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. Novels
    Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchiakovsky, Orbit
    The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan, Orbit
    A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K J Parker, Orbit
    Flint and Mirror by John Crowley, Tor
    Quantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross, Tor.com
    The Art of Prophecy: The War Arts Saga, Book One by Wesley Chu, Del Rey

  2. I read a lot of older stuff these days, but one 2023 book I think worth your time:

    The World We Make, N.K. Jemisin, Orbit books. Novel. Sequel to 2020’s The City We Became — itself an expansion of 2016’s “The City Born Great” (https://www.tor.com/2016/09/28/the-city-born-great/) — this one takes the concept … I won’t say “as far as it can go,” but pretty darn far into the out-there, ending up conceptually in territory as much Stapeledon’s as Lovecraft’s, but mostly Jemisin’s own. I like Big Ideas stories, and the Big Idea here is as big as any BDO offered by Clarke, Bear, or Niven.

  3. @kyra Reading and writing too late at night. They are 2022 works. I was thinking that said 2023 Hugos (i.e. published in 2022). I see now this post is tracking forward for the 2024 list.

  4. The Scarab Mission, James Cambias, Baen Books (I know, I know). Novel.
    A return to the Billion Worlds of the Godel Operation. In this one, a deep space salvage team visits a habitat known for the arts that had a catastrophic accident 16 years earlier. In 30 days, the habitat goes on a 50 year orbit to the outer system. In the mean time, the crew are free to salvage high value items.
    Needless to say, things don’t go according to plan…
    Liked: The setting and world building. Characters. Ratcheting tension. Details of salvaging the habitat.
    Disliked: The opposition. And how one character suddenly grew a conscience.

  5. @ Sean Mead. That said, the eyes of the void trilogy will probably be on my series nomination for 2024.

  6. Josh Reidel’s Please Report Your Bug Here is coming out next week. Definitely sounded fun, almost an isekai-ish premise with shades of Scalzi’s TKPS- style protagonist. Anyone else hear about that one?

  7. Best Novel
    The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz
    Lone Women by Victor LaValle

    I got access to both of these through NetGalley, and they were both excellent. The Terraformers is a far-future SF novel in which the leader of a terraforming crew discovers something that will reshape her understanding of her past, her terraforming project, and the larger society she lives in. It’s full of cool SFnal ideas, interesting characters, and thoughtful social commentary.

    Lone Women is a genre mash-up between historical horror and Westerns. Set in 1914, it follows a Black woman who moves to Montana to homestead following a family tragedy. She’s carrying a very heavy steamer trunk with her–a trunk that absolutely must never be opened. I liked this even more than LaValle’s previous books The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling.

  8. The Stolen Heir, by Holly Black

    Novel (YA, 1st in a duology, 4th in an overarching series, 8th in a series-setting world)

    Suren, still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana chases her through the night streets.

    A well-written book that presents an excellent character study of its abused and conflicted lead. The one flaw is that I was able to see the big ending twist coming from a long way away, but it didn’t ruin another great entry in Holly Black’s extensive fairy series.

  9. Now She Is Witch, by Kirsty Logan

    Novel

    Lux has lost everything when Else finds her, alone in the woods. Her family, her lover, her home – all burned. Else has not found Lux by accident. She needs her help to seek revenge against the man who wronged her, and together they pursue him north. But on their hunt they will uncover dark secrets that entangle them with dangerous adversaries.

    Powerful, lyrical, and vivid. A story about the choices women are constrained to make, the stories they are forced to live, and the tangled path towards breaking free. I loved it, as I’ve loved everything Kirsty Logan has written.

  10. The Infinite, by Ada Hoffmann

    Novel (3rd in a trilogy)

    Time is running out for the planet Jai. The artificially intelligent Gods who rule the galaxy have withdrawn their protection from the chaos-ravaged world, just as their most ancient enemy closes in. For Yasira Shien, who has devoted herself to the fragile planet’s nascent rebellion, it’s time to do or die – and the odds are overwhelming.

