2018 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2018-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.


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305 thoughts on “2018 Recommended SF/F List

  1. The Infernal Battalion, by Django Wexler

    Novel, 5th in a series

    The Beast has been unleashed from its prison, and our heroes face their greatest challenge yet.

    A great end to a great series, wrapping things up in a satisfying way for the characters we’ve come to know and love over the course of the books. Thumbs up.

  2. The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

    Novel, YA, 1st in a series

    Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions as the possibility of civil war looms.

    Holly Black deftly handles a difficult writing task — a main, narrating protagonist who is, justifiably, seriously messed up to the point of often being hard to like. Jude retains enough humanity to still be worth caring about, but the book pulls no punches about how twisted she has become from growing up in a twisted environment. It was also great to see some old friends from previous Holly Black books drop by in passing, including some much-missed ones who have not, to my knowledge, made an appearance since 2002.

  3. Tom Sweterlitsch’s Gone World Is what I’m listening to now. Solid SF with the main character being a NCIS investigator in the late 90s who is recruited for a secret unit of the Navy that has discovered they can travel into future timelines that mostly will never come to be. And the singularity, an a.ien force, is moving ever closer to the present when it wipe out humanity.

    It’s complex, truly brutal in places, and the main character, Shannon Moss, goes through and sees some pretty horrific things. It’s well written enough that my presently narrative challenged brain is able to follow it well. Nearly halfway through it and it’s one of the best tome travel novels I’ve experienced.

    I’ll ding it just a bit for the thickness sometimes of science babblethat the author repeats too often. Other than that, it is very well thought out.

  4. “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow.
    Category: Short Story. Published in Apex #105, February 2018.
    Lovely short piece on how libraries are magic — even, and especially, when everything else in the world isn’t.

    “A World to Die For,” by Tobias S. Buckell.
    Category: Novelette. Published in Clarkesworld #136, January 2018.
    Premise is a powerful twist on the idea of parallel universes.

  5. T. Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine, Clocktaur War Book 2
    Novel, fantasy, book 2 of 2.

    Book 1, published late 2017, ended with our “heroes” right outside the city of Anuket. In book 2 they infiltrate the city and continue their quest to find the origin of – and stop, if possible – the mysterious Clocktaurs coming out of Anuket and attack the Dowager’s city. The process involves some trips into the seedy underworld, observations on the culture of the gnoles, and lots of development to the relations between the characters.

    Best read if you’ve already read book 1, and preferably with a short interval – it’s really a continuous story more than two books.

  6. +1 to The Infernal Battalion, by Django Wexler, for Novel, and also for The Shadow Campaigns for Series.

    Over five books the story twists around but never breaks, and the world opens out and moves from Napoleonic-era-with-the-serial-numbers-removed to a richer and more interesting setting that still makes nice nods to the history that inspires it.
    Plus, Winter is the best.

    Best Novel The Clocktaur War duology (Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine) by T Kingfisher.
    Basically I’m suggesting using the Wheel of Time tactic and nominating both volumes as “a work appearing in a number of parts”.
    While there’s a fairly sensible break point between the two volumes they really work together as a single story. Here’s the blurb:

    A paladin, an assassin, a forger, and a scholar ride out of town. It’s not the start of a joke, but rather an espionage mission with deadly serious stakes. T. Kingfisher’s new novel begins the tale of a murderous band of criminals (and a scholar), thrown together in an attempt to unravel the secret of the Clockwork Boys, mechanical soldiers from a neighboring kingdom that promise ruin to the Dowager’s city.

    If they succeed, rewards and pardons await, but that requires a long journey through enemy territory, directly into the capital. It also requires them to refrain from killing each other along the way! At turns darkly comic and touching, Clockwork Boys puts together a broken group of people trying to make the most of the rest of their lives as they drive forward on their suicide mission.

    While it looks like a fairly traditional fantasy on the face of it there’s all these touches of weirdness that elevate it, and most importantly the characters are totally human and vital.

  7. “Requiem”, Vandana Singh, in Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Small Beer Press
    novella, 50 pages
    A young woman from India goes to Alaska to retrieve her late aunt’s belongings, but finds there’s more to it. This is a near future climate change story and seems to be the start of something longer.

