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2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus has put up their recommended reading list:

NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION
Company Town, Madeline Ashby (Tor)
The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Saga)
Take Back the Sky, Greg Bear (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Visitor, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
Babylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Europe in Winter, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
False Hearts, Laura Lam (Tor; Macmillan)
Death’s End, Cixin Liu (Tor; Head of Zeus)
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence, Ken MacLeod (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Into Everywhere, Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
Faller, Will McIntosh (Tor)
After Atlas, Emma Newman (Roc)
The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo (Black Cat)
Occupy Me, Tricia Sullivan (Gollancz)
Rosewater, Tade Thompson (Apex)
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)
Icon, Genevieve Valentine (Saga)
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Doubleday; Fleet)
Alien Morning, Rick Wilber (Tor)
Impersonations, Walter Jon Williams (Tor.com Publishing)
Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Barren Cove, Ariel S. Winter (Bestler)
Underground Airlines, Ben H. Winters (Mulholland; Century)

NOVELS – FANTASY
The Spider’s War, Daniel Abraham (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon)
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
Masks and Shadows, Stephanie Burgis (Pyr)
Breath of Earth, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager US)
A Shadow All of Light, Fred Chappell (Tor)
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Paul Cornell (Pan)
Four Roads Cross, Max Gladstone (Tor)
The Regional Office is Under Attack!, Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead)
Will Do Magic for Small Change, Andrea Hairston (Aqueduct)
Eterna and Omega, Leanna Renee Hieber (Tor)
Roadsouls, Betsy James (Aqueduct)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Perdition Score, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL; Viking Canada; Hodder & Stoughton)
The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)
The Seer, Sonia Orin Lyris (Baen)
Kingfisher, Patricia McKillip (Ace)
An Accident of Stars, Foz Meadows (Angry Robot US; Angry Robot UK)
The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville (Del Rey; Picador)
Medusa’s Web, Tim Powers (Morrow; Corvus UK)
The Gradual, Christopher Priest (Titan US; Gollancz)
The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Trees, Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury Circus; Bloomsbury USA)
The Last Mortal Bond, Brian Staveley (Tor; Tor UK)
The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
The Liberation, Ian Tregillis (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Necessity, Jo Walton (Tor)
Cloudbound, Fran Wilde (Tor)

Interesting that Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead made the SF list—outside of SFF circles, that’s the biggest “literary” novel of 2016, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of an impact it makes on the 2017 awards. Do we have a Chabon situation here, like when The Yiddish Policeman’s Union won the Hugo/Nebula?

They also have a first novel category, which is where something like Ninefox Gambit winds up.

FIRST NOVELS
The Reader, Traci Chee (Putnam)
Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis Chen (Dunne)
The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig (Greenwillow; Hot Key)
Roses and Rot, Kat Howard (Saga)
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
A Fierce and Subtle Poison, Samantha Mabry (Algonquin)
Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black (Amulet)
Infomocracy, Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)
Vigil, Angela Slatter (Jo Fletcher)
Azanian Bridges, Nick Wood (NewCon)

Most of the eventual Hugo and Nebula nominees show up on these lists. That’s not a great accomplishment, given there’s more than 50+ on the lists, but helpful to narrow things down. So the snub of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning is notable. Note that Connie Willis’s Crosstalk nor Loius McMaster Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen didn’t make the lists either. Those books haven’t been particularly well received, and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the Hugo.

On a personal note, I certainly haven’t been posting much; I’ve been too busy at work, and you’ve got to do the job you get paid for first. Still, it’s going to be a very interesting year, because all the rule changes will throw out a lot of what we previously knew about the Hugos. Thinking of this more as a year for sitting back and observing—no one can really know what’ll happen in the awards, but it’ll be intriguing to watch.

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First Look: 2016 Mainstream Meta-List

I don’t have many lists on my Best of 2016 meta-list yet, but some patterns are beginning to emerge. So far, I’ve collated 8 “Best Of” lists by Library Journal, NY Times, NPR, Guardian, Amazon, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and Goodreads. Rules are simple: I take a look at their “Best SF and F” of the year list, and if you show up on the list, you get one point. I don’t make any judgments about eligibility, publication date, or genre. Lots of comics, short story collections, older books, etc., show up on these lists. If the venue has a dedicated SFF list, I only look at that. If they only have a single Best Of list, like the NY Times, I use that. The point of this list is to get an idea of what the mainstream thinks the best Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of the year are, which is always interesting and often confusing. I’ll complement this with another list of more specialty SFF websites.

You can check out the developing spreadsheet here. If you click on the 2015 tab at the bottom, you can see how things wound up last year.