    A fantastic conclusion to this epic, innovative trilogy. There are many praises I could heap upon it, from its empathetic moral compass to its continuing examination of non-neurotypicality. But I particularly want to mention the mid-book twist, which was so clearly apparent in retrospect that I wanted to yell at the characters for not figuring it out … except that I only figured it out around the same time they did. That’s what I call a well-done twist. Also, I highly approve of the idea that if you have access to time travel on the brink of an imminent crisis, you should use it to take a long vacation first.

  11. From Interzone Magazine Issue 294 January 2023:

    Novelette (there are no word counts in the magazine, or on the website that I can find, but I think that’s what this is):

    “Murder by Proxy” by Philip Fracassi. This is a long story with a noir/horror edge. The tone is set immediately, with the protagonist’s cynical, world-weary voice. Granted, this is bordering on cliche and nothing we haven’t heard countless times before. Still, as the story goes along it gets more interesting and gradually sets itself apart, especially with the introduction of the AI antagonist and the touch of the supernatural in the protagonist’s phobia of puppets. The author does a very good job of describing how creepy toys can be.

    Short Stories:

    “The Coming of the Extroverts” by Daniel Bennett. This is a shorter, cyberpunkish story with a protagonist (amusingly) named Moog. (Somebody remembers the Moog synthesizer, eh?) It has a nice twist to it, and it’s all there in the opening sentences. The ending is also a clever little tip to UFO buffs and X-Files fans.

    “The Building Across the Street” by R.T. Ester. This is an absorbing little onion of a story. It gradually peels the layers back on an interstellar mystery, with the setting serving up a side of dystopia.

    “Last Act of the Revolution” by Louise Hughes. This is a quiet character study asking an interesting question: what happens to the fiery revolutionary when she can’t let go of all the years of fighting, now that she has attained her goal? I think this is my favorite story in the issue.

    Novella

    The Keeper’s Six, Kate Elliott. Combine excellent worldbuilding with a sixty-year-old female protagonist who goes on a quest to protect her son and grandchildren, squaring off against a dragon in the process, and you have a winner.

  12. Graphic novel

    Why Don’t You Love Me?, Paul B. Rainey

    I hate to say much about this one – I read Abigail Nussbaum’s review and bought and read this the same weekend, because she made it sound so good, and I didn’t want to encounter spoilers.

  13. Novelette

    Anais Gets a Turn, R.T. Ester, Clarkesworld, January 2023

    The world-organism is awake and has spent the last decade playing round after round of tic-tac-toe with itself.

    Short story

    Sharp Undoing, Natasha King, Clarkesworld, January 2023

    A tightly-written wetware story.

  14. For Related Work I’m considering this video essay by YouTuber Andrewism (real name Andrew Sage), titled How To Build a Solarpunk City. It’s based on the titular literary and artistic movement, which developed as a reaction to dystopian media, built around the concept of renewable energy and sustainable futures. This works as a manifesto for solarpunk, outlining its tenets and how they could be applies to real life via city planning. Also Sage just has a lovely voice to listen to, which matches perfectly to the poetic nature of his essay.

  15. Novel

    Concurring with Nina about Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers–it doesn’t have as strong a plot as some (echoes of Becky Chambers) but the fascinating worldbuilding and well-developed characters (including a sentient train!) carry it through.

  16. Do filers have thoughts on the recent, buzzy first season of The Last of Us? Standouts of that include the surprisingly romantic “Long, Long Time” and the devastating “Endure and Survive.”

  17. “Long, Long Time” is on my short list (I liked it just a teeny bit more than “Endure and Survive”) and I’m also considering nominating the season as a whole for Long Form. I want to get it on the ballot somewhere.

