Hello and welcome to my first award recommendations post of the season!
A few general thoughts before I dive into the list:
I am very, very pleased to see more and more novels by marginalized authors that are really all-stops-out, unapologetic and not pulling their punches.
I am sure these novels have always existed, but now publishers are also increasingly acquiring them. (I know that several recent big releases by marginalized authors were shopped around for many years.)
If there is one word I can say about my 2017 novel recommendations, it is the word INTENSE. It feels like people are finally able to say what they always wanted to say. I have waited for this since the late 2000s-early 2010s when people began talking about “diversity in SFF”. I remember a time when I tried to make a list of all markets that had any reference to diversity in their submissions calls. I did not end up posting the list, because it contained less than five markets. And that was after Racefail’09.
This has very much changed.
But for a long while, a lot of the “diverse content” was also often less risk-taking than it could have been, and not for the lack of authors trying. Marginalization was in itself a risk, and there often could not be other risks in publishing. (And always only one marginalization.) And I knew, and it hurt to watch, people write their risk-taking stories and the stories never seeing the light of day, or being published in very small markets. People writing their hearts out.
The market is changing. It’s not the writers who are changing – it’s publishing. And this change has a long, long, long, long road to go still. There are many stories still circling around, looking for a crack in the ice, for a chance to ascend.
But something is moving. You will see this in all my recommendations.
And with this preamble, on to the first part!
(I also have a small apology: because I moved several times the past two years, I have not managed to keep up with series and sequels. I haven’t read The Stone Sky, Raven Stratagem, and several other books that have a chance at this year’s awards. We are finally settling down and I will probably catch up in time for the voting round, G-d willing.)
Click on the titles for Amazon affiliate links. Some of the books have great sales going on right now 😀
Hugo / Nebula award recommendations part 1: Novels
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books)
A stunning debut novel of a colony ship traversing space, generation after generation, with the “colony” part played absolutely straight. Plantation slavery collides with a vision of the future, and no, it’s not a stretch at all. The protagonist’s voice also worked really well for me, and I have to emphasize that to my knowledge this is the first SFF book with an #ownvoices intersex main character. I hungered for this and it was done amazingly. Review coming soon! (G-d willing… but I can’t wait for some time to rave about this book.)
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager)
The most WAITWHAT book of the year, and this is absolutely meant as praise. I have trouble figuring out how to begin to summarize. *takes a deep breath* This is a near-future-ish science fiction book set in South Africa, involving clashes between demigods and sentient robots and mysterious drugs and. I give up. You can read my review, read the book, and be smittenboggled.
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (St. Martin’s Press)
This is a belle époque romance with telekinesis, if you need a one-sentence soundbite. It is also a book which made me chew my fingers ragged, the last third was so suspenseful (I mean this absolutely literally). Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes the best grumpy magical heroines and this time we get a very different setting from her than her previous work, just because she can. You don’t want to miss this. (I need to finish my half-finished review…)
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck, translated by the author from the Swedish (Vintage)
In the gloomy and mysterious far future, where someone must assemble a report on the use of personal hygiene items… This novel combines the quotidian with the terrifying, in a world where in order for objects to maintain their shape, their identity must be continuously affirmed. This is a very unique book that will resonate with you if you enjoy questioning the foundations or reality. If not, it will still resonate with you, but probably in a more nightmarish fashion. You can read my review here!
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot)
A gothic novel about the Fae… and also giant theological quandaries, a carnivalesque profusion of shapeshifting, and sheer naked fear. This has the ambience of Alone in the Dark, the old PC game, but with missionaries and subversion. It says “creepy” on the back cover (from Aliette de Bodard) and I would like to second that. If you are fine with creepy and grotesque, this is a must, a novel that doesn’t shy away from situations where a possible truth is terrible, its opposite is also terrible, and the protagonist is not actually sure. Review coming soon, because I have a lot to say.
The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria, translated by Ramon Glazov (Liveright) – An Italian cult classic horror novel from the 1970s, finally available in English. This book presages not only social media, but the phenomenon of creepypasta.
ME by Hoshino Tomoyuki, translated by Charles De Wolf (Akashic Books) – A very revealing take on society that starts from the everyday and descends into the apocalyptic. It got me thinking about the MRA movement…
Peter Darling by Austin Chant – A powerful trans take on the Peter Pan story that examines toxic masculinity. I am not a fan of the original classic, but this drew me in.
Null States (Infomocracy #2) by Malka Older (Tor.com) – I did read ONE sequel. 😀 A bit less tightly written than its predecessor, but still my favorite near-future science fiction concepts.
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Sources of books: Prey of Gods was an ARC from the author, and Under the Pendulum Sun was a present from TJ Berry. Thank you!! The rest I either borrowed from the library, or bought with my own money.