Here are the early results:

4 All the Birds in the Sky Anders, Charlie Jane
4 The Obelisk Gate Jemisin, N.K.
4 Death’s End Liu, Cixin
3 Every Heart a Doorway McGuire, Seanan
2 City of Blades Bennett, Robert Jackson
2 Morning Star Brown, Pierce
2 Star Nomad Buroker, Lindsay
2 A Closed and Common Orbit Chambers, Becky
2 Dark Matter Crouch, Blake
2 The Book of the Unnamed Midwife Ellison, Meg
2 Ninefox Gambit Lee, Yoon Ha
2 The Paper Menagerie Liu, Ken
2 Too Like the Lightning Palmer, Ada
2 Version Control Palmer, Dexter
2 Age of Myth Sullivan, Michael J.
2 Central Station Tidhar, Lavie
2 Crosstalk Willis, Connie
2 The Invisible Library Cogman, Genvieve
2 Borderline Baker, Mishell

I will note that if I included works from the “Best Fiction” lists many of these sites have, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad would have been the clear winner, as it’s going to appear on basically every list this Holiday season. Whitehead’s novel has only light speculative elements (an actual underground railroad), so I’m betting it won’t make an impact on the Hugo or Nebula, but your mileage may vary. Whitehead didn’t get any nominations for his more obviously speculative Zone One, a clear zombie novel.

This, of course, is the Mainstream list, put together by big newspapers and websites that may have only a passing familiarity with Science Fiction and Fantasy. These tend to be drawn to big bestsellers and big names, and they tend to prefer SF to Fantasy. The trio of works at the top, by Anders, Jemisin, and Liu, all figure to be players in the 2017 awards, particularly Jemisin. The McGuire book is pretty short and, in my opinion, more likely to compete as a Novella than a Novel. It’ll be interesting to see who from that big group of “2” votes separates themselves over the next couple weeks. My guess is the Yoon Ha Lee and the Ada Palmer, but only time will tell.

My big surprise so far is that Mieville is not showing up for Last Days of New Paris, a weird novella where Surrealist paintings come to life. Seeing any other surprises or interesting trends?

Best of 2016: Tor.com Reviewer’s Choice

Tor.com returns with it’s annual Reviewer’s Choice post. This year, they had 11 of their reviewers chose roughly 3 books each. That’s a lot of opinion crammed into one post. Historically, the tastes of Tor.com have aligned pretty well with the tastes of the Hugo voters, so expect a lot of overlap when the eventual Hugo nominations come out.

I only included the “main choices,” which Tor.com conveniently bolded for us. There was no overlap among the 11 reviewers, and not everyone chose 3 books. Here’s what was listed:

Hagseed, Margaret Atwood
The Power, Naomi Alderman
This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab
Malafrena, Ursula K. Le Guin (originally published 1979, republished as part of the Library of America Le Guin volumes, definitely not eligible for anything in 2016)
Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee
Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates (comic book)
The Sunlight Pilgrims, Jenni Fagan
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
The Bloodsworn, Erin Lindsey
Conspiracy of Ravens, Lila Bowen
Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
The Fisherman, John Langan
An Accident of StarS, Fox Meadows
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi (collection)
Ghostland, Colin Dickey (non-fiction)
A Tree or a Person or a Wall, Matt Bell (collection)
The Unfinished World and Other Stories, Amber Sparks
The Medusa chronicles, Stephen Baxter and Alasdair Reynolds
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar
The Race, Nina Allan (originally published 2014)
Wicked Weeds, Pedro Cabiya
Death’s End, Cixin Liu
Iraq+100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion (collection)
The Fireman, Joe Hill
The Summer Dragon, Todd Lockwood
The Queen of Blood, Sarah Beth Durst
Furnace and Other Stories, Livia Llewellyn (collection)
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle

A long list, but with many of this year’s likely contenders, such as Yoon Ha Lee, Ada Palmer, Charlie Jane Anders, and Cixin Liu, making an appearance. Who’s missing? N.K. Jemisin, for one, which seems an odd oversight. Maybe the Tor.com crowd thought everyone else would recommend it. Connie Willis doesn’t make it for Crosstalk, and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades shows up only as an also ran. China Mieville has not been doing well on year-end lists so far, and The Last Days of New Paris, novella or not, doesn’t make it here either. There’s no real revelations or surprises, but that’s not what these lists are for: in their totality, they’ll give us a picture of the major contenders.

Best of 2016: The Guardian

Adam Roberts, a major SFF author himself, returns with his annual best Science Fiction and Fantasy books of the year in The Guardian. Check it out here. It’s not so much a list but a discussion, and this is what he mentions:

Death’s End, Cixin Liu
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho (a book from last year that Roberts points out already won the British Fantasy award; I don’t get why it is on this list)
Iraq + 100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion (story collection)
Azanian Bridges, Nick Wood
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
The Gradual, Christopher Priest
The Race, Nina Allan (this is a 2014 book, but was recently republished)

N.K. Jemisin is mentioned in the opening paragraph as having won the Hugo this year, but there isn’t a mention of The Obelisk Gate by name. Good to see some praise for Central Station, one of my favorite books of last year, but also too literary and too strange to likely make much of an impact on the Hugo or Nebula this year. Death’s End—my favorite SF novel of 2016, if you’re keeping score at home—shows up first. I wonder if it can return to the Hugo or Nebula ranks after The Dark Forest didn’t make it last year? Will Ken Liu’s translation—he translated The Three-Body Problem and Death’s End but not The Dark Forest—make that much of a difference?

