2016 Recommended SF/F List


By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2016-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:”

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196 thoughts on “2016 Recommended SF/F List

  1. @Kenall @JJ – Awesome! I’m behind on reading for this year. I’ve read several 2016 novels that I dug a lot, but only two have made it on my short list. A very positive two-line review from Kyra makes me feel like I really, really need to check the book out.

  2. @JJ: Good point, that it may have a stronger chance next year, after its U.S. release. Another opportunity if it misses this year. 🙂

  3. Like Kyra, I’m thinking about tweaking my Best Novel selections this year. I’m super-loving Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen, which I’m probably 3/4 of the way through. The blurbs at the book’s site do it justice better than I could, especially the ones from Kirkus and PW, but briefly: It’s an action-y spy-thriller SF novel set on space cruise ship, starring the only human known to have a superpower. Kangaroo is a well-meaning but not 100% competent spy on vacation who gets pulled into mystery and action aboard ship.

    NOTE: If you click to read more about it, I highly recommend only reading the first two paragraphs of the book description at the top, then skip down to the blurbs/review excerpts. I hadn’t read the whole description till now, and I’m glad. There’s a pretty big event/twist revealed in the third paragraph that IMHO is better if it comes out of nowhere. Sometimes descriptions just say too much. Don’t get me wrong – the book’s great whether or not you know things will take a left turn at some point. But I liked listening and not being sure how far along I was, and then WHAM. 😉

    ETA: Aaaaand now I’m thinking, without details, perhaps I’ve just done what I’m dissing the description for doing. Hmm.

    The audiobook is awesome; the narrator gets the first-person main character perfect, IMHO, but is also good at other voices. I really, really hope the sequel has an audio version, and with the same narrator.

    Of course, I can’t figure out what I could remove from my Best Novel list so I can fit this in. GAH!!! I have tough choices to make in the next couple of weeks.

  4. I’ve been really remiss in posting in this thread, so to catch up:

    City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett [The Divine Cities #2]

    Five years after the events of City of Stairs, General Turyin Mulaghesh has retired to a pleasantly pastoral island life free of stress and aggravation. This is cut short by a messenger from her old friend Shara Komayd, the former military intelligence hero who is now the embattled Prime Minister of their country. There’s something terribly wrong going on in the home province of the former Divine entity Voortya, and Mulaghesh is being asked to investigate.

    The first book in this series was absolutely amazing — and I would say that this follow-up does not suffer at all from Second-book Syndrome: it’s got a tight plot, more mystery, and lots of action — as well as loads of further character development for supporting characters from the first book, and for the intriguing, inventive world the author has set them in.

    I was hugely disappointed that the first book was pushed off the final ballot by Puppy slating, and I’m hoping that this fully-worthy follow-up will finally receive the recognition that this inventive series deserves.

  5. Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers [The Indranan War #1]

    This is an SF space opera/ mystery adventure, the story of the black sheep of a royal family, who ran away many years ago to become a smuggler/ pirate in the wilder reaches of the universe. But now, all of her family members — the would-be heirs — have been assassinated in numerous suspicious circumstances, and she is being forcibly dragged back to the empire by loyal Trackers sent by her Empress mother, to take over as their reluctant ruler and find out who is behind the murders.

    Yay! Finally, a novel I just unabashedly loved. It’s like The Goblin Emperor, but with a lot less of the kinder, gentler aspect of that book, and with the adventure factor ramped up several notches. The main character is flawed but really likeable. This is almost certainly going to be one of my Hugo nominees.

  6. Arkwright by Allen Steele

    This novel tells the story, in three parts each separated by a span of years, of a renowned science-fiction author who sets up a foundation with the long-term goal of sending humanity to the stars, and his family members who continue to carry on that work after the founder’s death.

    I really enjoyed this (but then I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by the author), especially the final part where the project comes to fruition.

  7. Impersonations by Walter Jon Williams
    [Dread Empire’s Fall / The Praxis #4]

    The people of the Imperium think of Captain Caroline Sula as the last remaining heir of an aristocratic line, an ace military pilot, and a brilliant insurgency leader responsible for the retaking of their home planet from a conquering species. They’re right on 2 of those 3 counts – but the truth of the other is a deep, dark secret which torments her in her sleep. And now someone from her past appears who may blow that secret wide open – never mind the fact that someone is setting her up to be sent to prison, and someone else is out to kill her.

    This addition to the original trilogy takes place shortly after, when Sula, who has had the impertinence to become the Hero of The Empire by defying established norms and authority, is shuffled off to the declining, has-been planet Earth to get her out of the way. But true to her usual form, Sula ends up encountering a mystery and uncovering a sinister plot. I loved this, as much as I loved the original trilogy.

