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.]

85 thoughts on “2023 Recommended SF/F List

  1. Series/Novel

    +1 for The Final Architecture in Series; and Lords of Uncreation in Novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky

    I don’t usually read doorstoppers, but I think I’m going to make an exception for every book this author writes. This book wraps up the series in fine fashion, with some breathtaking battle scenes and fine character moments, and definitely sticks the landing.

  2. “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds”, by Sarah Rees Brennan

    Novelette (set in the same world as her novel In Other Lands)

    A magical diplomatic crisis is waiting to happen when an exiled dwarven prince runs into criminals, his part-human cousin, and a certain young man referred to by the western fortresses as the Redheaded Trouble…

    This had just the balance of thoughtful insight and humor that fans of In Other Lands would expect. Wonderful to see the world — and some familiar characters — from a very different perspective.

    I’m not sure anyone who hasn’t read In Other Lands will get the full effect of this, but if you haven’t, well, you know, do so immediately because it’s amazing.

  3. Best Series: Charles Stross, “The Laundry Files” (Qualifying work Season of Skulls) –

    Stross’ long-running horror series really sticks the landing with this one, with bizarre (and often surprisingly funny) time-travel and (for want of a better word) meme-travel shenangans. It’s not the end of the series, but it ties up several loose ends in the meta-story-thus far; a satisfying, erm, staircase-landing if not summit.

    This series is about what happens when British bureaucracy squares off against Lovecraftian horrors. (The Laundry is the code-name for a super-secret organization devoted to trying to contain such horrors…with, shall we say, mixed success.) Stross, incidentally, is NOT a Lovecraft apologist.

    I don’t like horror. I really don’t. But this series (and also, parenthetically, anything by Oor Wombat) breaks that rule, for what it’s worth. And this is a case where I really do think that the whole (thus far) is better than the sum of its parts, which is exactly what the Best Series category is for in my opinion.

    This novel is number 12 or 13 in the series (depending on whether you count a novella that Kobo seems to think is #12); the particular characters’ narratives featured in Season of Skulls starts at novel #10, Dead Lies Dreaming and continues in #11, Quantum of Nightmares. (If you’ve not read this series, starting at #10 will probably not leave you completely bewildered, as there was a… singularity… not long before the events in that book and what you learn in previous books doesn’t entirely apply anymore (she said, elliptically…) but if you’re reading from #10, skip Escape from Yokai Land as, by internal chronology, it happens several books earlier, and it features characters you don’t need to know about).

  4. Hurry Up Living, by Nicolas Vic Dupont, Sea Lion Press, 2023

    Best Novel, Astounding

    ”Hurry Up Living” is an intense alternate history, in which a man from the present suddenly wakes up in the body of a Polish officer in 1938.

    There is no realistic way for him to prevent WWII. But he can do his best to survive and to change the course of history. It will be a desperate struggle against impossible odds, where victory has a price.

    This book is very difficult to put down. I believe it is a future classic of alternate history.

  5. Dramatic Presentation Long Form:

    Come on, don’t look at me like that.

    Director Greta Gerwig and her co-writer Noah Baumbach already have extensive pedigrees, so it was fair to assume that whatever they popped out for this project would at least be pretty alright. I still wasn’t expecting it to be THAT good (I thought I learned my lesson with The Lego Movie).

    What Gerwig and Baumbach do here is take a movie that’s ostensibly a toy commercial for a doll and introduce a thesis statement on existentialism – on the things that make us human and the things that make that hard – and gender (the nature of Barbiehood and Kenhood) in a way that slowly creeps up on you until you find yourself emotionally invested and struck by the film’s climax. And it’s still funny! Extremely funny. Add to that the performances from the entire cast and the production design (Barbieland looks incredible) and you have what is, no joke, probably one of the best films of the year? I’ll likely put this on my ballot and not feel weird about it!