  18. Short Stories

    From the February issue of Clarkesworld:

    “Somewhere, It’s About To Be Spring” by Samantha Murray and “Silo, Sweet Silo” by James Castles

    These stories have a bit of a similar premise–an artificial intelligence awakening to sentience–but diffferent executions. The former is a lovely story about a ship’s “multicore computer” losing her crew but gaining a new family, and the latter is the story of a war machine who learns it doesn’t have to fight and die. This last is the author’s first published story, and holy crap if he turns out work like that, he’s going to have a bright future.

  19. I’m curious how far a campaign for episode 2 of the web series A Fox in Space could go for Dramatic Presentation, Short Work. It’s an indie animation/fanwork based on Nintendo’s Star Fox series of games (not that knowledge of the games is needed to enjoy it), restructuring the setting with the breadth of a space opera and a more realistic, dramatic tone. This segment of the series is a prequel set before the events of the first episode, this time following Fox McCloud’s father James. Animator Matthew Gafford has been working on this thing for a literal seven years – I was in my final year of high school when the first episode came out, now I’m 25 and in awe that the second has not only met, but exceeded my expectations.

  20. Novel

    A House With Good Bones, T. Kingfisher

    Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon strikes gold again, with this Southern gothic horror story. This book is a little longer than her previous novellas, and has all the atmosphere, creeping sense of dread, relatable practical characters, and final explosion of rocket-ride horror that seems to be her trademark. I don’t think it’s quite as good as last year’s What Moves the Dead, but it’s still excellent.

  21. DP-SHORT FORM

    The Owl House, “Watching and Dreaming”

    Disney’s animated young adult/family fantasy series The Owl House, faced with the indignity of a vastly truncated final season, managed to ace the assignment within three hour-long episodes culminating in a breathtaking series finale. I’ll also place the previous two episodes here for context & because they’re worth watching. Surprisingly they’re all still officially on Youtube!

  22. Best Novel: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty
    Sea captain Amina al-Sirafi has had a long and rewarding career, but now she just wants to raise her daughter in peace. But when the granddaughter of one of her crewmen goes missing, she’s drawn back into her old life of danger and derring-do.

    It was fun to read a fantasy novel with a female protagonist who’s old enough to have a ten-year-old daughter and a bad knee. The side characters were engaging and I liked the plot. The book is set in the same world as the Daevabad Trilogy, but you don’t need to have read that series to understand it.

  23. @Nina: Thanks for posting that information! I loved the Daevabad Trilogy a ton, and was planning on getting Chakraborty’s new one anyway, but I didn’t realize it was set in the same world. Good to know, and this moves it up higher on my “why haven’t I bought this already?!” list. 😉

    Thanks again!

  24. Dead Country, by Max Gladstone

    Novel (1st in a trilogy, 7th in an overarching series)

    Since her village chased her out with pitchforks, Tara Abernathy has resurrected gods, pulled down monsters, averted wars, and saved a city twice. She thought she’d left her dusty little hometown forever. But that was before her father died. As she makes her way home to bury him, she finds a girl, as powerful and vulnerable and lost as she once was. In saving her from the raiders that haunt the area, Tara changes the course of the world.

    Although there’s an interesting twist or two, for the most part the plot of this book is fairly straightforward — closer in spirit to Four Roads Cross than Three Parts Dead. And like Four Roads Cross, it benefits greatly from a focus on Tara, long one of Gladstone’s most interesting characters.

  25. +1 for A House With Good Bones, by T. Kingfisher

    Novel

    Sam Montgomery quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.

    Another of Kingfisher’s no-nonsense heroines tackles supernatural horror with aplomb and, in this case, archaeoentomology. And yes, there is a witch who gardens. Good stuff.

  26. Novel

    The Strange, Nathan Ballingrud

    This is billed as The Martian Chronicles meets True Grit, and that’s exactly right. It has an old-fashioned pulp feel to it, a Martian adventure story invoking memories of Arthur C. Clarke and Edgar Rice Burroughs (although thankfully lacking the racism and Confederate-veteran-protagonist of the latter). It’s a fast-paced page-turner that I didn’t expect to like, but ended up enjoying quite a bit.