  8. Revenger by Alastair Reynolds [something # ]

    An ambitious, worldly 18-year-old drags her naïve, congenial year-younger sister out on an adventure to serve on a spaceship in a universe where salvage ships compete to plunder caches of ancient technology when their surrounding protective bubbles periodically open. These ships navigate with the aid of communications via the found skulls of an alien race which died out millions of years before, which can only be operated by psychic “bone-readers”. Adventure, danger, and tragedy ensue.

    I really, really enjoyed this novel, and am looking forward to a sequel. The world-building here is rich and incredibly compelling. I want to read more about this universe full of mysterious, powerful artifacts. Locus put this novel in the YA category of their annual poll, which really surprised me. Yes, the two main characters are 17 and 18 years old at the start of the book — but it’s a much darker, edgier version of A Long Way to a Slow, Angry Planet, and I would definitely not consider it a “Young Adult” book. This novel is on my Hugo longlist for now.

  9. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman [The Invisible Library #1]

    The Invisible Library is an institution located outside of Time, at the crossroads of many similar parallel universes which range from extreme chaos at one end to highly-ordered at the other. The more chaotic universes are the demesne of the Fae, the dragons have more power in the more orderly universes – but humans in all universes are generally unaware of the supernatural beings which actually hold much power over their worlds.

    The Librarians of The Invisible Library have secret doors into the numerous “real-world” universes, and their purpose is to obtain variant copies of books, the contents of which can vary widely in different universes (or may not even be written in some universes). Librarians are therefore highly-trained in surreptitious (albeit generally benign) tradecraft, in terms of infiltrating these universes and obtaining access to pilfer the volumes they seek.

    While not magical, Librarians do have a “special power”: use of The Language, with which they can command objects to behave in a certain way, or people to believe a certain thing.

    The setup is ripe for twisted versions of our real world, and there is plenty of darkness and ethical ambiguity – in all of the characters – in these stories. The inventive worldbuilding, backed by a solid understanding of myths and legends, makes these books a pure pleasure to read.

    The Invisible Library is on my 2016 Hugo Nomination list for Best Novel, and next year this series will be on my list for Best Series.

  10. Novella:
    Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan

    A woman comes to consciousness with a bloody animal sacrifice laid out before her. She realizes that she is bound to the shaman who did the sacrifice, by a geas that will force her to follow his command: to bring back “blood from the cauldron of the Lhian”. Never mind that he doesn’t tell her who or what the Lhian is, or where the cauldron is located: she doesn’t even know who she herself is – and he won’t tell her that either, because he says it’s safer if she doesn’t remember.

    I really, really liked this. It features a strong and smart, but flawed, female character, and avoids or subverts a lot of the quest tropes. This is definitely on my longlist for next year’s Hugo nominations – and I’ll be seeking out some of Brennan’s other works, as well. There’s a sequel, Lightning in the Blood, coming out in April 2017.

  11. Novella:
    Runtime by S. B. Divya

    A young person who has taught themselves computer engineering since they were a child enters a speed-and-endurance race against well-equipped, well-funded professionals, supported only by home-built-and-programmed cybernetic augments. The prize money for placing in the top 5 would mean being able to earn full personhood, for themselves and for their siblings, and a future livelihood. But on the brink of victory, they are faced with a terrible ethical choice.

    I loved this short, fast-paced novella. Even in the short length, the author does a good job of creating a complex, nuanced main character and interesting worldbuilding. I’m going to be avidly watching for more stories by this author — hopefully some of which will be in this universe.

  12. Novella:
    Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire [Wayward Children]

    This is a dark, bittersweet story about the children who fall into fantasy worlds where they become heroes, and then find themselves lost and unable to cope when they are returned to the “real” world. An adult who was one of those children brings as many troubled children as she can find and save to her boarding house, an environment where they can be among others who understand and empathize with their pain.

    Damn that Seanan McGuire, damn her! Every time I read the backcover synopsis for one of her stories, I think, “Well, that doesn’t sound as though I’d much enjoy it” – and then I read it and enjoy it immensely. On my novella list for next year’s Hugos right now. TW for graphic mutilation scenes. A prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, will be published in June 2017.