  6. Haven’t seen it yet (Planning to. Definitely going to), but what do you all reckon the chances are of Oppenheimer getting nominated? The biographical films that have been nominated (Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures) both focus on more, well, positive attributes of scientific progress (I’d argue that this carries over to the Apollo 11 footage and Cosmos), in contrast to Oppenheimer‘s focus on nuclear weapons and testing. I don’t think that’s really a “rule” or anything, but I remember when the HBO miniseries Chernobyl came out and it never really got any buzz in Hugo corners. I wonder if Oppenheimer would be able to clear that hurdle with Worldcon members–with the benefit of being centered around one of the most famous physicists of all time and, in turn, possibly being more science-centered.

  7. Novella

    The Mimicking of Known Successes, Malka Older

    Was sure this was a 2022 release, but evidently not.

    SFF mystery is my absolute sweet spot, and I enjoyed this one a lot. Really effective translation of the Victorian gaslamp setting and some of its conventions, like the Moderns and Classics departments at the university. Fun world-building to think about in general, if possibly not too critically. The mystery itself wasn’t very strong as a mystery investigation, but it also fit the feel of the story well. Looking forward to the next in series.

  8. Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

    “The Empire Strips Back: A Burlesque Parody”

    This may strike some as a … peculiar … item to have on one’s shortlist, but I assure you that it was extremely well done; the dancers (female and male) were superb, the costuming, props, and set-pieces were effective, and it was honestly a more enjoyable two hours than any I’ve spent in a movie theater for years. Currently playing in Chicago, New York, and Seattle if I’m reading the schedule correct; soon to open in Paris, Vancouver, and Portland (I don’t know which Portland).

    Worth checking out if you’re local to any of the above regions, and over 18 years old.

  9. Best Novella: Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee
    Ever since her mother and brother were killed by a manticore, Ester’s dream has been to join the Royal Mews, where hunters partner with rocs to hunt the monsters. Of course, training a seven-foot-tall raptor comes with its own dangers. The difficulty and intensity of the profession produces a close-knit community. Once Ester completes her training and gets out into the field with her roc, Zahra, her skills and her relationship with fellow rukhers Nasmin and Darius will both be tested to their limit.

    Lee does a wonderful job of describing the beauty and majesty of the rocs and gives us a sympathetic main character in Ester. I enjoyed reading about her growing friendship with Darius and Nasmin, and there was a real sense of danger in the manticore-hunting scenes. This one was unputdownable for me.

  10. Novel

    The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett

    Nero Wolfe style murder investigation with bonus Kaiju attacks. This was a thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery; Bennett didn’t cheat (the clues were all there) but I was still caught by surprise by several developments. The book is self-contained but there is the possibility of sequels, which I, for one, am looking forward to. I read this as an ARC from Netgalley.

  11. A Sleight of Shadows, by Kat Howard

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    After taking down the source of the corruption of the Unseen World, Sydney is left with almost no magical ability. Feeling estranged from herself, she is determined to find a way back to her status as one of the world’s most dangerous magicians. Unfortunately, she needs to do this quickly: the House of Shadows, the hell on earth that shaped her into who she was, the place she sacrificed everything to destroy, is rebuilding itself.

    This long awaited sequel to An Unkindness of Magicians has both the same virtues and the same flaws as the original. And to be honest, that meant I had mixed feelings about it. The repetition of the flaws makes them seem a little more glaring this time around — like the sometimes stilted dialogue and the lack of any real feeling of danger for Sydney, with the addition of a fairly important character dying without much of anyone seeming to care. But it also retains the beautiful prose and the sharp social commentary that made the first book special. And I did enjoy revisiting the characters and the world.

  12. The Shadow Cabinet, by Juno Dawson

    Novel (2nd in a series)

    Suffering from amnesia, Ciara can’t remember what she’s done. But if she wants to survive, she must fool the coven and the murky Shadow Cabinet — a secret group of mundane civil servants who are already suspicious of witches. While she tries to rebuild her past, she realizes none of her past has forgotten her, including her former lover, renegade warlock Dabney Hale.