  8. Novella

    The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard, Subterranean Press

    This is a Xuya novella and a light-handed Sherlock Holmes pastiche, with a mindship in the Watson role. I don’t think I’ve happened to read a Xuya story from this viewpoint, and I enjoyed it a lot. There are hints we might get more stories about this pairing.

    Beneath the Sugar Sky, Seanan McGuire, tor.com

    Every Heart a Doorway is still my favorite, but I’m glad we’ll get more stories in this multiverse.

    Short story

    A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, Alix E. Harrow, Apex Magazine issue 105 (February 2018)

    Seconding Standback.

  9. Here are the recs as I’ve posted them monthly on my blog with a sneak peak at March’s summation (my format is close to what was requested; for the “why’s” please see the reviews on my blog – can’t recap all that here):

    An Aria for the Bloodlords” by Hannah Strom-Martin, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242, January 4, 2018, fantasy novelette
    “The Camel’s Tail” by Tom Jolly, Analog, March/April 2018 (science fiction novelette)
    “Galatea in Utopia” by Nick Wolven, F&SF, January/February 2018, science fiction novelette
    The Ghost In Angelica’s Room” by Maria Haskins, Flash Fiction Online, March 2018 (fantasy short story)
    The Ghoul Goes West” by Dale Bailey, Tor.com, January 17, 2018, fantasy novelette
    “Hideous Flowerpots” by Susan Palwick, F&SF, March/April 2018 (fantasy novelette)
    The Hydraulic Emperor” by Arkady Martine, Uncanny #20, January/February 2018, science fiction short story
    “In Event of Moon Disaster” by Rich Larson , Asimov’s, March/April 2018 (science fiction short story)
    The Independence Patch” by Bryan Camp, Lightspeed #94, March 2018 (science fiction short story)
    “Likho” by Andy Stewart, F&SF, March/April 2018 (science fantasy novella)
    “Never the Twain” by Michael Reid, Interzone #274, March/April 2018 (science fantasy short story)
    Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts, Clarkesworld #136, January 2018, science fiction short story
    The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births” by José Pablo Iriarte, Lightspeed #92, January 2018, fantasy novelette
    “Ten and Ten” by Alan Dean Foster, Analog, January/February 2018, science fiction short story
    Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Clarkesworld #137, February 2018, science fiction novella
    The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes” by Siobhan Carroll, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #247, March 15, 2018 (fantasy short story)
    A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, Apex #105, February 2018, fantasy short story

  10. @JJ: Whoops, I messed up. I nominated “The Library Is Open” for the just-closed Hugo nominations, not realizing when it came out. (sigh) For a site named “Daily Science Fiction,” it’s weird they don’t list the date anywhere on the story page or in the URL (that I can find, anyway).

    I’ll return at some point with recs, I promise!

    – Will rec for scrolls

  11. I totally fifth Mark-kitteh’s recommendation for nominating The Clocktaur War books #1 and #2 as a Novel/duology (assuming that Clockwork Boys doesn’t make it onto the ballot this year). What a dark, inventive, amusing, and amazing story.

  12. I put it in the 2017 thread but it’s a 2018 title (for American audiences) but Gnomon by Nick Harkaway is an amazing novel and mental puzzle box.

  13. @Laura: Thanks! Shoot, I’m such a dork. I looked a couple of times and just slid by it each time. Putting the date in a real sentence instead of at the top/bottom all by itself (like, well, 99.9% of sites I’ve ever been to) is quite unintuitive.

    Still, this just re-illustrates my reading comprehension really bites, doesn’t it. 😉 I was afraid someone would point out where/what I was missing it. ::bows::

  14. “Embers Of War” by Gareth L. Powell, SF novel (space opera), Titan Books
    Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Clarkesworld, SF novella
    The Emotionless, in Love” by Jason Sanford, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, SF novella
    A World to Die For” by Tobias S. Buckell, Clarkesworld, SF novelette
    “Widdam” by Vandana Singh, F&SF Jan 2018, SF novelette
    Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts, Clarkesworld, SF short story
    A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur, Flash Fiction Online, fantasy short story

  15. My list of Hugo-recommended short fiction for the 2019 Hugo Awards on Rocket Stack Rank currently has just five stories, but that’ll grow as the year goes on.

