I read A LOT of stuff last year. I’m still trying to sort through it to figure out what I loved best. Here, while I try to figure that out, are links to a bunch of reviews I did and Best-of lists in which I participated.
I recommended a bunch of stuff for NPR’s Book Concierge, and some things for Tor.com’s Reviewers’ Choice. I can definitely say that the two novels I loved best from last year were Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club and Edward Carey’s Heap House, but I’m torn about nominating the former because it’s really not fantasy, but it’s so fantasy-adjacent as a fairy tale retelling, and also it was just amazingly good, and — bah. Anyway I’m still torn. Heap House, though! Augh! SO GOOD!
But when expanding into a top 5 for nomination purposes, everything gets muddled. I still have books I need to read, but they’re mostly the books that are already buzzing and need no help from me: The Goblin Emperor, Full Fathom Five, Ancillary Sword, Twelfth Station, City of Stairs, etc — so books I’ll likely read if/when they’re on the ballot, but won’t have a chance to read before figuring out my own.
So anyway here are the top five novels that really left an impression from last year. Links are to my reviews of them.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
Heap House by Edward Carey
The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert
The Bees by Laline Paull
My Real Children by Jo Walton
I need to read a LOT of these in a very short time, alas — want to read Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté” and a lot of the stuff on Tor.com including Mary Rickert’s “Voorhisville.” There’s probably also stuff I DID read without registering the length of (were there original novellas in Women Destroy Science Fiction?), so I still have some homework to do here. Recommendations in comments are very, very welcome.
As it is I have only one sterling rec off the top of my head, so here it is.
“The Witch in the Almond Tree” by C. S. E. Cooney
I’m so sorry. This category is my bane, and one of the reasons I freakin’ love when people post eligibility lists, because I have no idea when something is or isn’t a novelette. I read stuff online! When I’m absorbed in a story I don’t feel its length! Probably loads of the things I read last year were novelettes and I never knew. One thing I read this year that I was convinced was a novella turned out to be a novelette. It’s disheartening. So much homework to do. SO MUCH.
You know what, let me give you loads of links to lists of recommendations.
Ken Liu‘s is very helpful, with accurate categories and brief summaries.
Sofia Samatar‘s has my wholehearted endorsement, especially where Carmen Machado’s incredible, slippery, luminous work is concerned.
You can also look through my Rich & Strange tag for all the short fiction I’ve reviewed from the past year, whether on this site or at Tor.com. It’s not a huge amount, but they’re all stories I’ve found notable.
Whew, at least this is relatively easy. Stuff wot blew me away last year:
Sex Criminals vol. 1, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Saga vol. 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I Am Fire by Rachael Smith
The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Ms. Marvel #1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (the story of why I’ve not yet read the whole is ridiculous and a source of sighs)
Bitch Planet #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro
Lazarus vol. 2 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
Girls With Slingshots
Dumbing of Age
I just want to try and shift gears from television shows and films here. Like, Welcome to Night Vale is an absolutely incredible narrative podcast; The Walk is a magnificent game with wonderful audio performances; if we must stick with TV shows, consider cartoons like Adventure Time and Bee and Puppycat and Bravest Warriors, maybe? Actually, there we go, that’s my list.
I’ll leave it there for now. Not a comprehensive list, but a beginning of housekeeping! Onwards.