Hi there! I’ve been invited to participate on a panel discussion at ArmadilloCon 43 in Austin, Texas, on October 16, called “Books You Should Have Read.” This post is timed to publish as the panel is scheduled to happen.
I’m delighted to participate, and also, please don’t let the title of this discussion give you guilt. If you’re the sort of person, like I am, who tries to do all the things she “should,” then you already know that’s impossible. I’ve barely read anything released in 2021! Instead, I’m approaching this as a good-faith effort to point to a variety of recent titles that other SF/F fans may enjoy.
The asterisk indicates a book that I have personally read. The rest are titles recommended from some widely read friends. Please excuse my best stab at a summary, and remember to buy your books from indie booksellers!
Recommended Books from 2021
Addison, Katherine. Witness for the Dead. Set in the same world as The Goblin Emperor. Thara Celehar is a witness—like a private investigator—who investigates murder as he seeks to serve the common people.
Appel, John. Assassin’s Orbit. Golden Girls meets Battlestar Galactica.
*Chambers, Becky. A Psalm for the Wild Built. Centuries after a robot rebellion, a robot and a tea monk strive to understand what people need.
Clark, P. Djèlí. A Master of Djinn. A novel-length story that takes place in the same world as Clark’s earlier novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015.
Dyachenko, Marina and Sergey. Vita Nostra. A young woman is coerced into attending the Institute of Special Technologies, which turns out to be a very, very dark sort of Hogwarts.
Gregory, Daryl. Revelator. A professional bootlegger returns home to 1930s Tennessee for her grandmother’s funeral and confronts the power of her family’s dark religion.
Martine, Arkady. A Desolation Called Peace. A sequel to A Memory Called Empire.
Ogden, Aimee. Sun-daughters, Sea-daughters. A SF novella featuring gene-edited humans who have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to different environments. A woman who left her clan turns to the World Witch to save her husband from a plague.
*Pulley, Natasha. The Kingdoms. In a world in which France won at Waterloo and now rules England, amnesiac Joe Tourney leaves England in 1898 for free Scotland in search of answers about his true identity. Includes a queer romance.
*Waggoner, C. M. The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry. Con artist and partially educated fire witch Dellaria Wells joins a cohort of lady fighters charged with protecting a young noblewoman on her way to her wedding. Queer romance.
Recommended Books from 2020
Brown, Roseanne A. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. First in a duology about a crown princess and a desperate refugee who find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction. Based on West African folklore, YA.
*Clark, P. Djèlí. Ring Shout: Or, Hunting Ku Kluxes in the End Times. Bootlegger and demon fighter Maryse Boudreaux goes up against the literal monsters who are plotting to take over the Prohibition-era United States via the KKK. Novella-length.
Clarke, Susanna. Piranesi. The title character finds his way through the infinite labyrinth of his own house.
Jemisin, N. K. The City We Became. A novel about the six gods of New York City.
Onyebuchi, Tochi. Riot Baby. Ella and her brother Kev are both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are destroyed by racism and brutality. Ella tries to show Kev the way to revolution.
*Owen, Margaret. The Faithless Hawk. Second in the Merciful Crow YA duology. Fie, the new chieftain of the despised Crows, fights back against the oppressive queen who’s using a deadly plague to unite the nation against the Crows.
*Parker, K. J. Prosper’s Demon. A novella. An exorcist goes up against a familiar foe who has possessed the mind and body of the greatest artist and inventor of the age.
Querido, Levine. Elatsoe. A young, asexual, Apache woman investigates her cousin’s death in an alternate contemporary America. YA.
Roanhorse, Rebecca. Black Sun. A ship with one passenger sets sail for the holy city of Tova as a solar eclipse signals the unbalancing of the world.
Thomas, Aiden. Cemetery Boys. A trans boy summons a ghost in an attempt to prove how tough he is to his Latinx family. YA.
Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. A pirate and a high-born lady fall in love and fight off enemies both magical and human. YA, queer.
Recommended Literary/Upmarket Fiction with SF/F Elements
*North, Anna. Outlawed. 2021. A speculative Western in which infertile women and queer folk join forces as outlaws to eke out a life together as outlaws, away from the plague-decimated society that has rejected them.
*Sathian, Sanjena. Gold Diggers. 2021. An Indian-American family has discovered a way to harness the ambition of others by stealing and melting down their gold jewelry and making an alchemical potion out of it.
*Yu, Charles. Interior Chinatown. 2020. Told in the form of a screenplay, the genre-bending story of Willis Wu, who dreams of becoming Kung Fu Man in a world that only lets Asian men fulfill a few proscribed roles. Things change when he questions these limitations.