    Three novellas so far:
    “Beneath the Sugar Sky,” by Seanan McGuire
    “The Emotionless,” in Love, by Jason Sanford
    “The Persistence of Blood,” by Juliette Wade

    And two short stories:

    “Sour Milk Girls,” by Erin Roberts
    “The Streaming Man,” by Suzanne Palmer

    The current list has links to free stories, short descriptions, info about other reviewers, etc.

  16. Ticking the box, and I’m hopeful that The Tea Master and the Detective comes out in a reasonably-priced ebook edition before too long. I love Subterranean Press physical books, but my bank account does not.

  17. Thanks, @Paul Weimer. I’m used to more lag time on the SubPress ebooks.

    It shall be mine!

  18. Woo, 2018!

    I’ve read two novellas so far this year that I’d recommend (copying reviews straight from my rec blog, as I can’t remember where in the 770 Files I first talked about these):

    I picked up Seanan McGuire’s Beneath the Sugar Sky (2018, Tor.com) in audiobook and was not disappointed. This is the third in the Wayward Children series of novellas, which centres around a boarding school for teenagers who have returned from different magical lands and are unable to adjust back to the “real” world. Where the first book in the series was a murder mystery, and the second a horror story, BtSS is a straightforward quest narrative, involving a band of wonderful characters hopping through portals to try and resurrect a girl who died before her daughter could be born. Complicating this quest is the fact that the instigator, Rini, is the daughter, and exists anyway thanks to belonging to a logic-free reality called Confection. I loved the musings on baking in this, as well as the viewpoint of Cora, a fat girl who fell into an ocean world and became a mermaid. The Wayward Children books can be read out of order, but be warned that this one contains spoilers for the first – start with Every Heart a Doorway if this series appeals.

    Binti: the Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor: Third in a novella trilogy about Binti, a girl from the Himba tribe (who are a real people, living in Namibia) with a gift for mathematics and for “harmonizing” which takes her across the stars to Oomza University, and plunges her into an interspecies conflict… In Binti: The Night Masquerade, we are still on earth immediately after the events of the second book. Conflict between the Meduse and the Khoush seems inevitable, but may still be prevented if the Himba choose to intervene – a solution which, we expect, will require both Binti’s unique talents and her perseverance to pull off. From what seems like a standard conclusion to the series’ themes, however, Okorafor takes her story somewhere completely different, subverting Binti’s “chosen one” feel while simultaneously adding yet more complexity to her identity. While I wasn’t sure how to feel about this during the book itself, I was left very happy with the conclusion – and it still remains true to the themes of each book, which are themselves a refreshing and much-needed change from classic space opera.

    I also enjoyed the Robots vs Fairies anthology, edited by Dominik Parisen and Navah Wolfe, of which I thought the strongest stories were BUILD ME A WONDERLAND by Seanan McGuire, THE BURIED GIANT by Lavie Tidhar, ALL THE TIME WE’VE LEFT TO SPEND by Alyssa Wong and ADRIFTICA by Maria Dahvana Headley.

    2018 novel preorders are also downloading themselves to my Kindle at a rapid pace now, so hopefully I will have some recommendations on that front soon…

  19. Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear, a novella sequel to Karen Memory (just over 40k words but within the breathing room).

    Short version: if you liked Karen Memory, pick this up as well.

    It picks up not long after the novel finished, with Karen and Priya having settled down together and enjoying a celebratory night out at the fanciest hotel in town. Inevitably this won’t go smoothly, and we quickly get mysterious – and then violent – manifestations apparently centering around a couple of spiritualists and a stage illusionist. In the middle of this Karen and Priya are trying to jostle their way into a better sense of their relationship with mixed results.
    I was a bit surprised by the direction this took, with the steampunk elements of the novel being joined by [spoilers], but it replicated the fun of the first book and threw in some intense character work. If I was going to criticise I’d say that it didn’t meld the two elements quite as well as it should, and as a consequence the ending was a bit jumpy.
    I wouldn’t be shocked if this was testing the water for The Further Adventures of Karen and Priya and The Sewing Machine, and if so I can sign up for that.