    The surprise shock ending of Her Majesty’s Royal Coven hit me so hard that I was almost afraid of starting this one. But I’m glad I did. It was even better than the first one. The one time I thought there was an implausible coincidence in the book, it turned out to be a clever, intentional set-up. My only (minor) issue is that Leonie’s story seems to meander a bit compared to the others. But that wasn’t much of an problem in a book full of revelations and twists, with real emotional punch. Five stars, thumbs way up.

  13. If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come, by Jen St. Jude

    Novel (YA)

    Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.

    It’s a book about depression, queer love, and the end of the world. And about people coming together just as everything else falls apart. The main characters are beautifully written, and even the minor ones are memorable.

  14. Novel: The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson.
    A journey of discovery starting with the main character trying to discover who they are while surviving in an early Medieval setting. Helped along by pieces of an explosively deconstructed guide to an ultimate tourist experience and locals that are insufficiently suspicious and overly friendly, he starts to orient himself until knocked off course and into the rescue of his new friend’s homeland.
    I enjoyed the characters who helped drive the MC to purpose, the setting, and the explanation for how this world came to be.

  15. “Prince Hat Underground”, by Kelly Link


    Gary has been happily married to Prince Hat for many years, but Prince Hat seldom speaks of his past. The reason for that finally becomes clear when Prince Hat’s former fiancee returns to take him to Hell.

    Kelly Link is one of the finest short story writers around, so it’s no surprise that when she turns her attention to fairy tales, the results are often spectacular and sometimes unsettling. “Prince Hat Underground” is one of the standout stories from her collection White Cat, Black Dog, and the only one first published in 2023.

  16. +1 for “Prince Hat Underground”

    Best Novel: To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose
    Anequs’s people used to partner with dragons, but when the dragons died off, they were left defenseless against the colonizing Anglish. Now, Anequs has found a dragon egg. When its hatchling bonds with her, she becomes the first nampeshiweisit–“one who belongs to a dragon”–in decades. To build a fruitful partnership with her dragon, she attends a school for dragon-riders where she’ll have to navigate difficult academic subjects, unfamiliar social customs, and stubbornly ingrained prejudices.
    Blackgoose has created some really wonderful and memorable characters, both human and dragon. I also loved her take on dragons’ breath: not merely fire (or some other element), but a force of transmutation. There’s also a lot of social commentary here on the exploitation and attempted genocide of Indigenous peoples, on class differences, and on neurodiversity.

    Best Graphic Story: A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll
    With her trademark mix of black-and-white art that makes the occasional vividly colored pages stand out, Carroll tells a story reminiscent of Rebecca. Abigail has often felt like a ghost in her own life, but after she marries Dave, she encounters a more literal ghost. Supposedly, Dave’s first wife Sheila died of cancer, but after one of Dave’s friends tells her a different story, she starts to wonder what else he’s lying about. Carroll manages an impressively deep psychological exploration of her main character in a story that doesn’t have lots of narration. And the story kept me guessing about Sheila’s true fate and the nature of the spirit Abigail sees.

  17. Thornhedge, by T. Kingfisher


    On the day of Toadling’s birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of Toadling: return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right? But nothing with fairies is ever simple.

    An utterly charming novella with loveable characters. And it really is a very sweet book, in spite of the murders and such.

  18. The Dark Lord’s Daughter, by Patricia Wrede.
    Kayla has always known she was adopted, but known nothing about her biological parents. (Having lived that situation for 32 years, I can relate!) At the Minnesota State Fair, a strange man approaches her…and before she knows it she and her mother and brother have been pulled into a high fantasy world. Where she is hailed as the new Dark Lady. Except that she doesn’t know anything about that world’s traditions: all she knows is Earth.

    Don’t be put off by the middle-grade branding here, or the 14-year-old protagonist: this is readily enjoyable by adults as it examines fantasy tropes with a dose of logic. If you liked Diana Wynne Jones’s Dark Lord of Derkholm, or “T. Kingfisher”‘s fairy tale retellings, you’ll probably like this one. Kayla has a down-to-earth sensibilty much like Kingfisher’s heroines.

