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.

305 thoughts on “2018 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Short story

    “Bones in the Rock,” R.K. Kalaw, Uncanny Magazine July/August 2018

    This is from Uncanny’s shared-universe dinosaur issue. A gorgeous story about dinosaurs, but also love and loss and hope, across the eons.


    Black Mirror‘s interactive movie “Bandersnatch” hits the 90 minute mark on its default path, meaning that it barely qualifies for Short Form. It’s an intriguing mix of gameplay and television that may very well light a path for storytelling going forward.

  3. Pingback: 2018 Novellapalooza | File 770

  4. The Body Library, by Jeff Noon

    Novel (second in a series, but largely functions as a stand-alone)

    I’ve read four books by Jeff Noon now, and every single one could be described as follows: “In the gritty streets of a bizarre city, people are taking a strange reality-altering drug which has terrible, unexpected consequences.” But the cities are different, the drugs are different, and the books are as different as it’s possible to be in this odd single-author subgenre. This one is a second John Nyquist noir in a city where story is king — quite literally, as it turns out — and it soon turns into a parable about authors, characters, and narrative. I liked it.

  5. Novelette

    An Aria for the Bloodlords By Hannah Strom-Martin (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

    A fascinating setting, perhaps resembling a 19th Century Paris with revolution in the streets and nobles at the opera. Music has real power in this setting, and the nobility simultaneously repress the masses enjoyment of it while craving performances for themselves. The story takes in the rehearsals for, and final performance of, an opera, some of whose performers are determined that it will be much more than meets the eye…
    The question of who the Bloodlord nobility of the titles really are runs through the story, which is carried through by Maestro Petrie, desperate for patronage but increasingly disturbed by who he is seeking the favour of. Despite a somewhat uneven start this finishes extremely strongly. I think it needs another level of polish to really hit the high notes but still a fascinating story.


    “Garda,” by Kameron Hurley (B&N)

    A SF hard boiled detective story. Inspector Abijah Olivia is hired to privately investigate a series of deaths of young workers from a factory, while the local Garda have something about it to hide. It hits all the required elements, some perhaps with more a sense of duty than enthusiasm, but the main character (who puts me in mind of Nyx) is strong enough to carry the story.
    (Described as a short story but I make it 8734 words so a novelette)

    Short Story

    The War of Light and Shadow, in Five Dishes by Siobhan Carroll (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

    A charming piece telling the story of a cook of rare genius who influences an entire war through five increasingly complex meals. It’s told in a slightly distant manner that cleverly leaves room for all sorts of interpretations, and emphasises the sense of weariness with war that leads to the conclusion.

  6. And The Ocean Was Our Sky, by Patrick Ness


    A strange and interesting little book about a war between whales and humans, told from the point of view of the whales. There are many allusions to Moby Dick, although the central premise is closer to Nietsche’s, “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.” I liked the style and the sheer oddness of it.

  7. The Green Man’s Heir, Juliet McKenna, Wizard’s Tower Press’

    I’m normally rather meh about urban fantasy, but I’d heard good things about this one and Amazon had it on sale. I’m 1/3 of the way through and the writing is strong. good worldbuilding. I’m very glad I bought it!

    From the publisher’s page:

    A hundred years ago, a man with a secret could travel a few hundred miles and give himself a new name and life story. No one would be any the wiser, as long as he didn’t give anyone a reason to start asking questions. These days, that’s not so easy, with everyone on social media, and CCTV on every street corner. So Daniel Mackmain keeps his head down and keeps himself to himself.

    But now a girl has been murdered and the Derbyshire police are taking a closer look at a loner who travels from place to place, picking up work as he goes. Worse, Dan realises the murder involves the hidden world he was born into. When no one else can see the truth, who will see justice done?

    A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

  8. Novel

    Incense Rising – NJ Schrock.
    In a near future corporate-run dystopia, various rebels seek to change parts of the system. While the basic setting is not new, the author has made it seem fresh. The corporate team meetings esp. are hilarious. The characters are engaging and easy to love.

  9. Novel

    A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell

    From the publisher’s page:

    Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon—Sherlock Holmes—in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

  10. I Finished Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna out of Wizard’s Tower Press and I recommend it. Very enjoyable.