  27. Graphic Novel

    Why Don’t You Love Me? Paul B. Rainey

    Abigail Nussbaum tipped me off to this, proving once again that she has impeccable taste. This is a bit hard to talk about–usually I don’t mind spoilers, but with this one you absolutely have to go into it cold, as the mid-book plot twist retextualizes and will make you re-evaluate everything that came before. Suffice to say that said plot twist is definitely SFnal in nature, and this is the first really good graphic novel of 2023.

  28. Best Novel: The Endless Song by Joshua Philip Johnson
    This is the sequel to Johnson’s debut novel, The Forever Sea. Kindred has descended into the depths of the Sea, to a place few people have ever gone. Meanwhile, up on the surface, the ramifications of her actions spread across the country, which is already struggling to deal with an increased number of attacks by strange monsters.

    I was really drawn in by the characters in this book, especially Flitch and his family. And Johnson maintains the sense of wonder and mystery that were so strong in the first installment.

    @Kendall: The cross-over with the Daevabad Trilogy is fairly brief: a minor character from the trilogy shows up in this book. But they’re definitely part of the same world.

  29. Thirsty Animals, by Rachelle Atalla

    Novel

    The world is running out of water. The service station Aida works at grows emptier with each day, and suspicious strangers have arrived on the farm and are beginning to overstay their welcome. With the horrific scenes she witnessed at the border — between those with water and those without — she wonders how it could get any worse.

    In an all-too-plausible vision of the near future, Rachelle Atalla examines how people are affected by catastrophe — how it brings out both the best of humanity and the absolute worst. Often both in the same person, because Atalla’s characters are never simple or easy to categorize. Instead, they are as strange and complicated as people truly are.

  30. The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan. Novel. Sequel to The Justice of Kings.
    Helena and Vonvalt head to the Sovan capital to root out corruption among Vonvalt’s Order and to convince the Emperor of the urgency of threat Patria Claver poses to the empire with his theft of Order magics. Things do not go as planned.
    I enjoyed the layered characterizations, the political machinations among various social power bases, and the role that forbidden secrets play in destabilizing countries and organizations.

  31. Novel

    Some Desperate Glory, Emily Tesh

    I liked the author’s previous novellas, but they didn’t wow me. This book did. This is a space opera that tackles some pretty heavy themes (fascism and genocide, among others) with excellent characterization. The main character is very unlikable (at least at the beginning) but she is compelling.

  32. Best Series

    The Final Architecture, Adrian Tchaikovsky

    We’ll see whether Lords of Uncreation stays on my Novel list, but the series has a lock for me. LoU addresses prior plot points in satisfying and occasionally poignant ways, and one of the previous supporting characters gets to star in some logical and gleeful developments.

  33. Best Novel

    Chain-Gang All-Stars, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

    Near-future extrapolation of the American prison-industrial complex meets The Hunger Games. Not as unlikely as one could hope, and all too human.

  34. Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

    Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse

    I already counted the first film as one of my favorites of all-time and this comes along and readily surpasses it. Genuinely stunned at what I watched yesterday. Takes the “anyone can be Spider-Man” theme of the first film and uses it to interrogate our understanding of what it “means” to be Spider-Man. If you ask me, this is the closest a movie’s ever gotten to fully embodying the feel of a (really good) Modern Age comic book. Of course, as a fan of animation, I’m over the moon this movie exists the way it does.

  35. Best Novel
    Witch King, Martha Wells

    Read this in 2 days, could not put it down. Wonderful, layered fantasy.
    I should note the Locus reviewer found this confusing, I had no trouble at all.

  36. Novella

    The Salt Grows Heavy, Cassandra Khaw

    This is a fairy tale retelling/sequel to The Little Mermaid that definitely is a throwback to the older, darker, bloodier type of fairy tale. It has absolutely gorgeous prose–I read it slowly just to savor the writing–but be warned: it is extremely gory. Anyone who can’t handle blood and guts should not even open this book. But if you can cope with that, it is a fierce, beautiful story.