  13. Novella:
    The Coward’s Option by Adam-Troy Castro (can be downloaded for free here)

    Andrea Cort is destined to serve a lifetime of forced indenture as Counselor and Special Investigator for the Human Diplomatic Corps because of horrible crimes she committed in the past. She is sent to a cold, inhospitable world owned by one of the least-populous alien races in the galaxy, to handle the death-penalty case of a human who committed murder there. It seems as though his execution is a mere formality — until Cort discovers that there is an alternative punishment which will allow her client to live. She investigates… and finds out that ‘The Coward’s Option’ is, in fact, a punishment much worse than death — and that it has horrendous, culture-destroying implications for the human race everywhere in the galaxy.

    I was a bit concerned that I would be at a disadvantage for not having read any of the previous Andrea Cort stories — but the author has done a great job of providing enough backstory for first-timers without belaboring the history for previous Cort readers. People who’ve read a lot of mystery stories may, as I did, see one of the big reveals coming early on — but I did not think that lessened my appreciation of the inventiveness of the plot and the worldbuilding, or the depth of the characterization, all of which are fantastic.

  14. Novella:
    Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny

    In the near future, the wealthy and talented benefit from vastly-extended lifespans due to a revolutionary drug. A group of futuristic underground Robin Hoods are doing their best to see that the “ordinary” people have the chance to enjoy some of those benefits. But there’s a Judas in their midst: one who has neither their goals, nor their best interests, in mind…

    This is a powerful story of “haves” versus “have nots”, of deceit versus informed consent, of cowardice and heroism, of betrayal and retribution and remorse and repentance. It’s a chronicle of people striving despite the apparent futility of that striving. I do not recommend reading this when spoon levels are low – but I definitely recommend reading it.

  15. Short Story:
    Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo (read here)

    An IT worker, in a time of sentient technological machines, discovers during their lunch hour a park which has been populated by all the cast-off misfit small appliances who are struggling to make a place for themselves in the world. Over time, she gets to know the little machines and their personalities — and is frightened to discover that they are at risk of extermination.

    I have to be honest, after reading all of the Nebula-nominated short stories, I was pretty pissed off that this one ended up withdrawn due to a category mixup. I like this story much better than any of the Nebula finalists (although I think that “Sabbath Wine”, by Barbara Krasnoff, is very good as well).

  16. @JJ

    The smallest of nits: my recollection for Red of Tooth and Cog is advertising as a job not IT. Good story and nice review though!

  17. @JJ: Wow, thanks for posting all that! 🙂 I second your recs for City of Blades, Behind the Throne (plus the sequel, which IMHO is even better), and Every Heart a Doorway.

  18. Well, I’ve posted it all elsewhere on File770 prior to this, but Von Dimpleheimer’s lists in the latest Scroll made me realize that I had been remiss in not posting my recs here.

  19. I added the File 770 recommendations from March 3, along with recommendations from Quick Sip Reviews and Kirkus, to version 2.0 of the ebook.



  20. For those who have chipped down Mount Tsundoku and need help raising it (ha!):

    Novel: Infomocracy, by Malka Older
    A very good techno-thriller about elections, about information, about the power of narrative and of controlling and shaping news.
    First in a trilogy, I’m really looking forward the the next two.

    Short story: The Rythm Man, by James Beamon, published in F&SF Magazine november issue
    The basic theme is one I’m sure I’ve seen several times before, although I can’t say exactly when and where. There’s a drive and rhythm to the story that pulled me along to its conclusion – I started reading it on the bus which is usually not a good place to concentrate, but this story just drew me in and suddenly both the bus trip and the story was over.

    Short story: An Open Letter to the Person Who Took My Smoothie from the Break Room Fridge, by Oliver Buckram, published in F&SF Magazine, July issue.
    Howlingly funny.

  21. von Dimpleheimer: I added the File 770 recommendations from March 3, along with recommendations from Quick Sip Reviews and Kirkus, to version 2.0 of the ebook.

    I apologize for the inconweeenience, and I thank you profusely for creating such a helpful resource. It’s helping me to decide how to target my last 10 days of Hugo reading. 🙂

  22. Nice to know others found it useful. Thanks to all for the recs. I’ll just add a couple.

    “Das Steingeschöpf” by G. V. Anderson in Strange Horizons is so good that I’ll nominate her for the Campbell based on it.

    The only other story I’ve ever read from Strange Horizons is “Applied Cenotaphics in the Long, Long Longitudes” by Vajra Chandrasekera. Based on these two excellent stories (which might get short story nominations from me), I’ll give Strange Horizons a semiprozine nod.

    And I agree with Johan P. that “An Open Letter to the Person Who Took My Smoothie from the Break Room Fridge” by Oliver Buckram is howlingly funny. I look forward to every Buckram story.