    I’m crap at reviewing. Can you tell that?


    I recommend it. Very enjoyable.

    I’m crap at reviewing. Can you tell that?

    I’ve found it’s much harder to say why you liked something than to say what you didn’t like. I spent my first year as a reviewer making a list of “rules” not because I needed them to decide what to recommend but because I needed help articulating why I wanted to recommend a work. I also put a lot of effort into reading what other reviewers were writing and thinking over what did and didn’t work for me about their reviews. Even then, I’d probably written 2,000 reviews before I was really happy with the results.

    Whether anyone else is happy with them is another question. 🙂

  12. +1 for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. I’m putting this in the Long Form category as many of the choices lead you on a path that will take longer than 90 mins. The story worked for me on multiple levels. It has all the paranoid ‘is this really happening’ feel and exploration of virtual reality of Black Mirror episodes while also having an added meta dimension. Not having read ‘choose your own adventure’ books, I especially enjoyed the gradual realization as the viewer that there are no ‘wrong’ choices just different stories. And on the professional level I was very impressed by the technical craft displayed in seamlessly transitioning within scenes at choice points, as well as providing in-story reasons for backtracking and various choice options. It’s probably the most innovative thing I’d seen in 2018.

  13. Claire: A Study in Honor, Claire O’Dell

    Hi Claire, the point of this thread is for people to say what they think makes a work worth recommending. Can you say what you liked about the novel, and why you’re recommending it? Thanks.

  14. Has anyone else read A Study in Honor? I’ve bought it and read the first three pages, so far so good.

  15. I’ve read a couple of different drafts of A STUDY IN HONOR, so I may be biased here.

    I found the near future Washington and the tech the author depicts utterly believable and immersing. Watson’s story is a strong character study, and I particularly liked the Watson-Holmes relationship.

    Above, I also liked The Green Man’s Heir. Really rich local detail, I only found out that some of the locations mentioned are imaginary, they really feel real and places I could visit. The main character is an interesting choice, the son of a dryad. The novel avoids a lot of the pitfalls I’ve had with urban/contemporary fantasy.

  16. Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway


    Note: this novel was originally published in the UK in 2017. However, the U.S. edition appears to have been published in 2018, which I believe matters for some types of award nominations.

    What Nick Harkaway does well, he does very, very well. And here, as in The Gone-Away World, that means putting in a jaw-dropping twist so perfectly set up by the narrative that when it drops you’ll kick yourself for not realizing what was going on a hundred pages earlier. I was also pleased to see that he’s mostly corrected one of the greatest flaws of his earlier books, in that in this one he’s for the most part written women who come across as three-dimensional people.

    On the con side, this is not a work without flaws. It’s ambitious and sprawling, and unfortunately there are parts where it drags. I got tired of the adventures of Constantine Kyriakos long before they were over and done with (while at the same time the fascinating-to-me Mielikki Neith got relegated to a number of chapters so truncated that they were basically, “Mielikki woke up and then immediately went back to sleep again.”) I don’t know as this book really needed to be seven hundred pages long; there were parts that would have benefited a lot from judicious trimming or possibly being cut out altogether.

    Nonetheless, in spite of that I still think it was largely a success, and for a book with this much sheer book in it, that’s saying quite a bit.

  17. Short story

    The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside)

    A magical alt-history world is slowly revealed through the stories of the nine people who contributed teeth to George Washington. I have to say that I was a bit dubious when I saw this recommended elsewhere – I didn’t see where a story came from that – but although ostensibly separate stories they all come together to weave a tale of a fascinatingly different world

  18. YA Lodestar

    Like Never and Always, Ann Aguirre

    It’s a little difficult to describe this book without getting into spoilers, as the element that makes it SFF and kicks off the plot is a major spoiler in and of itself. (Although if you click over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble I imagine that element is included in the book description.) Since this story is set in our contemporary world, some people might regard it as barely “fantasy”–perhaps more “magical realism,” of the I Will Believe One Impossible Thing Before Breakfast type. This One Thing is a given and the story goes on from there. Because the One Thing isn’t really what the story is about. It’s about friendship, and one best friend living and another dying; and the finality of death and how it changes people; and whether we really know the ones we love; and the secrets the ones we love can keep from us.