  37. Best Novel

    Lone Women, Victor LaValle

    For me the historical elements dominate over the fantasy/horror ones, but a great read.

  38. Novel/Lodestar

    To Shape a Dragon’s Breath, Moniquill Blackgoose

    This is a wonderful fantasy/alternate history of America–with dragons!–that has important things to say about our world’s history of colonialism, racism and white supremacy. I’m wavering between Novel and Young Adult categories because although the protagonist is 15, this does not have a YA feel to it. But it’s so good I’m going to put it somewhere.

  39. Lords of Uncreation, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

    Novel (3rd in a Trilogy)

    This third and final novel depicts humanity on the brink of extinction—and reveals how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

    This is not a perfect book — the structure is odd, resembling two shorter books stuck together, and some of the more interesting characters from the earlier books (Kris and Solace especially) get sidelined in this one. But it also serves as a much-deserved showcase for Olli, and the end is solid, satisfying, and makes sense. In spite of its flaws, this one gets a definite thumbs up from me.

  40. Short Story: “Met Swallow” by Cassandra Khaw and “The Unexpected Excursion of the Murder Mystery-Writing Witches” by Garth Nix (both in The Book of Witches, edited by Jonathan Strahan)

    These two stories are very different from each other, but they’re both excellent. In “Met Swallow,” a huli-jing (a fox spirit) takes over the body of a recently-deceased witch. Living that witch’s life, she uncovers truths about her life and family. This is a poignant story about complicated family relationships.

    “The Unexpected Excursion of the Murder Mystery-Writing Witches” postulates an alternate history in which Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers were both witches. It’s a fun story that deserves the adjective “rollicking.”

  41. Novel

    Translation State, Ann Leckie

    About 20% in, I reflected that the current state of the book was the 75% mark of a straightforward McGuffin story, but Leckie’s telling something else. I’d put TS about midway between Ancillary Justice and Provenance in the scope of the action. And as always, there are some quietly hilarious moments.

    Witch King, Martha Wells

    I’ve noticed a split among reviews between ride-or-die Murderbot fans and those who have read past Wells fantasy – I’d read everything pre-Raksura, before Murderbot arrived to steal our hearts. If you’re 100% Team Murderbot, you may want to read a sample and see if lots of worldbuilding and learning what’s going on works for you. It works for me, but this is different and slower-building than Wells’ SF.

  42. I’ll second the recommendation for

    Translation State, by Ann Leckie

    Novel (stand-alone, but fifth in its setting)

    When Enae’s grandmaman passes away, Enae inherits something entirely unexpected: a diplomatic assignment to track down a fugitive who has been missing for over 200 years. Meanwhile, Reet knows nothing about his biological family. He loves his adoptive parents, but has always secretly yearned to understand his identity. And Qven was created to be a translator for the alien Presgr. As a Conclave of the various species approaches — and the long-standing treaty between the humans and the Presgr is on the line — the paths of all three will collide in a chain of events that will have ripple effects across galaxies.

    A book that’s by turns philosophical, humorous, and adventure-driven. Ann Leckie takes science fiction and uses it to examine the issues of identity, personhood, and belonging at the far-flung speculative intersections of technology, sentience, and species. If that sounds complicated… it actually isn’t. As in the real world, basic concepts of rights and self-determination aren’t difficult, just sometimes inconvenient for those in power.

  43. And I’ll also second the recommendation for:

    Witch King, by Martha Wells

    Novel

    After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well. But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place?

    Wells brings her trademark rich worldbuilding to a new fantasy realm replete with interesting characters. If I had any issues with it, it’s that there’s almost too much world and characters for the story — a lot of intriguing threads were left hanging at the end. But the book is a page-turner, there’s no doubt about that.

    (I also, in fact, had a similar minor issue with Translation State, above — at the end, I was left with some questions that seemed like they would be answered within the book, but never were.)

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