  23. @von Dimpleheimer

    Strange Horizons is always worth a look. +1 to both the stories you mention, in fact I was convinced I’d put them on here already, but I must have just mentioned them in a scroll instead.

    If you want some other good work from Strange Horizons to confirm your opinion, try
    We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? (short and fun)
    Gorse Daughter Sparrow Son (reconstructed fairytale, novelette)
    The Dancer on the Stairs (long novelette, but if you only read one then make it this)

  24. @Johan P

    Short story: An Open Letter to the Person Who Took My Smoothie from the Break Room Fridge, by Oliver Buckram, published in F&SF Magazine, July issue.
    Howlingly funny.

    Yeah, for sheer funny, this was hard to beat. However, I think “I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” by Dale Bailey, gives it a run for its money. You can read my review of it or read the original, which Asimov’s is making available for free.

  25. @Mark

    If you want some other good work from Strange Horizons to confirm your opinion, try
    We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? (short and fun)

    Meant to comment on this one. A great little story that manages to mix humor and seriousness successfully.

  26. There’s not too many Graphic Novel recs on here, so I’d like to post some for the last few frantic days of Hugo reading. (Graphic novels can be gotten through quickly, after all!)

    Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening, Marjorie Liu/Sana Takeda

    I’ve been high on this since I first read it eight months ago, and my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s an excellent story, with great characters and worldbuilding, and who can go wrong with talking cats who have multiple tails? Also, Sana Takeda should be considered for Best Professional Artist. Her art is perfect for this story.

    The Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than a Man, and The Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than a Beast, Tom King/Gabriel Hernandez Walta

    I just read both of these this past week, and I’m so glad I didn’t let them slip past. This story of the Vision from the Avengers, and his doomed attempts to have a family and live as a human, will rip your heart right out. It’s a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions (and indeed, the names of the collections come from The Merchant of Venice, thus proving there is a Shakespearean quote for every possible situation and storyline). Once again, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, the artist, should be looked at for Best Professional Artist.

    Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time, Shannon Waters/Noelle Stevenson/Grace Ellis

    I missed vol. 3 of the Lumberjanes, but I haven’t heard too many good things about it, so perhaps it’s just as well. This volume has a more adult storyline, and reveals quite a bit about the camp director, Rosie, and the Lumberjanes organization in general. There’s also a cliffhanger on the final page that leaves the reader (or this one, at least) stamping my feet for the next volume.

    Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous, G. Willow Wilson/Adrian Alphona/Takeshi Miyazawa

    Vol. 3 and 4 of Ms. Marvel were a bit disappointing to me, so it’s good to see this volume back on track and firing on all cylinders. The themes of family, friendship and responsibility are explored here, and there are cameos from Captain Marvel and Iron Man (the latter providing the funniest panel in the entire book). It’s delightful.

    Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book One, Ta-Nehisi Coates/Brian Stelfreeze

    As far as I’ve seen, this has generally gotten rave reviews. I’m not quite as high on it, mainly because it seems to me to be mostly background and setup, and not much in the way of a plot. One can also see Ta-Nehisi Coates trying to get his comic-book legs under him. Having said that, the background/setup found here is very good, and now that the foundation is laid, all Coates needs is a good story to have a real winner. Brian Stelfreeze’s art is outstanding.

    Rat Queens Vol. 3: Demons, Kurtis J. Wiebe/ Tess Fowler/Tamra Bonvillain

    This volume’s storyline is pretty dark, and I don’t think it’s quite up to the standard set by the first two volumes. Still, there are some good moments to be found here, especially in the pairing of Violet the dwarf and Betty the Smidgen. I just wish the new artist with the propensity for drawing the characters with enormous teenage-male-gaze buttocks and breasts would take a long walk off a short pier.

    Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF, Amy Reeder/Brandon Montclare/Natacha Bustos

    This is cute, but I think written for a younger audience (Lunella Lafayette, the titular “Moon Girl,” is only 9, after all). Having said, that, it has a hilarious cameo from the Incredible Hulk, all green and egotistical as I’ve never seen him before, to the point of kissing his own bulging bicep.

    Also: I just finished Alastair Reynold’s Revenger. I was going to include it on this year’s ballot, but my copy is the UK edition from the Book Depository (which I should have realized, as it has that peculiar British quirk of only using one apostrophe for quotation marks). Amazon lists the US edition as coming out in February of this year. So, as far as I can tell, it’s not yet eligible. If I do nominate it for next year, I for one won’t be putting it in the YA award (assuming that passes), as the storyline is too dark, and the protagonist too obsessed and ruthless, to really be young adult, in my opinion.