    However you want to classify it, it’s a beautiful, emotional story, with fully realized characters. I loved it. It’s definitely on my YA shortlist.

  19. I love Ann Aguirre’s work and her collaboration with Rachel Caine, Honor Among Thieves, is on my Lodestar shortlist. However, Like Never and Always passed me by, so thanks for the tip.

  20. Novelette

    Nine Last Days on Planet Earth, by Daryl Gregory (tor.com)

    A potted history of events when the earth is “invaded” by plants from falling meteors – are they hostile, are they the precursor to other more dangerous arrivals – but that’s really just the background to the story of LT and his family as he grows up from age 10 to find himself in this new world.
    There’s a real scope to this tale, and while it suffers a little from having to skip through such a long story so quickly, it also adds an elegaic quality to it all, leading to a poignant ending.

  21. Lodestar (YA)

    Annex, by Rich Larson

    I’ve deliberately been avoiding YA books in 2018, because most of the ones I’ve read the last few years have disappointed me by valorizing selfishness and stupidity as heroic traits. But the synopsis of this one was interesting, and the gorgeous Gregory Manchess cover and the fact that it was available at my library probably pushed it over the line. And it was well worth reading.

    The story dumps you in media res, 6 months after an alien invasion has left the adults mindless from devices attached to their brainstems which have them living in ideal VR worlds. The children have been rounded up into camps, and some sort of organism implanted to incubate inside the torso of each of them. However, some children have managed to escape, and they hide out together and forage for food and survival.

    As the story progresses, the reader gradually finds out more about the aliens and why they’ve done what they’ve done to the adults and to the children. There are a couple of different kinds of aliens, and the author has done a good job of making them truly alien, rather than just humans in alien bodies.

    There is definitely some selfishness and stupidity perpetrated by some of the characters, but it’s portrayed as exactly that, so yay! There are some plot conveniences which may strain disbelief, but I was willing to roll with them, and overall, I found it an enjoyable book. It’s a complete story, but definitely leaves a setup for a sequel.

  22. @JJ

    I wasn’t taken enough by Annex to rec it here, but I +1 your review – the book is a bit of a mess at times but I liked the Big Idea.

  23. The Monster Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    Note: Published as The Monster in the UK

    This book goes in a surprising direction after the first one, becoming much more a quest/adventure story than the tale of political machinations readers were led to expect — albeit a quest/adventure story with a drunken, grieving, brain-damaged heroine who has convinced all her potential allies that she’s a psychopath that needs to die and who isn’t entirely sure they’re wrong. The characters bounce from one catastrophe to another, coming to mostly wrong conclusions and trying to backstab each other because of it, moving from the Machiavellian manipulation we’ve seen before to a sense that everyone is flailing around in the dark. I think it reads best on an almost metaphorical level; Baru’s past actions are coming back to haunt her, very nearly literally in some cases.

  24. The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

    Novel (Middle-Grade)

    Mayka and her stone family were brought to life by the stories etched into their bodies. Now time is eroding these vital marks, and Mayka must find a stonemason to recarve them. But the search is more complex than she had imagined, and Mayka uncovers a scheme endangering all stone creatures.

    Very well written (which is only to be expected from this excellent author) and charming overall. If some of the plot elements are a little predictable, I don’t mind that so much in a middle-grade book.

  25. Almost forgot: here’s the final quarter’s short fiction recommendations. (Full reviews available on my blog.)

    Cerise Sky Memories” by Wendy Nikel, Nature, October 3, 2018 (science fiction short story)

    “Empress of Starlight” by G. David Nordley, Analog, November/December 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    The Forest Eats” by Santiago Belluco, Compelling #12, Winter 2018 (science fiction short story)

    “Foster Earth” by Julie Czerneda, Amazing, Fall 2018 (science fiction short story)

    The Gift of Angels: an introduction” by Nina Allan, Clarkesworld #146, November 2018 (science fiction novelette)

    “The Lady of Butterflies” by Y. M. Pang, F&SF, November/December 2018 (fantasy novelette)

    The Mirror Crack’d” by Jordan Taylor, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, September 30, 2018 (fantasy short story)

    Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson, Clarkesworld #146, November 2018 (science fiction short story)

    The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer, Uncanny #25, November/December 2018 (fantasy novelette)

    While I recommend all these stories, the fourth quarter was fairly weak and I only chose “The Lady of Butterflies,” “Octo-Heist,” and “Ghost Stories” for my “year’s best” (which is a rec+). As I mention in the intro to it, if you could combine the award-caliber characterization and style of “Angels” with the award-caliber “Cool Space Stuff” of “Starlight,” you’d really have something. The rest are hopefully well worth checking out, too, though.

    bookworm1398: I didn’t know Schrock’s novel was out. Thanks for that. I hope it’s as good a novel as “The Silver Strands of Alpha Crucis-d” was a story, because I loved that.

    Greg: I sort of agree, though the problem I mainly have is not the mechanical parts but that, when I really like something, I feel like I’m not accurately getting across how much I do, either feeling like I’m gushing or I’m sounding indifferent. Getting the volume right on those is hard.

  26. @Jason If you were one of those reviewers who just love all stories, then I’d agree that you should be careful not to “gush.” However, you’re normally very sparing in your praise, so I think you should feel free to gush away on the handful that you really love. 🙂

  27. That’s good to hear as I figure if I do miss the mark on the things I love, it usually is on the overly demonstrative side. 🙂

  28. I don’t know about y’all, but my Best Related Work contenders are a bit thin on the ground. So I’m happy to rec this one, Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded, by Jason Heller.

    As the title implies, David Bowie is the focus of much of this book, with his sagas of Major Tom, 1969’s “Space Oddity” and 1980’s “Ashes to Ashes,” serving as the bookends of the narrative. It’s definitely bittersweet reading, as it shows how much Bowie’s loss is still keenly felt. But this book gets into the weeds of SF and SF-related music exhaustively, with details that both surprised and delighted me. For example, Jefferson Airplane–or Jefferson Starship by then, I guess–is the holo-band glimpsed in the Star Wars Holiday Special, and their Best Related Work-nominated album Blows Against the Machine gets a detailed discussion. Also, the author mentions the campy TV movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, which I remember watching!

    From what I’ve seen, Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction is probably the front-runner in this category. (It’s up for me next.) But I think this book is also worth consideration.

  29. Short story

    Strange Waters, by Samantha Mills (Strange Horizons)

    Mika is a fisherwoman, lost in time. She’s not the first – her port city is afflicted by time storms and currents, and scraps of future knowledge are gathered and hoarded up and down its history.
    Mika doesn’t care about any of that though, she wants to get back to her children and throws her boat back into the sea and time again and again, searching for the current that will take her home.

    It’s a fascinating idea, and Mika’s story is vivid and affecting.

  30. Art Book (special category)

    Dungeons and Dragons – Art and Arcana: A Visual History by Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Michael Witwer, Sam Witwer

    Firstly, this is a genuinely beautiful artifact. A thick, heavy, lushly produced hardback with glossy pages presenting the art to best effect.
    What you get is a history of D&D through the artwork. There are fascinating glimpses of old production sketches, insights into how some of the more iconic images were created, displays of the evolution of various designs through the ages. Along with that you get big spreads of some of the best art to come out of D&D – and there are some beautiful pieces in there. You can also get the nostalgia of looking at the art and going – ooo, that’s the red box I had!
    However, the art is the strong point, and the words do perhaps bring the overall effect down a bit. I expected a bit more with contributions by people who’ve written extensively on D&D history, but perhaps too many cooks produced a slightly…bland….dish? Or possibly the fact that this is an authorised product and there’s on;y so much they can say about some of the more contentious issues in D&D’s past. For example, the part on Gygax’s departure from TSR rather obviously gets ended before the recriminations can start. There’s also a rather obvious bias towards the early works than the later – and to be fair the earlier stuff tends to be the most iconic – but the 4th and 5th editions get very little space.
    So, judged as a book of art it’s excellent, and as an overall history-through-art it’s merely very good.

