Hello, gods and goblins! I hope you’re having a fine Tuesday. Today we’re doing a deep dive into the Hugo Finalists, along with some exciting new book and book adaptation news concerning Sarah J. Maas, Cat Valente, and more.
This newsletter is sponsored by Wednesday Books and Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan.
The monster hidden behind pale, tortured eyes and a devastating smile. The girl with Dark Gods whispering spells in her head. The prince surrounded by deadly assassins and ambitious suitors. “This gothic jewel of a story will sink its visceral iron claws into you, never letting go until you’ve turned the last page.” (Robin LaFevers)
Before any of that, though, I am delighted to tell you that we have a new podcast on Book Riot! It’s called Kidlit These Days, covers all things picture books and middle grade, and the first two episodes are live. Go forth and find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or the podcatcher of your choice!
And a few quick news bites before we get into our Hugo Finalists Spotlight:
George R.R. Martin will be in conversation with Marlon James tomorrow, Wednesday April 10, in a livestream from The Verge.
Naomi Ishiguro, daughter of Kazuo Ishiguro, got a book deal [The Bookseller] for a short story collection and I for one cannot wait to read it.
And now, for our Spotlight on the Hugo Finalists!
Looking through the list, I realized I had reviewed a good chunk of them, so I decided to put together a refresher. In the meantime, I desperately need to read the ones I missed!
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager): Both a meditation on mortality and a celebration of what it means to choose your life, Record of a Spaceborn Few adds new depth to Chambers’ world-building, a new take on the generation ship trope, and new characters to love. (full review here)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris): Is consent possible when the choices are rigged? What does it mean to be a self-aware monster? What does it mean to struggle against a society that sets you up to be a monster? Lee is exploring these questions and more, and taking us along for the ride. (full review)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan): Much like Uprooted, Novik is retelling a variety of fairy tales here. But this book is a much more timely and broad-ranging story, taking on anti-Semitism, abuse and trauma, and father-daughter relationships. It’s a tightly paced, beautifully plotted and written book, and I think it’s my favorite thing she’s ever written. (full review here)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga): Roanhorse has brought Navajo legends to life in a post-apocalyptic world with a monster-slaying, kick-ass heroine, and it is one of my favorite debuts — and favorite post-apocalyptic fantasies — of the year. (full review here)
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing): Set in an alternate 1880s United States, in which the Civil War ended in a truce and Louisiana is a neutral free-state, The Black God’s Drums takes us on a whirling tour of a vivid and vibrant alternate New Orleans, complete with political wheelings and dealings, houses of ill-repute, some very surprising nuns, airships, and a battle for the soul of a city. (full review here)
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing): I came for the concept, got sucked in by the action, and stayed for the personalities brought to life in these pages. I said back in 2016 when I first read Infomocracy that it was one of the few books I’d read that made me feel better about the US election, and this continues to be true. (full review here)
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris): You already know how I feel about this series, enough said.
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press): Her ability to world-build is immense, and her prose is rich and vibrant with details. (full review of On a Red Station, Drifting)
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager): If I had to boil down the premises of each of the Wayfarers books into a single sentence, it would go like this:
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is about finding your family. A Closed and Common Orbit is about finding yourself. Record of a Spaceborn Few is about finding your place.
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility): Chakraborty continues expandin her world and mythology, offering new insights into her characters, tackling the fall-out from prejudice and bigotry, and creating an immense amount of tension in the meantime. (review of City of Brass here and Kingdom of Copper here)
Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility): An Unkindness of Ghosts is a generation-ship story that examines the intersections of racism and class structures, and is essential for readers who can’t get enough NK Jemisin, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler.
And that’s a wrap! You can find all of the books recommended in this newsletter on a handy Goodreads shelf. If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda, or on Twitter as jennIRL.
Your fellow booknerd,