I think that Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit showing up on another list means they’re emerging as the critical favorites of 2016. If they keep this momentum up, they’ll have a good chance to make a major impact this awards season.

Best of 2016: Amazon’s Top 20 SFF Books

Amazon has their annual list upThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, a post-apocalyptic novel with what seems to be Western overtones, was their pick as the top SFF book of the year. Amazon always pushes in a more mainstream direction, given their massive audience Here are the books that made their top 20, in no particular order:

Death’s End, Cixin Liu
The Diabolic, S.J. Kincaid
The Hike, Drew Magary
The Wolf Road, Beth Lewis
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman
Morning Star, Pierce Brown
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
Age of Myth, Michael J. Sullivan
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
The Summer Dragon, Todd Lockwood
The Burning Isle, Will Panzo
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison\
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett
Company Town, Madeline Ashby
The Dark Side, Anthony O’Neill
Skinner Lyce, Patricia Ward
Star Nomad, Lindsay Buroker
Machinations, Hayley Stone

That chalks up another list for Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, Charlie Jane Anders, and Robert Jackson Bennett. No Lois McMaster Bujold or Connie Willis. Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville also hasn’t done well so far on year end lists—maybe too weird, both in genre and content?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won as overall fiction book of the year. That has enough magic realist elements to be eligible in the Hugo and Nebula, so it’ll be intersting to see if it pulls a The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and has an impact in the SFF awards, or whether it just dominates the literary fiction scene.

Best of 2016: Publisher’s Weekly, Goodreads Semifinals

That time of year is upon us: year-end lists! A few are beginning to leak out. I keep track of all the Mainstream ones in this spreadsheet—these are from websites, newspapers, etc., that are not “specialty” SFF sites. These selections tend to lean either towards the mainstream and populist (Goodreads) or towards the literary (Publisher’s Weekly). These mainstreams lists aren’t a great predictor of the Hugo or Nebula, but they do at least tend to get us in the neighborhood. If your book isn’t popular enough to make some year-end lists, you’re probably not popular enough to get a Hugo nomination.

On to the lists:

Publisher’s Weekly is always an odd list, tending to emphasize more literary Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. They only do one list for all three genres:

After Atlas, Emma Newman
All Good Children, Dayna Ingram
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Meg Elison
A Green and Ancient Light, Frederic S. Durbin
Kingfisher, Patricia A. McKillip
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife actually came out in June 2014, but was reprinted by a bigger press in 2016. It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2015. Way to jump on the bandwagon, Publisher’s Weekly! McKillip is a past favorite in the World Fantasy Award, so she might show up in that award. Jemisin is obviously the big name here.

As an aside, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead made their Best Fiction category. This is a novel with enough magic realist elements (an actual underground railroad during pre-Civil War America) that it could get some play for SFF awards. Whitehead has several other genre works to his name, most notably the zombie novel Zone One. Whitehead is probably in line to win some major literary awards this year: the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, etc. Since the speculative elements are not Whitehead’s focus, I’m not expecting a Chabon style literary sweep of the Hugos and Nebulas by The Underground Railroad, but it could happen.

The Goodreads Choice awards have now announced their semifinalists, a broad list of 20 works in both the Fantasy and Science Fiction category. You can click the links to see the full list, but here’s my main contenders from the Fantasy category:

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (novella length at under 40,000 words)
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett

Works from series like V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows, Mark Lawrence’s The Wheel of Osheim, Brandon Sanderson’s The Bands of Mourning, and Brent Weeks’ The Blood Mirror also appear. While unlikely to grab Hugo or Nebula nominations based on past trends, could they show up in the new Hugo Best series category?

In the SF list, here are what I see as the main contenders:

Crosstalk, Connie Willis
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold
Morning Star, Pierce Brown
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
Death’s End, Cixin Liu
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter and A Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton also appear; both are part of a series, and unlikely to get Best Hugo Novel or Nebula noms. Perhaps they’ll be competitive in the Hugo Best Series. Right now, I have Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel and Dark Matter by Blake Crouch as populist successes that don’t fit the mold of past Hugo or Nebula nominees. If they show up on a lot of year-end lists, I’ll elevate them to contenders.

So, where are we after these first lists? Jemisin has pulled into a lead with 2 recommendations. She’s not likely to relinquish that lead any time soon. Any big snubs so far? Mieville not making it for Last Days of New Paris is a little surprise, but that’s a novella and hard to place in terms of genre (alternative history?). Last year, I tracked 24 “best of” lists, so we still have a long ways to go before clarity.

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