    A Middle-earth Traveler: Sketches from Bag End to Mordor by John Howe

    Middle-Earth isn’t lacking in illustrators, and a book of more pictures needs something a little different. The conceit for this one is that it’s a journey through Middle-Earth, with an attempt to give a sense that the artist is traveling and sketching as he goes. It works well enough, although some of the themes are stretching a bit. A lot of the art is soft pencils stretching over the page which I found very effective. Often the “big” full colour splashes are actually done as small insets in pages, which I wasn’t so sure about. If the main aim is to display some beautiful art then it succeeds admirably though.

  31. Novelette

    Thirty-Three Percent Joe by Suzzane Palmer (Clarkesworld)

    Something on the lighter side, albeit there’s some serious thoughts lurking beneath the jokes.

    Joe wanted to be a baker, but ended up a soldier in a near-future war. Well, most of Joe is, but unfortunately after several injuries 33% of him is now cybernetic. For some reason they gave all his replacement parts separate AIs and their bickering cooperation as they conspire to keep Joe in one piece forms the humour.

  32. Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon)


    Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle’s estate… and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder against everything from bandits and roving inquisitors to her own in-laws.

    This was a very enjoyable story, and also a very funny one (in spite of all the murders.) It sounds like there will be sequels, and if so I will definitely be picking them up.

  33. +1 for Swordheart.

    It’s very much an adult quest fantasy adventure which combines derring-do with bureaucracy, humor, darkness, sly wit, and hope. Also gnoles.

  34. Vengeful, by V. E. Schwab

    Novel (second in a series)

    Eli is in prison. Victor is dying — over and over and over. But the rise to power of a new EO will send these former friends and current bitter enemies back on a collision course with each other.

    The long-time-coming sequel to Vicious doesn’t disappoint, as V. E. Schwab continues the difficult trick of making you care about the fates of sociopathic mass-murderers. And bringing June and Marcella into the mix as an inexact parallel to Victor and Eli added a lot to the story.

    There are definitely some issues with the plotting I could pick at: there’s a bit too much reliance on generic “hacking the computer with a hack”, important information is once or twice obtained without sufficient explanation, and June’s affection for Sydney needed to have more development to work as such a major plot point. But overall, the characters were interesting, the structuring was deft, and the story made me stay up reading until 3 AM.

  35. Novelette

    “How To Swallow the Moon,” Isabel Yap, Uncanny Magazine November/December 2018.

    Stories written in the second person, present tense are one of the hardest things to pull off, but Isabel Yap succeeds, with this beautiful, delicate, lyrical story. This is a retelling of the rescue-the-maiden-sacrificed-to-a-dragon trope, turned inside out.

    Short story

    “The Stars Above,” by Katharine Duckett, and “A House By the Sea,” by P.H. Lee, Uncanny Magazine September/October 2018.

    These two stories are from Uncanny’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue. “Stars” has a unique setting, the aftermath of an alien invasion and how the native culture of Kazakhstan adapts to it, and “House” is yet another response to Ursula K. Le Guin’s famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” I wish someone would put together an anthology of these stories.

  36. Short story

    You Pretend Like You Never Met Me, and I’ll Pretend Like I Never Met You, by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)

    Wells is a washed up, somewhat drunken magician. He pulls rabbits out of hats for children’s parties, if he has any rabbits left that is. His dad was a better magician, both for showmanship and for having actual magic, but that got him killed so maybe that’s not a recommendation. He meets someone who’s having a worse life than him, and finds the final bit of magic in his soul. This story is weird, surreal, human, and fantastic.
    Admittedly I’m a big MDH fan anyway, but right now this is my favourite short of the year.

  37. Best Related

    How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler by Ryan North.

    The concept of this book is that it is a guide included in the company’s rental time machines for tourists who accidentally get stuck in the past. There’s a flow chart to help you figure out what time period you’re stuck in and basic overviews of technologies, food, language, medicine, mathematic and scientific concepts you’d need to reinvent civilization. It even helpfully points out the various things (like hot air balloons and various sailing techniques) that could have been invented long before they were. Humanity had the prerequisites very early – we just didn’t connect the dots for several thousand years. Everything is presented with a snarky sense of humor, which really worked for me.

    (And apparently I’m posting this from the year 7131!)

