2019 Recommended SF/F List

By JJ: This thread is for posts about 2019-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 eligible for the Hugos or other awards (Nebula, Locus, Asimov’s, etc.) next year.

If you’re recommending for an award other than / in addition to the Hugo Awards which has different categories than the Hugos (such as Locus Awards’ First Novel), then be sure to specify the award and category.

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 or other Award Category: (Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Related Work, Graphic Novel, Lodestar, Astounding, 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.

384 thoughts on “2019 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Best Related Work (Hugo)The Moon by Oliver Norton, published in June 2019

    “An intimate portrait of the Earth’s closest neighbor – the Moon – that explores the history and future of humankind’s relationship with it.”

    It’s a great mix of up-to-date lunar science and space technology with history, mythology and science fiction. I liked the perspective Morton had in approaching everything. For example, referring to the Age of Exploration as the Age of Being Explored by Europeans. Morton takes an uncompromising look at the who and the how of past and current space programs, as well as examining the proposed “uses” and future for the moon.

  2. @Standback: I thought that capitalism in A Song For A New Day was unbelievable, using methods that would have self-destructed by the time of the story — but I found the rest of the story convincing and heartfelt, and the ending was plausible rather than promising the moon. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but no small achievement for an author’s first novel.

  3. The Girl WIth No Face, by M. H. Boroson

    Novel (second in a series)

    A nine-year-old has died from suffocation … specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. The search for who is behind the spell, and why, will take the Daoist priestess Li-lin on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.

    The Girl With No Face keeps both the vivid magic and well-researched historical fiction of The Girl With Ghost Eyes, while at the same time improving on the plotting and pacing issues that occasionally made the first book drag a little. This one, in contrast, kept a propulsive pace from start to finish, even if the plot occasionally went off on tangents. Add in the fact that the characters reveal more depth and growth in this book, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

  4. @Kyra: It’s on my Mount Tsundoku already, so that’s great to hear. 🙂 I was hopeful this sequel would be even better than the first.

  5. If people have missed it, you can now see the Swedish SF-movie Aniara on Hulu. It is also available on Amazon Prime.

    I’m going to nominate it myself, as it was my favourite from last year, but beware. It is very bleak.

  6. Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

    Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

    I’m not generally a big fan of YA novels (most of the time, I find the stupidity quotient too high), but this one knocks it out of the park, with a bunch of smart-but-believable teenagers.

    This story does a great job of creating a very near-future world, where the internet is a lifeline for a teenage girl whose life has been spent on the run with her mother from an abusive father, never spending more than a few months in any one place, and never able to develop lasting personal friendships — that is, until she finds the online forum Catnet and a group of similarly-bright young people from all over the U.S. who provide each other with friendship and emotional support.

    The book manages to touch on topics of domestic abuse, stalking, manipulation, bullying, greed, false personas, the invasiveness of the internet and social media, and questions of humanity with respect to sentient artificial intelligence — and it does a great job of balancing the tension and grimness with humor and humanity.

    I thought this novel was fantastic, and it’s first on my nomination ballot for the Lodestar Young Adult Novel Award.

  7. +1 for Catfishing

    This is on my Lodestar ballot too. It also does a really nice job showing these young people discussing feelings on gender and sexuality.

  8. Novel (SF or Horror, as you like, if you need a genre)
    Dead Moon by Peter Clines

    Condensed and truncated publisher description: In 2243, the Moon is the largest graveyard in the solar system, helping solve overcrowding and environmental problems. Cali runs away from her past to work as a Caretaker. When a mysterious meteor crashes into one of the Moon’s cemeteries, Cali and her colleagues are surrounded by a terrifying enemy force that outnumbers them more than a thousand to one.

    I listened to this from Audible last year and only today realized that, duh, it’s eligible for a Hugo. I also realized I wasn’t sure I’d ever rec’d it, so I’m doing that now! This SF-horror novel is in his very loosely-connected “Threshold” . . . series, for lack of a better word. Great book, and I’m not a horror fan, but it was very well done!

    This reminds me that after Terminus (ETA: in my Audible app, waiting for me), which methinks is his last book in this loosely-connected series, I may nominate it for Best Series next year. I’m re-reading-via-audiobook the first two, 14 (just finished today; originally read as an ebook) and The Fold (originaly read in print), before getting to Terminus. I listened to Dead Moon recently enough (last summer) that I don’t need a refresher there.

  9. Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

    Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher

    This is another imaginative story from Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) in which an fairly ordinary but decent and well-intentioned person is forced to deal with darkness, malign forces, and misfortune — but leavened with the author’s characteristic kindness and hope. Well worth reading, especially for the inventive worldbuilding.