    I’ve also commented on Gods, Monsters and The Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson but I’m currently not sure if it makes my list.

  20. Short story

    “Our King and His Court,” Rich Larson, tor.com 3/21/2018

    I don’t want to say too much, so I’ll just quote:

    A futuristic story about a high-ranking soldier in a criminal gang who has conflicting loyalties to his monstrous boss and that boss’s innocent young son.

  21. The gosh darned comments are closed on 2017 recommendations but I’m not done with that year yet.

    Down and Out in Purgatory, Tim Powers. Collection of short stories he’s written over time, which are great because they’re Tim Powers stories and there’s a bonus of anecdotes about where the germ of the idea for the story originally came from.

    A War in Crimson Embers, The Crimson Empire Book 3, Alex Marshall. The final book of the foul mouthed fantasy series comes to a conclusion. I’ve really enjoyed the series and characters. For a final book this one still has way too much set up and foreplay before delivering the goods on the final battle. Still a fun book though parts of this book are a better Hellraiser book than Clive Barker’s last Hellraiser book, so if your squeamish you’re probably going to dislike this. Like the whole series it upends typical genre expectations so it’s not a surprise it does so again with the end but in a way that works and fits with the rest of the books.Recommended if the fantasy you read doesn’t have enough swearing, drug use, sexuality that exists on a pretty broad spectrum as normal, battles that use every verb that a weapon can do to flesh, and super gross demon stuff.

  22. Movie: “A Quiet Place,” one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years. This comes down on the side of SF/alien invasion horror rather than supernatural. The aliens, which bear a vague resemblance to the Demigorgon in Stranger Things, hunt by sound, so the movie takes place in creepy silence, with almost no dialogue (the family struggling to survive communicates by sign language). This is a horror film, but the gore is restrained and left more to the imagination than shown. The script doesn’t have a wasted moment and the direction is tight and tense, especially in the third act. Bonus points for casting a Deaf actress to play a Deaf character, and her Deafness and cochlear implant play important roles in the film’s climax.

  23. Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente

    Novel

    This was pretty delightful. Fun, silly, and inventive, with a more-than-occasional bite that gives the humor some sharp teeth. If the story is a bit messy at times, it’s forgivable for the sake of the sheer exuberance of the text. There are some characters I would have liked to have seen more of and gotten a better sense of, given their importance to the plot — particularly Mira, but also the Roadrunner and Öö — but overall, it was a pleasure to read.

  24. I thought Taste of Wrath, the last in Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour novella series, wasn’t due out until May so I was pleasantly surprised when it downloaded itself to my Kindle yesterday. I’ve really enjoyed this series, which has successfully sold me on its brand of dry-but-silly humour – it’s the kind of thing that could easily become too much, and yet somehow Wallace always pulls it off.

    Taste of Wrath itself is definitely a “season finale” of a novella (actually a short novel by length, I think), and as such it doesn’t really introduce much in the way of its own plot, focusing instead on presenting the big showdown that’s been building over the course of the series. This gets a little bit scrappy as various teams end up splitting off and doing different things, and I did lose track of who was doing what where at a couple of points, but by the end I felt it was a worthy send-off to most of the characters, and a fitting ending for the series as a whole.

    The acknowledgements state that the series is 250,000 words, which would make it eligible for Best Series (minimum wordcount is 240,000). I’ll be considering it for nomination there, as its length and position in the series makes it an awkward contender for an individual fiction category.

  25. Some (non Doctor Who/Trek) quality episodes of television to keep in mind for Dramatic Presentation Short Form:

    The Good Place: “Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent“, “Somewhere Else

    Supernatural: “ScoobyNatural” (it’s good, I swear)

    Star Wars Rebels: “Jedi Night“, “A World Between Worlds“, “Family Reunion – And Farewell” (two-parter)

    Counterpart: “The Sincerest Form of Flattery

    The Magicians: “All That Josh“, “A Life in the Day

    Legion: “Chapter 10

  26. @Arifel: I’m glad you mentioned “Best Series” re. the “Sin du Jour” series; I hadn’t even thought of that. Your comment did remind me to buy the final installment, so thanks also for that! Ah maybe I can get some reading done in it this wknd. 🙂

  27. Yes, the Sin du Jour series will definitely be a strong contender for my Hugo nominations next year. It’s an excellent example of the sum being greater than the parts.