  38. Best Novelette

    When We Were Starless by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, Oct 2018)

    In the ruins of far-future Earth, Mink’s tribe desperately needs the resources of a large building that vanished humanity left, but she needs to purge it of “ghosts” first—and it has lots of them.

    The novelette category often doesn’t work for me. I find them either feeling like a padded-out short story or like chapter excerpts from a novel. However, When We Were Starless felt exactly right. The world-building and character-building was spot on. I really cared about what would happen to everyone.

    Simone Heller is also second year eligible for the Campbell, according to Rocket Stack Rank.

  39. Some semi-last-minute recs:

    Lodestar — I’m not a fan of YA in general, but here’s what I’ve read so far and enjoyed or not, in no particular order:

    1. Any book in the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell. The two most recent ones, Charmcaster and Soulbinder, were both pubbed in 2018. I’m a big fan of this guy’s narrative voice and imagination and character work. The books are stinkin’ fun. Yes, the teenage MC acts like a teenager sometimes.

    2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This one has been incredibly popular, but I dnfed it after five hours (audio version). The prose was so excruciatingly unimaginative that I just couldn’t stand it any longer. Every tired phrase in the entire English lexicon is in there somewhere. The story itself wasn’t bad to the extent I heard it, but I wasn’t enough of a masochist to finish.

    3. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I just finished this one, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. Stupid title — don’t be dissuaded. There are lots of satisfying twists and turns, a few of them obvious and others not. Based on standard YA tropes of downtrodden teenagers with cruel classmates, cruel and/or unfathomable and/or conflicted adults and powerlessness and unfairness, but it often goes elsewhere than where you expect, and almost nobody is black or white (maybe one guy). Never a dull moment.

    4. The Poppy War by RF Kuang. Very good in some places, not very in others. IOW, very uneven. I think this one is more notable in the promise it shows for future books than for the quality of this one in particular. Excessively (IMHO) brutal in some places. I have heard that the author herself does not consider it YA.

    5. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I dunno if I’ve seen this one included in any of the YA lists, but I think it would qualify so far as the protagonist goes, right? I love this book. 🙂 Gets better as you get farther into it. About power dynamics, taking control of your life, and good stuff like that. Novik is becoming a great writer — you can see her progression from the Temeraire days (not to mention the fanfic days).

    Anybody got good last-minute YA suggestions? I’m trying to be more well-read in YA this year. I already have Skyward and Dread Nation on my short list for the next coupla weeks. Warning: if it isn’t available in audio, I’m not likely to get to it.

  40. @Contrarius

    Here’s a few for you. (From my 2018 Recommended page.)

    Unearthed, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (This is described on Goodreads as “Lara Croft meets Indiana Jones on an alien planet,” which is overhyped but not entirely wrong. There is archaeology, puzzles, supposedly extinct alien races, and an Earth in the throes of climate change searching for resources to save their declining world. This book does end on a massive cliffhanger, and the ending also hints at a great underlying mystery.)

    Defy the Worlds, Claudia Gray (This sequel to last year’s Defy the Stars is unfortunately not as tightly written as its predecessor, but the excellent characterizations mostly carry the day.)

    Sanctuary, Caryn Lix (This is best summed up as “Alien’s Xenomorphs meet the Young Metahumans.” The first few chapters are slower to establish the characters and setting, and then the story takes off.)

    This Cruel Design, Emily Suvada (Not that many second books in a trilogy are better than the first. This is one of them. Strong characterizations and a fascinating world.)

    I also just finished Mirage, by Somaiya Daud. This is a lush, Middle Eastern-inspired story that feels more like fantasy, though it has a rather thin SF element. It does suffer in my view from first-novel syndrome, so the author might be better suited for the Campbell, since I couldn’t find evidence of any other pub credits.

    (Sorry if I’m repeating myself. I may have posted some of these upthread.)

  41. My 2018-published YA SFF reads were:

    Highly Recommended (4 to 5 stars):
    The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
    Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
    Starless by Jacqueline Carey
    The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember (2nd in a duology)
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness
    Imposters by Scott Westerfeld

    Not Highly Recommended (less than 4 stars):
    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (5th in a pentology)
    Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
    Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (3rd in a series)
    Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
    Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
    Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

  42. Novella

    Compost Traumatic Stress by Brian Koukol, GigaNotoSaurus December 1, 2018 (full text)

    Synopsis: The lone survivor of a combat unit annihilated on an alien planet does penance after the end of the war by cleaning up leftover cartridge brass and clearing the alien vegetation, supplanting it with flora which is compatible with humans. As he weeds and plants, he flashes back to scenes from the war and how his own actions, or lack thereof, may have influenced the outcome.