  27. @Bonnie McDaniel: Thanks for reminding me that I need to finish nominating for Best Graphic Story! I almost forgot to fill that out….

  28. Just finished Kat Howard’s Roses and Rot. Holy crap. This book needs to win All The Awards. It bumped a Very Good Book off my Hugo ballot. Apparently she was published in 2014, or I’d be nominating her for a Campbell. (Trigger warnings for severe child abuse in flashback.)

  29. Bonnie McDaniel:

    Books published in the UK (or anywhere) in the relevant year are eligible. They become eligible again when published in the US (and it might make sense to wait, in this case), but it’s not as if publication in foreign parts was actually excluded.

    (It’s on the SF shelves here. I’m not sure if you can determine that something is not YA just by darkness of theme, etc., but in any case the publishers aren’t treating it as such. The idea that it is seems to be an over-mechanical application of the ‘protagonist’s age’ rule.)

  30. Speaking of the Campbell, I’m dropping by to let you all know that this year’s Campbell anthology, heroically thrown together at the last minute by Jake Kerr, is now available. Includes about 75 writers (including me).

    Free download here

  31. I have holes in my Campbell ballot.. but it’s gonna be a struggle to read 75 stories by Friday! Thanks for the pointer, L.

  32. Thanks L.

    Here are some from the anthology where I recognised the story or the name and think might be worth someone’s time – not necessarily full recommendations but might be handy in sorting through the list.

    “A Handful of Dal” Naru Dames Sundar (I preferred his “Broken Winged Love” from last year)
    “A Fine Balance” Charlotte Ashley (If you like that, also try “La Heron”)
    “Abere and the Poisoner” by Jonathan Edelstein (A good story)
    “All the Colors You Thought Were Kings” by Arkady Martine (Extremely good story worth reading for this year’s short category as well)
    “Das Steingeschöpf” by G. V. Anderson (Her only published story but promising)
    “Her Sacred Spirit Soars” by S. Qiouyi Lu
    “Rosewater” Tade Thompson (not read this but The Apologists in Interzone was a very good story)
    “The First Confirmed Work of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R.” by Benjamin C. Kinney (I’ve seen several very interesting stories from him recently)
    “The Penelope Kingdom” by Aidan Moher
    “These are the Rules of Being a Hero” by Emily McCosh
    “Tower of the Rosewater Goblet” by Nin Harris
    “Two-Year Man” by Kelly Robson (Also check out her “Waters of Versailles”)
    “White Dust” by Nathan Hillstrom (I thought this was a clever story)

    I’m bookmarking a few more to check out, so other suggestions welcome.

  33. Thanks, L! Thanks, Mark!

    I will second the suggestion to consider Arkady Martine. I haven’t read the story included, but I liked How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World at Strange Horizons.

    “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones” by Bennett North which originally appeared in F&SF made a very good impression on me especially for a first (and so far only?) pro publication.

    Kelly Stewart isn’t in the anthology, but she is listed as 1st year eligible on the Writertopia page. She has a couple stories at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I liked “Rabbit Grass,” but haven’t looked at “Dearly Departed” yet. I’m guessing her pro publication must be the other story which is listed on her website.

  34. @Mark (Kitteh!): I’ve enjoyed several of Kinney’s stories recently, too; he’s on my nom list.

    @JJ: I don’t read as much short fiction as I’d like to – not much at all – so most of my Campbell nominees are novelists. In a nice twist, downloading Event Horizons 2017 and looking at list of authors who provided short stories for it made me realize a novelist I liked a lot was Campbell-eligible. ::off to update my ballot:: 🙂

    ETA: And made me realize he’d written a short story, LOL.

  35. A few more interesting ones I’ve found in the anthology.

    “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones” by Bennett North – +1 to Laura’s rec – a disturbing little story with a twist
    A Man most Imperiled by Dan Malakin – an amusing story, maybe too slight?
    Skills to Keep the Devil in His Place by Lia Swope Mitchell – a teen girl is afflicted by the Devil, how does she learn to cope with it? Lots of curveballs in this story.
    Murder or a Duck by Beth Goder – really quite funny
    Haunted by Sarah Gailey – a disturbing little horror story. I’ve also read a couple of good stories by her in Mothership Zeta, and she has a Tor.com novella coming out.

  36. Mark-kitteh, thanks to your email, my Campbell nominations are filled. (And may still be updated, depending on the relative orbital altitudes of my socks. I haven’t finished the ebook yet…)

    Thanks again!

  37. @Cassy B

    Glad to be of help. If you find any gems in the ebook then do please post them, I’ve only had time to skip around it.

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