  10. Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

    The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow

    This is a beautiful, lyrical story. It unfolds very slowly, with lots of side trips, and patience is really required. The descriptions are vivid and the prose is to be savored. But the third-person writing distances the characters somewhat, rendering them more as character sketches rather than fully-fleshed-out human beings. And I had to take off 1/2 star, because there is a point at which chronic naïveté becomes willful stupidity – something which seems to commonly occur in YA books – and unfortunately I think the main character hits that point well before the end, which pushed my suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point and marred my enjoyment somewhat. Nevertheless, this is a book well worth reading.

  11. I just finished The Ten Thousand Doors yesterday, and I pretty much agree with JJ’s assessment. There is a reason to forgive at least some of the MC’s tendency to act TSTL, which I won’t spoil here, but I agree that her behavior was often aggravating — and also that the writing is beautiful and the plot takes a looooooong time to really get started.

    It’s not going on my Hugo list, but it’s certainly not an embarrassment on the Nebula list. And I never even thought about it being YA until JJ listed it as such, which should tell you something about the quality of the writing — I’m constantly complaining about how obvious and unsubtle YA writing often is, but this one certainly doesn’t fit that description. So, hmmmm, maybe I’ll put it on my Lodestar list!

    In audio format, this is narrated coincidentally by January LaVoy. She does an excellent job, using a very natural style that made it a joy to listen to.

  12. Contrarius: I never even thought about it being YA until JJ listed it as such, which should tell you something about the quality of the writing – I’m constantly complaining about how obvious and unsubtle YA writing often is

    That’s why I recommended it for the Lodestar, too. Because a number of the YA books I read last year (Arkad’s World, Bursts of Fire, Do You Dream of Terra Two?, The City in the Middle of the Night) were not only full of Teh Stupid, the writing did nothing to redeem the book, whereas in January‘s case, it really did.

  13. Not sure I agree with books marketed for adults to be placed on the YA list regardless of the author’s intentions. It feels like a slight to both the writer and YA lit as a whole – “your writing isn’t good enough to be considered ‘adult’ so it goes in the YA category, sorry.” I wasn’t all that crazy about “The Thousand Doors” myself but I wouldn’t put it in the Lodestar category.

  14. N: Not sure I agree with books marketed for adults to be placed on the YA list regardless of the author’s intentions.

    To me, how the publisher chooses to market a book is irrelevant, as are the author’s intentions. It’s how the book reads to me. And January reads to me as a Young Adult book; it follows the main character from the age of 7 to the age of 19.

  15. JJ: Still, the character’s age doesn’t necessitate whether or not a book is YA.

    The main characters in a book like The Nickel Boys are teenagers and that’s hardly a book you’d place in your high school’s library. More pertinent to this, I remember the same conversation happening around The Poppy War to the point where the author had to step in and tell everyone she’d prefer her book to be counted towards Novel.

  16. N: I remember the same conversation happening around The Poppy War to the point where the author had to step in and tell everyone she’d prefer her book to be counted towards Novel.

    Authors are certainly entitled to have their intentions with the work they write, but they don’t get to decide how their work is perceived by readers. They can be upset about how their work is perceived by readers, but they don’t get to demand that readers must perceive the work in a different way.

  17. @N —

    The main characters in a book like The Nickel Boys are teenagers and that’s hardly a book you’d place in your high school’s library.

    I agree with you in part. OTOH, The Ten Thousand Doors is entirely suitable for high schoolers in both tone and message. I mean, cmon, it’s all about self-actualization and learning to be yourself and stand up for yourself and explore all your possibilities, expand your horizons and so forth. What could be more wholesome and YA than that?

  18. Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

    Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    This is a lovely coming-of-age tale of a young woman who has grown up as the poor relation in a wealthy extended household in Mexico. Her days of endless obligation and household-chore-drudgery are relieved only occasionally by her brief moments of rebellion (which inevitably result in beatings or other punishment). In one such rebellious moment, she accidentally releases an imprisoned Mayan god, who takes her on an adventure across Mexico in a mission to take his throne back from his treacherous twin brother.

    The prose is beautifully-written, and the elements of Mayan mythology elevate this well above its basic premise.

  19. I liked the original setting and plot in that one, but somehow the story never really made me care. I suppose I might feel differently on a reread!

  20. Pingback: 2019 Novellapalooza | File 770

  21. @N: my question for t10,000 would be where the main character stands in relation to power, e.g. are they assumed to be dependent or independent. (I’m holding off on reading it as it’s a future month’s selection in a local book club.) I’m very surprised that some people were treating Jade War as YA; IIRC the only youths in it are feral, while the bulk of the story is about growing into positions of clan power that characters have had dumped on them prematurely, and the manipulations of that power by all concerned. (It’s possible I’m misrecollecting the balance, as I was faintly repelled by much of the book, thinking it far too cartoonish for the World Fantasy Award it won — which is a good demonstration of how tastes and perceptions vary.) If you want a really hard case, try classifying Ford’s Growing Up Weightless. (If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat. Used copies should be available as it had both trade and mass PB editions; in theory it’s on Tor’s calendar, but I don’t know whether they’ve set a firm date yet.)