  19. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth, by Andrew Joseph White

    Novel (could be considered YA)

    The Veil between the living and dead has thinned. Violet-eyed mediums commune with spirits under the watchful eye of the Royal Speaker Society, and sixteen-year-old Silas Bell would rather rip out his violet eyes than become an obedient Speaker wife. According to Mother, he’ll be married by the end of the year. It doesn’t matter that he’s needed a decade of tutors to hide his autism; that he practices surgery on slaughtered pigs; that he is a boy, not the girl the world insists on seeing.

    A gothic ghost story where the ghosts aren’t the monsters. People are. A beautifully-narrated, powerful book.

  20. Godkiller, by Hannah Kaner

    Novel (1st in a duology)

    Kissen’s family were killed by zealots of a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing gods, and enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a god of white lies, has somehow bound himself to a young noble, and they are both on the run from unknown assassins.

    Solid characters and plotting already put this book in quality territory, but what really elevates it more than anything else is the setting. When gods walk among people bestowing blessings and curses, what is it like? Pretty terrible, unsurprisingly, with sharp divides among those who love their gods, those who loath them, and those who seek only the power they can get from them. A fascinating, well-drawn world.

  21. Blade of Dream, by Daniel Abraham

    Novel (2nd in a trilogy)

    Garreth Left is heir to one of Kithamar’s most prominent merchant families. The path of his life was paved long before he was born. But in one night, a chance meeting with an enigmatic stranger changes everything. He falls in love with a woman whose name he doesn’t even know. His search for her leads him down corridors and alleys that are best left unexplored, where ancient gods hide in the shadows, and every deal made has a dangerous edge.

    The Kithamar trilogy has a clever conceit — it’s three books that follow the same events over the same period from the point of view of different characters. As well as letting the reader get more perspective on what happened with each iteration, it also allows each book to follow different themes. Where the first book was about grief and heroes, this one was about love and masks. It’s a great idea and I enjoyed this book immensely. My only objection was, well, I didn’t find Garreth and Elaine in this book to be quite as interesting characters as Alys and Sammish in the first. Their story seemed a little more familiar and a little less original to me. That may be the danger of switching characters with every book. But it’s an objection only in comparison, and I’m still looking forward to the third book, which I suspect will give a bit more attention to the gods who walk the streets of Kithamar.

  22. Novel: The Blighted Stars, Megan E. O’Keefe

    This follows (somewhat) the recent trend of “sentient-fungus-zombie-invasion,” but it is very much its own SF thing, with meticulous worldbuilding and excellent characterization. There’s a bit of an enemies-to-lovers romance between the two main characters, but it never overwhelms the story. This is the first of a trilogy, but it ends on a satisfactory stopping point of its own, with a great deal more story left to tell.

  23. Island of Whispers, by Frances Hardinge, with illustrations by Emily Gravett


    On the island of Merlank, the Dead must not be allowed to linger. The very sight of their ghosts can kill you. When young Milo is thrust into the role of Ferryman following his father’s sudden death, he is the one who must carry away the Dead.

    Inventive, intriguing, and a little bit eerie. And also absolutely delightful. In short, everything I expect from Frances Hardinge. Highly recommended.

  24. Oh, cool, I didn’t know there was a recommendations list here. Thanks to all for the recs!

    Two short story recs:

    The Field Guide for Next Time,” by Rae Mariz (kh?ré?, 7/2023). I have some quibbles with it, but it’s structurally and conceptually fascinating: it’s framed as a translation of a textile artwork into written words. 5k words.
    Better Living Through Algorithms,” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, 5/2023). An app recommends things for people to do. 5,600 words.

    One Related Work rec:

    To Every Other Jobu Tupaki After Jamie Lee Curtis’s Oscar Win,” by Maya Gittelman (Tor dot com, 3/2023). A powerful piece about the importance of the characters played by Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere, and about how disappointing it was to see Curtis win in the category that Hsu was also nominated in.

    …And a meta-rec: in case any of you don’t know about it, there’s another good recommendations list that’s organized by Lady Business.

