2023 Recommended SF/F List

Cat Rambo’s Taco

This thread is for posts about 2023-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:”
  • “What I liked / didn’t like about it:”
  • (Please rot-13 any spoilers.)

There is a permalink to this thread in the blog header.

[Based on a post by JJ.]

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111 thoughts on “2023 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Dragonfall, by L. R. Lam


    Arcady scrapes a living on the streets of Vatra. Desperate, they steal a powerful artifact from the bones of the Plaguebringer, the most hated person in Lumet history. But this connects Arcady to Everen, the last male dragon, dragging him through the Veil. Disguised as a human, Everen soon learns that to regain his true power and form and fulfil his destiny, he only needs to convince Arcady to trust him enough to bond completely–body, mind, and soul–and then kill them.

    While there’s a lot going on in this book (heists, prophecies, magic, betrayals), I think it largely stands or falls on the strength of the central enemies-to-lovers romance. And I thought it was a pretty good one.

  2. Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

    The setting is familiar – the ship leaving Earth with colonists, crossing interstellar space for the first time in the history of humanity. But look closer – the crew is all female, and many of them pregnant, as this is a generation ship engaged in a slower-than-light-speed decades-long voyage. The visceral shock of worrying about radiation exposure on a pregnancy made me wonder if the author could credibly pull this off, but she reassured me within the first few pages – in which we are introduced to our protagonist, Asuka, who just barely made the cut onto the voyage due to a lack of resources in her childhood education and is therefore relegated to the role of general dogsbody helping the specialists in an endless drudgery of temporary assistant roles.

    The mission that opens the book seems just as routine – a spacewalk to discover what that weird mark that just appeared on the outer hull is. But an exploding bomb kills 3 crewmembers and almost kills Asuka herself. Someone on the ship is trying to sabotage the mission – and Asuka, as the only non-specialist without a permanent job onboard, is ordered to investigate. The novel becomes a murder mystery set in space, with the protagonist investigator hampered at every turn by her lowly rank among the crew, by old personal grudges and political undercurrents of a multinational mission turning all aboard against each other, and by the VR that all on the ship use 24/7, which helps everyone tolerate the cramped quarters and bare metal walls of the long-term voyage by making them seem like any lovely Earth environment, but (as Asoka discovers) can also be used to obscure, to misdirect, and even to threaten. Is the ship AI an accomplice? Does the author manage to write a successful murder mystery, delivering a thrilling whodunit with its deadly puzzles in this rarified science fiction atmosphere? Yes, she does. Most importantly of all, does the author convincingly paint our protagonist, the ship around her, and the world that made her – a child of parents of two nations, neither fully accepting or supporting her, growing up with the disadvantage of poverty on an Earth frantically trying to backpedal from the edge of edge of ecological apocalypse – believably enough to make them real, so that you care deeply what happens to them all? Yes, yes she does.
    Highly recommended.

  3. Novel

    The Reformatory, Tananarive Due

    This is ostensibly a horror novel, as it has supernatural elements (ghosts, here called “haints”). I don’t care. This is one of the best books I have read from last year. It tells the story of a “Reformatory” for boys in Florida during the height of the Jim Crow era (one of Due’s relatives was sent to the real-life school the Reformatory is based on, and died there). The “haints” are alien and scary, but the real horror is the school and the white supremacist system that enables it. Due does not pull her punches telling this story, so be aware. But this is one powerful book.

  4. Black Sails to Sunward, by Sheila Jenné


    In a world of frock coats, solar sails, and rigid class boundaries, Lucy joins the Martian Imperial Navy as a midshipman. Mars and Earth are at war, and Lucy hopes for quick promotion. But when she arrives aboard ship, she finds her childhood ex-friend, Moira, already there. Class differences got in the way of their budding romance five years ago, and both of them are nursing grudges. When Moira mutinies and becomes a pirate, taking Lucy captive, Lucy now has to rely on her enemy for her life.

    I’ll start by saying that if you want to enjoy this book, you have to accept that the technological future depicted is a wildly implausible one. There is a figleaf of explanation, but it’s mostly just an excuse to have a tall ships naval adventure in space. That being said, this certainly isn’t the only book in that subgenre, and there are others, like steampunk, that require as much of a willing suspension of disbelief. And if you are willing to do that, this is a book with a lot to it — not just spaceship battles, interplanetary war, and pirates, although it has plenty of those, but also an interrogation of the horrific class and economic distinctions that pervade a society with flogging and press gangs. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

  5. Silver Nitrate, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


    Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood. Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives.

    I think this is my favorite Silvia Moreno-Garcia novel of the ones I’ve read so far. Tightly plotted with great characters, and an ending that more than sticks the landing. I also appreciated that it didn’t hold my hand and carefully explain all of its internal references; it is what it is and it’s set where it’s set, and that very much adds rather than detracts.

  6. The Twice-Drowned Saint, by C. S. E Cooney

    Novel (Note — this is a revised version of a novella published several years earlier.)

    Contained inside impassable walls of ice, the city of Gelethel endures under the rule of fourteen angels, who provide for all their subject’s needs and mete out grisly punishments for blasphemous infractions, with escape attempts one of the worst possible sins.

    Inventive, intriguing, and wild. Diabolical angels rule an ice-encased city in the desert. Criminals divide their minds because they’re also the possessed police. Cinephiles suffer from having to view the same silent films over and over. And honestly, it’s even stranger than I’m making it sound. Great stuff.

  7. These Burning Stars, by Bethany Jacobs

    Novel (1st in a trilogy)

    A dangerous cat-and-mouse quest for revenge. An empire that spans star systems, built on the bones of a genocide. A carefully hidden secret that could collapse worlds, hunted by three women with secrets of their own

    This is a debut science fiction novel that presents an intriguing society and a heckuva twist towards the end. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book in the trilogy.

  8. Novella

    A Theory of Haunting, Sarah Monette

    Monette’s latest Kyle Murchison Booth story has all the old school ghost-story eerieness of previous stories, plus more space to explore its haunted house setting. I’m not a big horror reader, so others could probably make a better comparison, but if you like the feel of T. Kingfisher’s Sworn Soldier series, this may be a good read. (And Monette is also Katherine Addison, of course.)

  9. Traitor of Redwinter by Ed McDonald.

    I wasn’t that impressed by Daughter of Redwinter – it was good enough but I didn’t think it quite reached the level of The Raven’s Mark trilogy

    But the setup pays off in Traitor of Redwinter, stuffed full of revelations, action and unexpected developments – but not overstuffed. The second book of a trilogy is often meh – this quite definitely is not.

  10. Harrison on January 27, 2024 at 12:16 pm said:
    Is Yellowface by RF Kuang eligible under Best Related Work?

    Obviously, this is a moot point at this time (either you’ve nominated or not), but I don’t think this category can be stretched that far. From the WSFS Consitution 3.3.7: Best Related Work:

    … and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.

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