    @Contrarius: I had difficulties with the Moreno-Garcia, but ISTM that was partly because it wasn’t just a story; it was giving us enough of a thoroughly alien culture that the story would make sense. I’m not sure it was successful, but I’m glad I read it.

  22. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


    In the company of the Mayan god of death, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

    A charmingly told work of historical fantasy. I liked the story, liked the setting, and especially loved the ending.

  23. Novel (science fiction)
    Velocity Weapon (“The Protectorate” #1) by Megan E. O’Keefe

    Go back many pages in these comments to @Mark (Kitteh)’s rec and just double it for me, mostly; what a great book! My only (and mild) criticism is that the C storyline, set far away, doesn’t truly connect to the main storylines (except in broad concept) till very near the end of the book. Sure, I liked the C storyline, but late in the book I thought, more than a couple of times, “Yeah, yeah, don’t interrupt me with this; I want to know what happens next in the A/B storylines!” 😉 Chapters alternate between threads, but sometimes you get several in a row following the same characters. Despite my small gripe, this worked well, IMHO.

    Anyway, it was awesome and I’m glad I finally opened up my copy in time to finish it and decide to nominate it. Sorry to the novel it bumped off the list, which was very good, but this one was better! 😉

    Ugh, I have to wait till the end of July for the sequel, Chaos Vector?!

  24. @Kendall

    Agreed on the C storyline – no doubt it’s setting up something for book 2 but I found it a bit of a fly in the ointment. Glad someone else enjoyed this though!

  25. Back in January, my fellow SF² Concatenation team members’ listed their favourite SF/F novels of 2019:-

    The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (dystopic political intrigue)

    Timiat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey (space opera)

    The Second Sleep by Robert Harris (post-apocalyptic mundane SF)

    The Wall by John Lanchester (mundane SF climate fiction)

    A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (wide-screen space opera)

    The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (science fiction)

    Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju by Kim Newman (fantastical horror)

    Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky (wide-screen space opera)

    The Poison Song by Jen Williams (sword and sorcery)

    Best SF films (dramatic presentation long-form) of 2019

    Avengers: Endgame (Trailer here)

    Black Flowers (Trailer here)

    I Am Mother (Trailer here)

    Joker (Trailer here)

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Trailer here)

    Us (Trailer here)

    Since the January posting, some of the above have gone on to be short-listed for awards, so perhaps there is a bit of a finger-on-the-pulse-thing going on?

  26. Best Novella (Science Fiction)
    Waterlines by Suzanne Palmer

    Count me as another enthusiastic fan of Waterlines. Great characters, story and worldbuilding. It’s making my Hugo nomination ballot. And Dunfroze is a great name for a town on an iceworld.

  27. Best Related Work

    Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin
    a documentary film by Arwen Curry

    This is a lovely tribute and topical examination of Le Guin’s works which completed filming before her death, including interviews with her, people who knew her well, and people who have been deeply influenced by her, and delivered in accessible, visually-arresting graphic form.


    (eligibility extended by WSFS for 2020)

  28. Best Related Work

    The Pleasant Profession Of Robert A. Heinlein
    by Farah Mendlesohn

    This critical analysis and discussion of Heinlein’s work is respectful but honest, recognizing both the positive and negative aspects of the author and his work, and presented in a way that can be understood and appreciated by all fans (not just academics).

    Alec Nevala-Lee’s insightful review of the book

    Available from all online bookstores (Amazon US link)

  29. Best Related Work

    The Moon by Oliver Morton
    Profile Books

    Far from being a dry scientific recitation of facts about the Moon, this is instead a poetically-lyrical account and analysis of the Moon’s influence on the geological and biological life of Earth, on humans’ belief systems and art and literature and scientific striving.

    Review of The Moon at The Space Review

    Available from all online bookstores (Amazon US link)

  30. Best Related Work

    Hugosauriad: A Dinographic Account of the Hugo Awards by Camestros Felapton

    I admit when this series first began that I regarded it as little more than humorous take on the appearance of dinosaurs in the history of the Hugo Awards. But as the posts went on, I realized that this is actually a really insightful and interesting analysis of the pervasive influence that the magic and mysticism of humans’ perceptions of this early form of sentient life has had on the SFF field, and the way that this influence changed as science revealed more about saurids’ evolution and physiology.

    Index to the complete Hugosauriad

Comments are closed.