player must confront his past when his long-lost sister returns to town battling demons of her own. Can they save each other? Or will violence swallow them both?
  • “She Rides Shotgun,” by Jordan Harper, published by Ecco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers (9780062394408). Polly, an 11-year-old girl with “gunfighter eyes,” her teddy bear, and her estranged father suddenly find themselves struggling for survival in a world ruled by gangs. Fast-paced and thrilling, this will get even reluctant readers’ hearts racing.
  • “Things We Have in Common,” by Tasha Kavanagh, published by MIRA Books (9780778326854). Yasmin wants to be close to the most beautiful girl in her school, but surely a freak like her has no chance. Unless, that is, she can save her from the man who was staring at her from the woods.
  • “An Unkindness of Magicians,” by Kat Howard, published by SAGA Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (9781481451192). The Wheel is turning and Sydney is determined to have fate spin her way. Meanwhile, magic is faltering and there are people who will do whatever it takes to save it.

The Alex Awards were created to recognize that many teens enjoy and often prefer books written for adults, and to assist librarians in recommending adult books that appeal to teens. A full list of official nominations will be available online here.

The award is named in honor of the late Margaret Alexander Edwards, fondly called “Alex” by her closest friends, a pioneer in providing library services to young adults. At Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Edwards used adult books extensively with teens to broaden their experience and enrich their understanding of themselves and their world.

Responses from other authors —

Martha Wells

Kat  Howard

Daniel H. Wilson

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]