    What I thought: This is a really different, interesting story with some unusual and intriguing worldbuilding. The different ways in which PTSD can manifest, and the challenges faced by disabled people, are authentically portrayed by the author, who has spent a lifetime dealing with these conditions. This is a grim story, but it is also a hopeful one, and it is well worth reading.

  43. Novelette

    “Fluxless/Fluxloos,” by Mike Jensen (Samovar, 12/3/18)

    This is from Samovar, Strange Horizons’ quarterly magazine of translated SF. Translated by the author, this is a creepy, bleak, but ultimately hopeful tale of a future Earth overrun with nanotechnology and phages, and Tanmee Johnsdotter, the young woman who leaves her isolated island on a search for the machine that will neutralize the nanos, and what she finds instead.

  44. Novelette

    “The Rule of Three” by Lawrence M. Schoen, Future Science Fiction Digest, December 15, 2018.
    (text version) (podcast)

    Background to the story:
    In June of 2018, the Future Affairs Administration flew me and three Canadian authors to participate in a workshop co-funded by the Wanda Group which was running a poverty abatement program in Guizhou Province, traditionally one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse regions in the country. We picked tea, made paper, learned batik, visited historic sites, and spoke with many people. I don’t have enough superlatives to describe the trip. When it was over, FAA asked us to write novelettes inspired by our experiences there. “The Rule of Three” was my result, the words coming to me without effort as I daydreamed about the places I’d seen.

    This is a beautiful little story about reconnecting with the basic and essential things in life, crossed with an encounter with a visiting alien who may not be as kind and benign as they seem. It’s full of wonderful cultural insights — leavened with some home truths — and has some darkness, but also some hopefulness. Strongly recommended.

  45. I was really looking forward to reading Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing but was incredibly disappointed. It’s basically a mashup of two real life instances of exploitation and cruelty with a fantastical element added to it. But the story doesn’t add anything or say anything new – it just wallows in the point of view of the victims of these incidents. I got the uncomfortable impression the reader was being invited to enjoy being horrified by the cruelty like so many ‘lookie-loos’ at a roadside accident. I was reminded of the ‘Agony Aunt’ and ‘Queen for a Day’ fads. Which is a real shame because the author is clearly talented at writing character voices and the fantasy elements were interesting. I wish she had skipped the real life tragedies and just done a story based on her fantasy elements.

    I don’t know – maybe I read it wrong and completely missed the point. But now I’m going to be dreading this story winning everything since it seems like it’s the main contender.

  46. Novel

    Circe by Madeline Miller

    “In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.”

    If you like fairytale deconstruction/repositioning as fantasy, I think this will appeal to you. It’s a well-told tale of Circe’s life from her point of view. The publishers have been positioning it as literary/mainstream but I think the tone of writing puts it more into the fantasy category. The reader doesn’t need to know the Greek myths to enjoy the story, although if they do there’s some added foreshadowing.

  47. My personal longlist for the Lodestar is as follows, in no particular order:

    • Honor Among Thieves by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine, Katherine Tegen Books
    • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Gollancz
    • Arabella, Traitor of Mars, by David D. Levine, Tor Books
    • Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, Random House
    • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
    • Cadaver and Queen by Alisa Kwitney, Harlequin Teen
    • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, Harper Collins, Balzer & Bray
    • Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
    • Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan, Albert Whitman and Company
    • A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, Sky Pony Press
    • A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
    • Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre

  48. Short story

    “Butterflies,” Elizabeth Hinckley, Luna Station Quarterly, December 2018.

    This is a heartbreaking story about the death of insects and the possible slow death of the world, and how to find hope despite that.

    Along with this, please consider Luna Station Quarterly for Best Semiprozine. They publish woman-identified SF writers, and don’t seem to be very well known, but I think they are doing good work.

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