    I still love the way that he tied in the Goblin King in a way which made it seem as though it could really be true. 😀

  28. Kyra has already mentioned The Cruel Prince, so here’s a brief list of some more YA novels to consider for the new award:

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

    Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (3rd in a series)

    Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

    Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman (2nd in a series)

  29. @Kendall and JJ: yeah, and I’m glad he included the word count in the acknowledgements otherwise I would have assumed it was under the threshold- definitely a strong contender for me too.
    @JJ Goblins in general are top of my list of “I don’t understand why this works, but it absolutely does” things about the series..!
    ——————————

    I finally got over my fear of requesting arcs from Netgalley, and promptly discovered that, yes, publishers WILL send e-books to this Nobody with a Blog if she asks! So you’re going to get a couple of reviews from me in the next few weeks.

    First up is Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller. This is the story of Qaanaaq, a floating city in the arctic circle built to accommodate climate refugees. Thirty years on from its founding, the city is struggling from overpopulation, lack of rent control, rampant criminality, and a new, highly stigmatised disease called the Breaks, whose sufferers become increasingly delusional about time and place before inevitably dying. We follow events after a mysterious woman with an orca and a polar bear shows up in the city, bringing the spectre of crimes committed generations ago against her family, and drawing together the lives of several other Qaanaaq residents from different social classes and areas.

    My favourite thing about Blackfish City was its strong, atmospheric worldbuilding – the city really came to life for me as a lived-in place with its own culture and aesthetic, and the driving elements of the plot – the Breaks, and the technological experiment which the orca/polar bear woman was part of – end up adding elements of science-indistinguishable-from-magic to the plot which give it an almost mythical feel. The characters are also solid, although this isn’t a particularly long book and it doesn’t give them a great deal of room to breathe; the plot structure is also such that things don’t get started as a single narrative until about halfway through, at which point it felt like some of the character’s unique interests got pushed aside in favour of a compelling but not all-encompassing plot thread. Despite that, I’d recommend this particularly to those who enjoy evocative, thought-provoking sci fi settings, and I’m definitely looking forward to more Sam J. Miller (like the YA award nominated Art of Starving, which I will definitely be getting around to soon if the packet gods are kind!)

    My longer review is here.

  30. Here’s my review of “Taste of Wrath,” by Matt Wallace, but the quick summary is that I loved it. I’ve been lukewarm to negative about the earlier installments, largely because I felt they were too incomplete to recommend individually, but this last installment really rocks the casbah. I would now strongly recommend the series as a whole, which I really didn’t feel I could do before without knowing how it was all going to end.

    At 45,820 words, it should be nominateable as a novella, assuming “Make Room! Make Room!” is ratified in San Jose this August. (It passed without debate in Helsinki.) That will make the allowed margin 20% for novellas, raising the upper limit to 48,000 words. (Currently the limit is 20% or 5,000 words, whichever is smaller, making the limit 45,000 words.)

    For the whole series, I count 244,629 words, which just edges over the 240,000-word limit for eligibility for the Best Series Hugo Award.

  31. @Arifel: Thanks for posting your review! FYI the link doesn’t work due to a missing “http://” but here’s a link that should work.

    Maybe @Mike Glyer can fix your link.

    @Greg Hullender: Ooh I need to not click to read a review till I read it! ::closing other tab where I read a minor spoiler cuz I just got curious, hehehe:: It’s waiting on my iPad already. Anyway, I’m very happy to hear it’s so good – you’re not the first here to say so, IIRC, so yay.

  32. Thanks, @Mike Glyer! 😀 Wow, the Glyer-signal really does work as well as (or better than) the Standlee- and Bat-signals. 😉

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