  25. No single episodes in this rec, as it’s still ongoing and I’m hoping the show keeps the momentum going for the whole season for a potential Long Form slot on my ballot, but I’m putting in a big recommend for Scavengers Reign, an animated sci-fi drama series streaming on (HBO) Max. It’s a deceptively simple premise — survivors of a spaceship crash attempting to survive on an alien planet — fleshed out by a cast that feels authentic (including a worker robot who mysteriously gains sentience. Their name is Levi, and they’re the best), surrounded by alien environments and fauna that constitute some of the most beautiful visuals I’ve seen on television in a long while (think Jean Giraud).

    Content warning: this show gets violent. As serene as Scavengers Reign gets, there’s an undercurrent of horror underneath. Still, I think this is one that sci-fi fans should absolutely seek out and stick with (and keep in mind come nomination time)

  26. +1 for Hannah Kaner’s Godkiller

    I really appreciate the author making the effort to think through the ramifications of her central concept (humans making their deities come to literal life through their continued worship). This permeates every facet of the worldbuilding, and it’s fascinating.

  27. Short story

    +1 for Naomi Kritzer’s Better Living Through Algorithms. Once again she writes about some issues and decisions all of us may be thinking through in a few years.

    The Retcon Man, Cameron Fischer

    Part of Escape Pod’s Time Travel month. Packs a punch and strong characterization into 2900 words. Mur Lafferty describes it as having a Twilight Zone sensibility.

    Tuesday, June 13, at the South Valley Time Loop Support Group, Heather Kamins

    Also a time travel story, surprise, and a look at the subgenre tropes.

  28. Related Work:

    The Spice Must Flow: The Story of Dune, From Cult Novels To Visionary Sci-Fi Movies, by Ryan Britt

    This isn’t a biography of Frank Herbert or a discussion of the themes and philosophy of Dune. (It gets into that a little bit, but not in any great depth.) Rather, it follows the publishing history and (especially) the filmography of the books, including the 1984 movie, the early-oughts SyFy miniseries, and the 2021 film. The author’s focus is pretty narrow, but what he does cover is quite interesting.

  29. Novel

    Starling House, Alix E. Harrow

    I’ve been a fan of the author for years, but this is her best yet: her unique spin on the Southern gothic haunted-house ghost story. The setting, plot and characters are rich and layered, and feature her trademark exploration of stories within stories and the power they yield. This book beats out everything else I have read this year.

  30. Related Work

    MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards.

    Keep in mind that reading between the lines is necessary as the portions that touch on Kevin Feige and his errors is very much a puff piece, a panegyric, and an apologia on behalf of Feige. That said, his apparent sponsorship opened a lot of doors and there is good information from a lot of sources that might not otherwise have participated on the early years of the movie studio. It sheds a lot of light on business and interpersonal relationships that have affected this franchise over the years.

  31. Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

    A suggestion in for “Deep Time”, the final episode of the elusive show Pantheon, because in spite of regional restrictions brought about by complicated copyright snafus, I truly believe this is one of the finest sci-fi episodes of 2023 and deserves both more eyes and an honest shot at the ballot — it’s on mine.

    Catch it while this YouTube upload is still up, alongside the rest of the season.

    The more available first season is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.

  32. Short story

    All are from Never Too Old to Save the World, edited by Addie J. King and Alana Joli Abbott. The general publication and copyright date is 2023, although I got it from the Kickstarter in November 2022.

    “Launch Day Milkshakes,” Jim C. Hines

    Two backers of an interstellar mission observe launch day developments.

    “Once a Queen,” Alana Joli Abbott

    A woman takes her niece to the summer camp where her own adventures began.

    “By the Works of Her Hands,” LaShawn M. Wanak

    “LaTeiqua thinks she is too old for this.” But she’s got a portal anyway, and tropes to subvert in heartwarming ways.

  33. Mysteries of Thorn Manor, by Margaret Rogerson

    Novella (YA, 2nd in a series)

    Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets.

    A charming confection of a novella. After the world was saved in the first book, here the stakes are much lower but no less compelling. Most romances depend on the characters, and Elisabeth and Nathaniel are particularly loveable. And the other characters here are also memorable (especially Silas, but the rest of the gang as well.)

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